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How to keep remote learning strong during these last weeks of school - and kids engaged over the summer

Spring has sprung, and as the temperature climbs, it seems students' motivation drops.

Posted Updated
Child, reading
Lindsay Behrens
, St. Timothy's School

Spring has sprung, and as the temperature climbs, it seems students’ motivation drops.

As we collectively approach months of remote learning, parents around the Triangle are asking “How do we keep this up?” Parents are exhausted, and kids seem to be losing interest.

The best formula for school success is parents and teachers working together and keeping lines of communication open. Rest assured, teachers are working hard to keep things interesting for students — planning backyard scavenger hunts for science, leading virtual field trips, and holding themed dress-up days, like favorite sports team day.

Working from home while caring for your children and monitoring schoolwork can be hectic and overwhelming at times. On top of parent stress, children are navigating a huge transition from the classroom to various levels of distance learning provided by schools. The change in routine and structure can be difficult for children, especially as the weeks continue. To increase your child’s willingness to engage in school work, there are a few strategies that might help.

Set a schedule

Some schools have provided suggested daily schedules for school work, with live instruction, videos, and independent work assigned. Others have provided flexible activities to keep students learning at their own pace. Regardless of your child’s distance learning situation, maintaining a loose schedule each day is helpful.

Start the day as you normally would for school: wake up, eat breakfast, brush teeth, and get dressed. Continue the day with scheduled times to complete school work, broken up with breaks, lunch, and downtime. Breaks should include time to be active and get outside whenever possible. Keeping the schedule consistent is helpful, but not always possible. A written schedule or check list each day might be a nice visual reminder for children, especially when the schedule fluxuates a bit from day to day.

Consider incentives

Is it OK to bargain or bribe your child to do school work? Yes, but be thoughtful in your approach. Children may need a little more external motivation than they normally might to keep going with distance learning. When developing an incentive system, keep it simple, but be specific and stick to it! Use your child’s daily checklist to track progress and determine the level of completion that warrants a reward. Start at a level in which your child will find success. You can raise the bar as needed, but initial success is important to gain buy-in from your child. Consider the type of incentives that would appeal to your child, but don’t overdo it. Use experiences versus things like toys or money. Experiences could include things like a movie night, breakfast for dinner, a picnic lunch, a special craft, or staying up 15 minutes later in the evening.

Don't forget emotional check-ins

Some tough days are to be expected as our children work to understand what is going on and express how they are feeling. At times, students may need a break from the schedule to express sadness, frustration, or exhaustion and have those feelings validated. If your children (or you) have reached a limit, stop. Check in and share how you all are feeling. Confident Parents Confident Kids has some great resources for parents. If it is frequently difficult for your child to engage in or complete lessons, please reach out to your child’s teacher or the school counselor for help.

And when school does quietly come to an end this year, what’s the best game plan for summer learning? At St. Timothy’s School, we recommend a “little and often” approach. Fifteen minutes of academic practice each day is enough for many elementary aged students. Consider alternating days of reading/writing and math.

  1. Focus on Reading and Writing - Summer reading should be a priority, and we also encourage students to write each week — whether in a journal or by writing letters to friends and family members.
  2. Practice Math - Reviewing math concepts from the previous school year helps to minimize loss over the summer. Board games are a great way to practice these skills — Set, Sumoku, Tenzi, and Sum Swamp are just a few of the many board games out there that involve problem solving and math skills. Activities such as baking or building projects offer “real world” application of math skills, and online practice and work books are also beneficial. Ask your child’s teacher to recommend a math workbook or review pages.

While the current circumstances will certainly shape the future in ways that we cannot yet predict, children are resilient and educators around the world are already preparing for students’ reentry to school. They are adjusting curriculum, pacing, and review to ensure that students will gain the skills they need! The world will adjust and when we all come out on the other side, we will be ready to pick up and keep moving.

Lindsay Behrens is the Head of Lower School at St. Timothy's School in Raleigh. She served as a resource teacher in Wake County Public Schools before joining St. Timothy's School. Visit www.sttimothys.org for more information regarding virtual tours and openings for 2020-2021.


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