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How to keep a child engaged in learning
4 Tips to Keep Kids Engaged in Learning
Are your kids having trouble getting motivated for school? Similar to what long-distance runners experience, your child may be hitting a wall, especially in this virtual and remote learning year. It’s hard to keep them engaged in the learning process.
I’m sure you’ve witnessed it. One moment your child is flying along, feeling great, and the next, they’re zapped. With energy drained, the road ahead looks long. You and your kids may have experienced a similar feeling, starting the year full of vigor, only to lose steam rapidly when things started getting tough.
With many schools in remote or hybrid learning, it’s even harder to keep up the momentum as fall turns to winter. Experienced runners develop strategies to power through moments like these, finding different ways to overcome obstacles and doubt. While kids aren’t all runners—and learning is not a race—there are ways you can help kids push through these challenges.
Try these four tips to keep your child engaged in learning:
Set a goal and plan for obstacles.
Goal-setting is an essential skill—in school, at home, at work, and in life. Kids should practice setting goals for their learning, which can be as simple as: “I want to finish my homework on Friday night so that I have the weekend to do what I want.”
But goal-setting alone isn’t enough. Kids need to identify the obstacles that might knock them off track (like being tempted to watch a movie on Friday night). When kids envision a positive future, acknowledge the obstacles that may arise, and plan for how they will overcome those obstacles, they are more likely to succeed.
Cultivate the power behaviors of a self-directed learner.
When kids struggle to pick up a new skill, they often misinterpret “this is hard” for “I must not be learning much” and give up. Self-directed learners employ five strategies that help them to reframe their struggles, including strategy shifting, seeking challenges, persistence, responding to setbacks, and seeking appropriate help.
These behaviors take time to establish, but adults can prompt conversations that get kids thinking about how they can move forward. It’s important to focus on process (finding strategies, encouraging determination, asking questions, etc.), rather than on product (regardless of whether it’s good or bad). Sharing examples from your own life about how you moved past obstacles can help kickstart the discussion.
Pursue real-world projects.
In schools that have embraced a project-based learning model, students investigate real-world, personally meaningful problems that challenge thinking and inspire action. These projects allow students to develop new skills and habits—like problem-solving and perseverance—and retain all the facts and information they are learning longer because they are seeing how it connects to real-life situations.
At home, projects can be motivating because they follow kids’ innate curiosity. Begin with a problem, question, or challenge. Then, map out what the project will entail, what your kid will learn, and what the final product will be. Projects allow kids to connect kids’ interests to what they are learning in school. For example, designing a garden for the spring builds math, design, and communications skills.
Find opportunities to celebrate progress, not perfection.
We often think about celebrating major education milestones like report cards and graduations where hard work and perseverance has paid off. However, celebrating everyday accomplishments—whether it is finishing a report or science project—can be a powerful form of external motivation.
Look for opportunities for kids to present their work, even if it’s just in front of the family at dinner. When kids take center stage to showcase their work, they feel pride in their accomplishments and expand their comfort zone to present their work in front of others. The act of celebrating is both motivating and identity-forming for kids.
You can find more tips and tools to help your kids become more engaged and self-directed learners with UNBOXED, a free digital learning kit for kids in grades 4-9. Each month, UNBOXED includes six tools designed to promote engaging, meaningful learning experiences–including a month-long project.
No matter what school looks like for your family this year, there will probably come a time when your kids will lose their focus. Hitting a wall is part of the learning process, but with the right tools, we can help our kids develop the skills and strategies to recapture their motivation.
Mira Browne is the executive director of Prepared Parents.
How to Keep Kids Engaged in Class
Still, unless you manage to capture and keep students' focus, whether at the beginning of or midway through class, the engine of student learning that you are trying to drive simply isn't even in gear.
