Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Preschool ARCS

Being a second-time mom after a gap of 14 years has made me pay attention to many things I missed the first time. For example, I don't recall much of how Atreya learned to read and write as a young child, primarily because I was quite a hands-off mom the first time around.

This time with Aloka, I am totally involved, so much so that I get quite anxious when I think of all that she has to learn. Just a few weeks back, I was quite cross that English language had to have lowercase and uppercase letters (unlike Hindi), something that had never occurred to me in all these years. It's another matter that she picked up the uppercase symbols with no help from me by just playing some spelling games on the iPad.

Another difference in me as a second-time mom is that I have been immersed in Instructional Design for several years and can't help but look at every thing through the lens of ID. This article is a result of a day filled with writing about ARCS in a proposal and an evening spent working with Aloka on numbers and words.

Keller described three strategies of gaining attention: perceptual arousal, inquiry arousal and variability.

To get Aloka's attention, I use variability of media the most. A session on numbers typically involves number magnets that she can move around and paper/pencil to practice writing. I also have a few number matching games downloaded on the iPad, but she outgrew them pretty fast. For reading and writing, we have puzzles, iPad games, activity books and the good old paper and pencil. If I see her losing interest, I often just change the medium.

Another technique that works very well for both of us is humor. It's a sure shot way to get back her flagging attention. So, if she writes a letter or number that is not as straight as it should be, I ask her if it's about to fall because another naughty number tripped it. Or when she had trouble distinguishing between 13 and 30, I told her that thirty has the "tea" sound and when she serves tea to her guests, she must remember to put the saucer under the cup- the saucer being the number 0. Now every time she writes 20 or 30, we make slurping sounds and have a laugh.

According to Keller, there are three strategies of making content relevant to learners: goal orientation, motive matching and familiarity.

Fortunately for me, Aloka is driven in many areas of her life by competitiveness towards a particular friend called Medha. The way she dresses, prefers her hair tied, eats her food, plays games- it's all done with the sole intent of doing them better than Medha. Now, her goals and motives for learning are also aligned to that goal- do better than Medha! The best part of it all, I didn't have to devise this strategy- she came up with it herself.


The three strategies described by Keller to make learners confident are learning requirements, success opportunities and personal control.  

The strategy I use frequently with Aloka is opportunity for success. Giving her stuff she is good at every now and then, and not just at the beginning, works wonders. When she is struggling with her d's and b's, I switch to her favorites like t's and f's for a while. Reminding her of her past success also works very well- so I often show her old worksheets she had done and talk about how well she had done yesterday.

Keller described three strategies of increasing the element of satisfaction. These are intrinsic reinforcement, extrinsic rewards and equity.

No rocket science here- extrinsic rewards are what work with Aloka. Of course, the type of rewards I use are based on my understanding of her. She craves for my approval, so simple words of appreciation and a hand shake after each victory is all that is needed most of the time. Sometimes, I call Atreya or Mallika to show how well Aloka has written something. And the age old "stars" never fail- she is a sucker for stars.

An aside: One would think that everyone would know that kids need approval/rewards but its not so. I recently downloaded a spelling app on my iPad, in which a picture of an object is shown and you drag and drop appropriate letters to spell the object's name. To my surprise, all that happens after you have correctly spelled a word is that the next arrow gets enabled. No music, no sound, no visual change! Aloka played that game twice before ignoring it completely, although it seemed to be of the right level of difficulty for her. On the other hand, a much simpler game, in which she had to click on a letter that was being pronounced, had her attention for a long time and she still gets back to it every now and then. The difference? The letters in the second game had little arms and feet that danced and moved if she got it right- the reward you see! 

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