Thursday, December 4, 2014

Strategies for Practicing Shoe Tying

Met with a middle school student's mom this morning to discuss customized strategies for shoe tying.  Her daughter is very bright but also highly anxious and sometimes becomes frustrated pretty easily, which has interfered with folks at home and school helping her to learn how to tie her shoes.

We started out by talking about the benefit of approaching the task via backward chaining.

Instead of starting out with the first step:
Students probably know the first few steps by heart.  Since many students don't like to practice shoe tying and may have little patience for it, concentrate on the steps that give them the most difficulty.

Begin with the last step.

With young students I have them close their eyes while I prepare the laces to reach this step, but I don't care if they peek because they're seeing me model the steps--a good thing.  I want them to focus on finding the right place to grab the loops and pull away from the center.  Many students grab the loops and the ends, which results in having to start all over.

I asked the mom to just do the last two or three steps during the home sessions, and to stop after a couple of successful trials.  No overpracticing!  As the student becomes more independent with those last, tricky steps you can add in the middle and beginning steps and practice more of the sequence.  One day the student will become independent; it might take days, weeks or months.

Another way to adapt the activity is to change up what object you're tying on--try things that won't move around too much on the table surface (example:  chose a rectangular box instead of a Quaker oatmeal cylinder.)

When a student who hates shoe tying sees a shoe, they may recall unhappy memories associated with shoe tying.  When they see something non-shoelike being the object to tie up they might think it's silly and participate with a less-apprehensive frame of mind.

If the student appears to be understanding and recalling the steps but is having difficulty with the floppiness of the laces, try different materials:
You might try a small diameter "paracord" rope, or you might try a piece of rope that's about 1/3" in diameter.  Sometimes I'll loop a piece of rope around the student's thigh, near the knee, and have him/her practice tying.  They think it's goofy.  I've even used silicone tubing for practice.

To make it easier to figure out which piece of lace to pick up, cut two different color shoelaces in half and tie them together to create a half 'n half shoelace.  That way, the student will have the different colors to help in seeing the steps of lacing, just like in the book used in the first picture (Red Lace, Yellow Lace by Mike Casey).
If the student is catching on to the steps but has difficulty keeping the loops together, try using tiny stabilizers to keep the loops in their places.  Small rubber bands and doggie hair clips work well but are a little tricky to put in the right places, if you're just a kid.

The mom was very interested in searching on YouTube for shoelacing videos and Ian's Shoe Lacing methods:

As long as the student becomes independent with shoe tying and the shoes stayed tied when they're supposed to, it doesn't matter a bit if they have a little quirky step in the process.  No need to insist on following the "proper steps" once the student is independent.  You should see Uncle Grumpy (dear husband) tie his shoes--eek!

So cool to meet with a parent who is very willing to help a student become more independent at home.

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