More on Student Engagement:
See all Edutopia Classroom Management resources
Watch This Video: Thinking Big About Engagement
Read: Ten Simple Strategies for Re-engaging Students
From Dead Time to Active Learning
I call this lack of engagement dead time. Dead time interferes with students' learning, and it is contagious. It lures those who are on task into wondering, "Why should I pay attention if others aren't?"
I have come to feel that dead time is so pernicious that I will do everything I can to prevent even the hint of an outbreak. If you strive for maximum learning for all your students, then allowing kids to be stuck in dead time feels like a small betrayal -- to yourself and to them.
Active learning and active listening -- in which students are thoroughly and thoughtfully engaged with each other or the teacher -- represents the opposite of dead time. In their book Inspiring Active Learning, Merrill Harmon and Melanie Toth present a ladder that describes four levels of student motivation.
They call students at Level 4, the lowest level, the work avoiders, and on level 3 are the halfhearted workers. Near the top are responsible students, and, finally, come the fully active learners.
As a teacher and a project-learning consultant, I've always paid close attention to these levels of student engagement. I've discovered that it's difficult to keep students focused when the lesson comes from the teacher. But it can be equally difficult when they are engaged as project-learning teams, especially when the independence demanded by project learning is new to them.
Sometimes it's an individual on the team who can't seem to get involved; other times it's the entire group. Over the years, I've come up with a range of strategies to eliminate dead time and move students up the active-learning ladder.
Building Your Arsenal
Eliminating dead time starts with creating an arsenal of routines and activities. They can be general-purpose activities that apply to various subject areas or styles of teaching, or specific content-oriented activities that allow your students to learn by tapping into multiple intelligences beyond the usual listening and recalling.
Some are physical activities that help kids unleash pent-up energy, while others create private thinking time that encourages reflection. Or they can be well-managed student-to-student communication to guarantee that they are all thinking about the work.
Developing these activities initially takes time, but the payoff -- in terms of classroom management and overall learning -- is more than worth the effort. By building a storehouse of activities to draw on, I'm rarely at a loss to implement one of them to get kids back on track.
Not surprisingly, too, students get to know these strategies and look forward to them. I find they work at the beginning of class to calm kids down or any time they need an energizing way to refocus.
10 Rules of Engagement
1. Start Class with a Mind Warm-Up
A classic warm-up is to ask students to find the mistakes planted in material written on the board. (You can use this idea in any subject area.) But instead of asking them to work silently and alone, and then debrief in a classic question-and-answer session with one student at a time (while many sit inattentively), use a mix of collaboration and competition to eliminate what could potentially become dead time.
Here's how: Organize teams of three students and ask them to work together (quietly) and raise their hands when they think they have found all the mistakes. After the first team signals it's done, give a bit more time and then have teams indicate with their fingers -- together on the count of three -- the number of mistakes they found in the work. The team that found the most describes its answers until another team disagrees politely or until they are finished.
2. Use Movement to Get Kids Focused
Ask all students to stand behind their desks and join in simple choreographed physical movement. Because most kids find it invigorating and it's easy to monitor full participation, it may become one of your favorite ways to get kids focused and kill dead time.
Here's how, for the primary grades: Teach hand-clapping patterns to accompany a chanted verse or a set of math facts. Add foot stomping or hand clapping with a partner to create variety.
Here's how, for the middle grades: Create a rhythm with finger snapping and hand clapping, which you model and they echo back. Vary the rhythm and pattern in intervals of 15-20 seconds to challenge them to pay attention and join in.
Here's how, for any grade, including high school: Offer a seventh-inning stretch, or the cross crawl. To do the cross crawl, stand up and begin marching in place, raising the knees really high. As you raise the left knee, reach across your body with your right hand and touch the left knee.
Then do the same for the left hand on the right knee. Continue this pattern for a minute or more. (You can also vary it by, say, having kids clap their hands over their heads between each set of knee touches.)
