Keeping Students Engaged in Learning

  • The last few weeks of school are typically challenging, with students mentally checking out of academics and checking into summer plans. With remote learning, this becomes even more difficult. Here are some tried and true tips from our educators for keeping students engaged, interested, and mentally stimulated. Let's work together toward a strong finish to this unexpectedly difficult school year.  As always, we are here to help; please reach out to your child's teacher, counselor, or building administrators with any concerns or questions.

For Younger Students

  • - Do work right after breakfast or after lunch when their bellies are full and they're already sitting at the table.

    - Create a sticker chart for each day they complete their work without complaining; on the 5th day they get a reward - family movie night, family game night, or ice cream sundaes, etc. Similarly, use colors or categories to progress to the next level for a certain number of lessons finished.  For example, a student might move from level red to level orange for doing five lessons.  Keep track with stickers, stars, stamps, etc. Have a certain level designated as the top to help set a goal.

    - Give students a lollipop or gum while they work.

    - Make it fun!  It's tempting to put them on their device while you get your work done too, but take an hour to spend time WITH them talking and playing.

    - Typically, teachers of young learners are sneaking learning into their play. If we were at school, our young scholars would not even realize that they are learning math, science, social skills, etc. Take a break from your own work to spend some time playing, reading, talking, and laughing with your child.

    - Take breaks throughout the day to exercise and do mindfulness activities such as stretching or yoga poses, taking a walk and noticing things that you see, hear, feel, smell, or curling up with a journal and writing down or drawing things that you feel grateful for or things that you love.

    - Remind your child that anything he/she is feeling is ok. Help him/her to notice what he/she is feeling. Remind your child that there are a lot of kids and adults feeling the same way right now and demonstrate ways to show kindness to yourself during this difficult time.

    - Try a word hunt for kindergarten and first grade students. After reading a book (or several pages) together, have your child go to one of the pages he/she just read and ask him/her to find:
    a specific word
    a word that means ____________
    a word that begins with a certain letter
    a word that is the opposite of ______________
    a word ending in ing
    a word that has a ch, sh, th, or wh in it

    - Reach out to your teacher to schedule a zoom call/phone call or to have your teacher help you connect with other students in the class (virtual play dates).

    - Make a spirit week schedule in your home. One day could be PJ Day and you could wear your PJs all day as you do school work. On Science Day, you could do a science experiment after you complete an assignment on Schoology.

    - Set up a fort, big box, or other special, exciting space for learning to take place.

    - Take the learning outside if possible.  Do the writing with chalk on a sidewalk or paint with water on the side of a building or driveway.

    - Let the student become the teacher.  Have children teach an adult, younger sibling, pet, or stuffed animal, or have the child ask the adult to find specific words in a book or on a page.

    - Create and stick to a schedule!

For Older Students

  • - Students need a regular sleep cycle. According to Schoology, some students are submitting their work at 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning. It is hard to be successful and engaged when you are tired.

    - Set a normal sleep pattern with a to-do list these next couple of weeks and include a reward activity for accomplishing tasks.

    - The weeks after Memorial Day until the end of school are always tough. My go-to for high school students is to plan something fun with the input of the class for our last class meeting. We then talk about what kind of behavior and engagement in school work needs to happen in order for the class earn the last day celebration. My suggestion for using this tip at home comes from when my son (now 36) was a teenager. He really wanted guitar lessons. I really wanted him to take Trig class seriously. He earned the lessons by completing all assignments for the marking period. If there is something you can agree on with your child as a reward for finishing strong, it can help with motivation over the next few weeks. Don’t forget teachers are your partners, so let us know how we can help.

    - Respect your child’s feelings. No negative criticism. It doesn't motivate you or your child.

    - Reward students with clues to a treasure hunt. Cyber-bury a treasure (free school lunches for a week, delivery of a pizza to their home, or anything to motivate them). Award one random clue for an assignment completed (a) correctly and (b) on time. Everyone likes puzzles and treasure. And like a treasure hunter once said, the journey is the destination.

    - Have your child watch this video and write about how they will finish strong!

    - Stay positive and encourage your child with praise. Say things like:
    You're the best!
    Good for you!
    Great job!
    You're so smart.
    I am so glad that ….

    - Listen attentively and with patience.

    - Communicate with a smile and a hug, and remind your child what the end result will looks like.

    - I try to find as many ways possible to convey three messages to children about their learning at all times.
    Learning this information and developing how you think is important.
    I believe you are capable of learning these things.
    I won’t give up on your learning, even at times where you feel like giving up on yourself.
    I believe parents can effectively do the same in many ways. For example, asking students to tell you about what they learned today conveys that this information is important.

    - Create and stick to a schedule.