If you’ve been working from home during the pandemic, you’ve probably noticed your motivation flagging over these past few months. At first, it might be external distractions keeping you from devoting your full attention to work, but then it shifts into an inability to focus on anything substantive.
Your kids are going through the same struggles with online schooling—coping with distractions, having trouble focusing, and feeling uninspired are all common feelings right now for children and adults. How can we keep students motivated while learning at home? And can these strategies help unmotivated parents too? (Yes, some of them can!) Read on for some virtual learning tips for students.
Celebrating success doesn’t mean rewarding kids for getting As and Bs. Instead, it means celebrating their efforts. What is your child struggling with? Make a chart listing each of these items and give your child a star when they’re successful or use a reward jar system to reinforce positive behaviors. Rewards for younger students could be for:
Logging into class on time
Sitting up straight and paying attention
Participating in online meetings
Completing school work without complaint
Older students can be rewarded for meeting their daily and weekly school goals (more on goal setting below!), but it’s often these very basic tasks that can be the most trouble for kindergarteners and other elementary school students who have trouble switching gears when it’s time for school to start.
When the reward jar or chart is filled up, let your child pick out a fun prize to motivate them to keep going. You might also want to have a stash of small school prizes and toys on hand as a surprise to celebrate a good day or a job well done.
Teachers have been the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, responding nimbly to school shutdowns, hybrid learning models, students with technical issues, and translating an entire carefully-planned curriculum to an online environment with almost no advance notice. While a lot of subject areas can be shifted into a virtual space, arts and crafts often fall to the wayside. It’s these activities that give children the opportunity for a “brain break” and let them explore other ways of thinking and problem solving before moving back to more academic topics.
Provide these opportunities for arts exploration at home. When your child has a break, offer them colored pencils and a coloring sheet or choose a craft to work on together after school a few days a week. These activities add more balance to your child’s weekday routine, giving them much-needed breaks from screen time and academics.
Set Goals and Create Routines
For older students, setting goals for each day can make it easier to structure their time in a learning environment that can sometimes feel chaotic. Take some time in the morning to set goals together, then at the end of the day, make sure each of the goals has been met, or discuss what got in the way of meeting them. Goals should be specific and attainable to give students a clear sense of purpose.
Related to this, there should be a regular routine from day to day. The pandemic has upended life for so many families and having the consistency of a daily routine is more important than ever. Your child should know exactly what they need to be doing at any given time—predictable lunchtimes, breaks, and learning times go hand-in-hand with goal setting to create a structure conducive to distance learning.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is an excellent solution for older children who have a bit more leeway with how to structure their learning days. (It’s also a great option for adults who are struggling with motivation and attention during the pandemic!) While older students appreciate the freedom of being able to learn asynchronously, it can also lead to a lot of procrastination and wasted time. The Pomodoro technique is a proven method for improving productivity, concentration, and attention span. Here’s how it works:
1. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
2. Work on a single task until the timer rings.
3. Put a check mark on a sheet of paper.
4. Take a 5 minute break.
5. Start again for another 25 minutes, followed by a 5 minute break.
6. After 4 cycles, take a longer break.
It sounds so simple, you might have trouble believing it works, but it really does. Students who have trouble staying on-task have a lot of success using this method because it breaks up daunting tasks into more manageable blocks of time.
Take Nature Breaks
There’s a reason why schools have recess—being outside recharges us. Research shows that time spent in nature enhances productivity, concentration, and memory. Depression and stress can also be lowered by going for a walk outside. Many children are struggling with the emotional fallout of the pandemic and the changes in their routines, so time outdoors can give their spirits a lift.
When weather permits, schedule some outdoor time each day. Whether it’s a full hour or 15 minutes, your child will benefit from the fresh air, time away from the screen, and opportunity to burn off some energy. When it’s cold out, it’s still worth taking at least a short break to go outside with your child, even if it’s just a trip down the driveway to get the mail. You’ll both appreciate the break!
Consider Your Child’s Learning Style
In the classroom, teachers can use a number of different methods to teach the same concept, with each method tailored to a different type of learning. Some students learn by seeing, others by reading and listening, and still others by doing. Catering to these different types of learners isn’t always possible in the virtual classroom environment, so it may fall to you as a parent to provide these opportunities for your child.
If you notice your child struggling with certain concepts, get in touch with their teacher and see if they can point you in the right direction of resources that can better meet their unique learning needs. Even something as simple as using Skittles to illustrate a math lesson or finding an animation online showing a scientific concept rather than just reading about it in a textbook can be all that a child needs to understand a subject they’re having trouble with.
Talk It Out
When you eat dinner each night, turn off the TV and put away your phone and discuss everyone’s day. Go beyond the standard, “how was school?” and ask your child to teach you something they learned today, to tell you about something they struggled with, to share something they’re looking forward to tomorrow. Allow space for open-ended conversations, too.
The goal here is for your child to feel comfortable expressing how they’re feeling about school so you can provide them additional support when they need it. Listen to what they’re telling you and acknowledge their feelings, rather than trying to talk them out of how they feel. (Resist the urge to respond with things like, “Oh, that’s not true, you love school!”)
Create a Dedicated Learning Space
If your child is doing schoolwork on a tablet, they can easily fall into the habit of sitting back on the couch while doing schoolwork, hanging out in bed all day, or, even worse, multitasking by having the TV on in the background while they work. High school students covertly text their friends during class meetings instead of paying attention to their teachers and even kindergarteners struggle to focus when their toys are beckoning them from across the room.
A dedicated learning space is important for all children to succeed in distance learning. By “dedicated,” we don’t mean a permanent classroom in your home—we simply mean a place that only serves as your child’s workspace during school hours. It should be away from toys, their phone should be put away, and the TV should be off. This space shouldn’t be a bed or a couch; instead, there should be a chair and desk or table where your child can sit upright and have a hard surface for writing. Keep school supplies organized in this space so everything they need is within arm’s reach.
It’s a hard time for so many parents right now. You’re working from home and overseeing your children’s schooling at the same time. Staying engaged with school is exceedingly difficult with so much on your mind, but if you’re disconnected from what your child is doing on a day-to-day basis, it makes it harder for them to stay engaged too.
You can’t supervise your child all day long while they work on school, but what you can do is schedule check-ins a few times a day and sit down on a Sunday night and take a longer look at what they’re working on in school, read over the calendar for the upcoming week, and keep up-to-date on your child’s learning.
Learn More About GEDDES School Supplies
Is your child learning at home this school year? GEDDES is your go-to resource for school supplies and novelties that kids love. Contact us today at 888-431-1722 or request a school supply catalog on our website to learn more and see our full lineup of products.