3. Teach Students How to Collaborate Before Expecting Success
Doing project learning and other team-based work without prior training can lead to lots of dead time. You can nip much of it in the bud by teaching collaboration skills before projects get started. You don't need to use an activity related to your subject area to teach teamwork.
Here's how: One way is to give teams of students a pair of scissors, two sheets of paper, ten paper clips, and a 10-inch piece of tape, and ask them to build the tallest free-standing tower in 20 minutes.
Prior to the activity, create a teamwork rubric with students, which reviews descriptions of desired norms and behaviors. While half of the teams are building the towers, have the other half of the students stand around them in a circular "fishbowl" as silent observers.
Debrief afterward, and train the observers to give a positive comment before a critical one: "I liked that they [blank], and I wonder if they could have also [blank]." Switch the observers with the tower builders and see if they can do better, then debrief again.
4. Use Quickwrites When You Want Quiet Time and Student Reflection
When interest is waning in your presentations, or you want to settle students down after a noisy teamwork activity, ask them to do a quickwrite, or short journal-writing assignment.
Here's how, for primary-grade students: Ask, "What was most interesting about [blank]?" "What was confusing about [blank]?" "What was the clearest thing you understood?" "What was boring about [blank]?" "What did [blank] make you think of in your life?"
Here's how, for intermediate-grade students and above: Try prompts such as the following, or develop your own: "Summarize what you have heard. " "Predict an exam or quiz question I could ask based on this material." "Defend one of the positions taken during the prior discussion."
Teachers often avoid giving this type of assignment because assessing them regularly can be overwhelming. Manage this load by having students use a green (or other color) pen to circle one entry from the week you guarantee you will read.
Occasionally, have them write a few sentences next to their entry explaining why they want you to read that particular one. Let them know that you will read the passages marked in green and that, time permitting, you might read the rest if you have time.
5. Run a Tight Ship When Giving Instructions
Preventing dead time is especially important when giving instructions. There are a lot of great ways to ask for your students' attention, but many succeed or fail based on how demanding you are of the final outcome.
Whichever method you use, before you begin speaking, it is critical to require (1) total silence, (2) complete attention, and (3) all five eyeballs on you (two eyes on their face, two eyes on their knees, and the eyeball on their heart). I've done this approach with every class I've ever taught, and it makes a big difference. Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) middle schools include detailed SSLANT expectations: Smile, Sit up, Listen, Ask, Nod when you understand, and Track the speaker.
Here's how: When you introduce this routine to students, do it five times in a row: Announce that in a moment, you will briefly let them talk among themselves, and then you'll give them a signal (you can count out loud from one to three, ring a bell, and so on) and wait until they are perfectly ready for you to speak.
In the first two weeks after starting this routine, remind students often what's expected. To hold everyone accountable for listening the entire time, make it clear that you will never repeat your instructions after you have finished going over them.
6. Use a Fairness Cup to Keep Students Thinking
The more you can manage your classroom to be a supportive environment, where students are encouraged to take risks without fear of being put down or teased, the easier it will be to use your fairness cup regularly, without feeling that you are setting students up for failure.
Here's how: Write each student's name on a Popsicle stick and put the sticks in a cup. To keep students on their toes, pull a random stick to choose someone to speak or answer a question. Important: When you begin using your fairness cup, prepare a range of questions, some of which all your students can successfully answer. This strategy allows the bottom third of your class to get involved and answer questions without being put on the spot.
7. Use Signaling to Allow Everyone to Answer Your Question
To help ensure that all students are actively thinking, regularly ask questions to which everyone must prepare at least one answer -- letting them know you expect an answer. Then wait for all students to signal they are ready.
Here's how: For example, in math, you could ask, "How many ways can you can figure out 54-17 in your head? (Subtract 10 and then 7, subtract 20 and then add 3, and so on.) Or, to review a presentation, ask, "How many key points of this presentation are you prepared to describe?"
By asking questions that allow for multiple answers or explanations, you are differentiating instruction; everyone is expected to come up with at least one answer, but some may come up with more.
