Are you worried that your child finds their schoolwork too easy? Or that they are not motivated to try at tasks? Could this be a good opportunity for your child to learn at their own pace and to be motivated to learn deeply about something that they are interested in?

Some children need or prefer learning to be more challenging for them. Others are capable of accessing a higher level of challenge if they are steered in that direction. Home learning gives parents an opportunity to raise the level of challenge that their children have in their learning.

This blog series covers several ways to support high learning potential children during home learning by making it more challenging, increasing motivation or developing thinking skills. This blog is the first in the series of three and covers how to make learning more challenging.  You can find the other parts of the series at: Part 2: Supporting Motivation and Part 3: Encouraging Thinking Skills.

How to Make Learning More Challenging

Learning can take place at different levels, from basic remembering and understanding of factual information, to applying that information in a new context, to analysing (for example, looking for patterns in data or drawing conclusions), evaluating (deciding what criteria is used to rate quality) or being creative (by changing something or bringing together more than one idea).

New ideas can also be learned on the surface for their own purpose or they can be learned at a deeper level, by connecting them to other things already known, to other new ideas or to personal experiences.

When learning brings in analysis, evaluation or creative thinking and is connected to other ideas and/or experiences, it is truly challenging yet accessible (if it is pitched at a reasonable level for the learner).

To make learning more challenging, try one of the following:

Bring in analysis – Can the whole be separated into component parts? Can your child spot patterns in information? Are there hidden meanings? Can your child find evidence to support any generalisations?

  • Example 1: When reading a story, ask questions like: What other methods could [the protagonist/villain] use to achieve [his/her] goal? What is the moral of [the story]? How do you know? Would this story work in the same way [in a different setting/with different materials/with different characters/in a different time period]?
  • Example 2: Weather – compare and contrast the instruments used by meteorologists, including barometer, anemometer, wind vane, rain gauge and hygrometer. Your child could present their analysis on a 5-point Venn diagram.

Bring in evaluation – Can your child develop their opinion? Can they make choices based on a reasoned argument? Can they assess the value of evidence?

  • Example 1: When reading a story, ask questions like: Justify [the villain]’s point of view. Is there a better solution to the conflict in the story? How effective was [the solution]? Why is the order of [events in the story] important? What would change if the order were changed/reversed?
  • Example 2: Weather – Ask your child to determine which geographic region of the world has the best weather or climate conditions on a regular basis.  Which areas will they consider and what criteria will they use?

Bring in creativity – Can your child relate knowledge from several areas? Can they form a new idea from related or diverse ideas? What modifications could be made given a different situation? How could the information be presented in a different form?

  • Example 1: When reading a story, ask questions like: Propose an alternative ending for the story. How might the lives of [the characters] change after the story? What would you change if you were the author? If you were [the protagonist] what would you do differently?
  • Example 2: Weather – In ancient times, people invented stories to explain natural phenomena such as weather conditions.  Ask your child to pretend that they live in an ancient time and land and ask them to create a story or poem that explains the falling of hail.

Bring in connectivity – What else does this remind your child of? When has your child learned something similar? What relevance does the topic have to their life?

  • Example 1:  When reading a story, ask questions like: How is this story similar to another book you have read? Does this story remind you of another [story you have read/film you have watched/news item you have heard about]? Does this story remind you of period of history?
  • Example 2: Weather – Ask: In what other topics have you measured in a similar way to measuring aspects of weather? In what ways in weather depicted in art? What about in literature? Why is talking about the weather so important to people? What will you do with your new-found knowledge about weather?

Bringing these elements into your child’s learning will mean that they will be working at higher levels and give greater depth to their understanding, hopefully also giving them more enjoyment in the process.

For more creative thinking ideas, see Creative Thinking – Go For a Burst! To use higher order thinking skills when considering shapes, take a look at Surprising Shapes and Higher Thinking Skills.