As a teacher, one aspect of instruction that I find to be the most challenging is developing assignments and lessons that interest my students. Add the extra challenge of teaching a classroom full of 6-8-year-olds with short attention spans and the task seems overwhelming.
While contemplating my students’ needs for engaging activities, I realized that my own crew of virtual learners, my three kids still at home, were facing virtual burnout.
It dawned on me that there are many families facing the same difficulty. How do you keep your students interested in school when in many instances your children are missing out on the one thing that they loved most about school? For my kiddos at home, this is socializing and communicating with their friends. For others, it may range from participating in extracurricular activities to being part of clubs and school programs.
Regardless of their reason for missing school, it is important that they remain consistent in their studies and that their academic progress is not hindered. To address this problem, I have used one strategy from the book “The Highly Engaged Classroom” Written by R. Marzano and D. Pickering. This strategy is effective for both my students at school as well as my virtual homeschooled students.
In the book, they outline four questions that should be addressed when creating a lesson. They are: How do I feel? Am I interested? Is this important?, and Can I do this?.
How Do I Feel?
If your kids are anything like mine, they do not feel very well. They are depressed about not being able to go to school, not being able to see their friends regularly, and not being able to go to just have fun and be kids. My kids were not enthused about going back to school. This makes trying to keep them interested in school complicated.
To help boost their spirits, I found that communication was my most effective tool to address their feelings. Communicating with them that this COVID- 19 crisis would eventually end and having them work through their emotions seemed to help address their feelings regarding school.
Am I Interested?
This question was a bit more complicated to address. My son who gets straight A’s was interested because he generally loves school. My teenage daughter who hates school work is quite a challenge.
Though her teachers are doing a great job trying to deal with virtual learning, I feel that it is important to help her stay interested in school. To pique her interest, I developed a reward system and found fun YouTube videos that explained content that she found troubling.
Is This Important?
The third question is extremely important. Once your child sees that what they are learning is important, it is easier to get them to complete assignments and keep them engaged. To address the questions regarding the importance of their school work, I like to have them research the subjects themselves. Though economics is boring, it was easier for them to do the work once they found out learning about economics is important.
Can I Do This?
To address the last question, it is important to remember that several of our kids lost valuable classroom time during this crisis. As a teacher, I’ve been guilty of giving my students material that is too difficult. If your child states that the material given is too difficult for them, it very well might be. The added difficulty of not having one on one instruction can also make these already difficult classes seem impossible. Communication is key. It is important to speak with your child and the teacher early. This way, courses can be changed or interventions can be placed that will help your child succeed.
Regardless of how you choose to combat the virtual burnout that accompanies online learning, it is important to address the mental strain that this pandemic has placed on so many.
Communication is the most effective tool to increase your child’s engagement in learning. Knowing what they like and how they feel about different subjects will help you implement strategies that will increase your student’s interest in those subjects. These strategies seem to have helped my kids succeed in this virtual world, and I hope that they prove useful to you.