To convey the number of answers, students can use sign language, such as holding a hand to the chest (so their hands aren't visible to their neighbors) and displaying one or more fingers to represent how many answers they have. This technique precludes students from bragging about how many ideas they thought of or how quickly they are ready. You can then call on volunteers who want to share their answers with the rest of the class.
8. Use Minimal-Supervision Tasks to Squeeze Dead Time out of Regular Routines
Tasks that require minimal supervision add purposeful activity during moments that might normally revert to dead time. They come in handy when passing out papers, working with a small group of students, handling an unforeseen interruption, addressing students who didn't do their homework, or providing work to those who have finished an assignment before others.
Here's how: While you pass out papers, ask students to do a quickwrite (see #4) or to pair up and quiz each other on vocabulary words. Also, train students to fess up if they didn't do their homework. That way, during class homework review, these students won't automatically be in dead time. Instead, they'll immediately move to these prearranged minimal supervision tasks.
For example, you can ask them to study a review sheet, summarize a reading passage, read the day's assignment ahead of time, or create and study vocabulary words or other content. You might find students suddenly doing their homework more often rather than face this extra work.
9. Mix up Your Teaching Styles
To keep students involved and on their toes, try to move from teacher-centered learning to student-centered active learning, and vice versa.
Here's how: Introduce a presentation by having students pair up, talk to each other about their prior knowledge of the presentation, and generate a list of four questions for which they'll want to know the answers. Make quick rounds to remind all students to stay on task.
To encourage active listening, provide students with a list of important questions in advance. Interrupt the presentation with a quickwrite (see #4), and then have students "pair-share" by asking them to compare their entries with a neighbor. Pull sticks from your fairness cup (see #6) to choose pairs of students to present their thoughts to the class.
10. Create Teamwork Tactics That Emphasize Accountability
By insisting that students "ask three before me," you make it clear that they are expected to seek assistance from all members of their team before they turn to you.
Here's how: To reinforce this rule, when a student on a team wants to ask you a question, you, the teacher, always ask another person on the team whether she knows what the question is. If she doesn't, politely walk away, and the team will quickly understand what you expect.
Another way to emphasize accountability might be to say, "When you think your team is done with the task, find me within 30 seconds and tell me. " This strategy shifts the accountability to the team for being on task.
Read another article from Tristan de Frondeville, "Ten Steps to Better Student Engagement," with ten strategies to increase student engagement.
Tristan de Frondeville, a former teacher, heads PBL Associates, a consulting company dedicated to project learning and school redesign.
5 ways to get your child interested in learning - Alpina Blog
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January 13, 2020
4 minutes to read
Bored, inactive, indifferent children are not the most pleasant part of the life of parents or school teachers. Based on the books "Drive", "Think Like a Mathematician" and "The Finnish Education System", we compiled 5 ways to motivate a student to gain knowledge, and not earn "pluses".
Show that knowledge can be applied in real life
When a child or teenager does not see the connection with real life, does not understand the value of lessons, he rightly asks himself: is it worth investing time and effort into this?
“Mathematics will never be useful to me”, “Literature is boring!”, “I will never write a normal essay” are mental paradigms that need to be shifted in order to arouse interest in knowledge in a student. Rethink the presentation of the material. Let each lesson be structured so that the student can apply what he has learned in his life. Show how chemistry and physics work outside of the textbook. This also applies to the humanities: for example, endless essays in Russian language lessons will be useful to children at the university and when applying for a job.
Give meaning to homework
Instead of answering homework at the blackboard or turning it in to the teacher, Finnish students create a kind of gallery of them: creative works, essays or drawings are hung on the walls in the classroom or corridor. Students study and review the work of their classmates, write reviews on them, or discuss what they see in class. The best works are posted for a month in a prominent place - as an encouragement to the author. And what is especially important - with his consent.
Try to introduce an interactive element into the process of checking homework according to the same scheme. This will give children motivation, firstly, in principle, to do homework, and secondly, to try harder and not do it just for show.
Keep track of the state of students
A tired and sitting child will lose all interest in even the most exciting topic. It is important to switch the thinking of children from focused to scattered, so they will better absorb the information and analyze it faster. Distracted thinking can be achieved with the help of exercise breaks: jumping, walking around the class, warming up, squatting until the tasks go out of your head. When returning to work, insight often occurs - the solution comes easily and quickly, or the understanding of the problem is noticeably advanced.
“Scattered thinking not only helps to look at the material from a different angle, but also allows you to build new ideas into an already familiar picture, attach them to already known facts”
Celebrate victories together
The joy of achieving a goal or a good result is an important part of the learning process in general and student motivation in particular. In Finland, there is such a practice: in cooking classes, students have a tea party with the teacher and the goodies they have prepared in order to jointly enjoy the fruits of new knowledge.
Celebrate a new milestone with your students. Here's how to do it:
Have a student hot topic debate at the end of the history course. Was it necessary to baptize Russia? Nicholas II: martyr or traitor? How would history have turned out if his brother had not renounced the throne?
Give students the opportunity to put on a short theater performance at the end of the topic. Works great with literature. For example, let the class choose their favorite moments from the recently studied Chekhov and bring them to our time.
To encourage your child to work harder and highlight their strengths, praise them. But do it right. Inappropriate praise can lead to the fact that the motivation for the child will not be the desire to become better, but the desire to deserve another plus.
The book "Drive" gives these ways to distinguish one from the other:
Specific praise is better than vague general phrases.
Children recognize fake praise right away, so don't praise a student just like that. False compliments reduce the authority of the teacher in the eyes of the child. Praise students only when there is a real reason for it.
Do not turn praise into an awards ceremony, especially if the student is shy and reserved. For him, face-to-face encouragement will be more comfortable, and therefore motivating.
Praise not for intelligence and results, but for efforts and strategy.
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How to get a child interested in studying if he does not want to study?
Why it is important to get your child involved in activities
How to get a child interested in learning is a question every parent must have asked himself. Procrastinating and being lazy from time to time is common to everyone, and it’s not scary if these are isolated cases. But what if the child is completely indifferent to the school curriculum, does not want to study and tries to slip away from "homework" under any pretext? How to get kids interested in activities?
Strict control and "cramming" under pressure is not an option. Sooner or later, the child will begin to cheat, and family relationships can deteriorate. Nobody likes to be constantly forced. What’s more, such an approach can permanently create a distaste for education. This cannot be allowed, because the world in the 21st century is rapidly changing, and in order to keep up with it, it is necessary to constantly develop.
A sure way to get your child interested in learning is to create motivation. It can be external and internal, as well as positive and negative. Let's consider these types in more detail.
Types of educational motivation
External motivation is associated with some external circumstances, for example, a reward or, conversely, a punishment. External motivation, in turn, can be positive - when a child receives a new phone for good grades at the end of a quarter - and negative - if he finishes the year with a "troika" and therefore does not go to camp.
Intrinsic motivation is associated with the activity itself and its significance for a person.
Positive internal motivation is when a child tries to get "A"s in order to do well in exams, enter a university in the specialty of his dreams and work as he wants.
Negative - when he understands that if he does not study well, he will not be able to enter the budget.
The most productive motivation is internal positive. It is she who is the source of all outstanding deeds, implemented projects and accomplishments. People who have achieved a lot in life and in their work are, first of all, people with high internal motivation. But the external one, according to psychologists, will not at all help to interest the child in studying at school. So, Alfie Kohn, the author of the popular book “Punishment with a Reward”, claims that when trying to motivate with a “carrot”, that is, with external encouragement, the child is not looking for a creative way to complete the task, but the easiest and safest. From here arise cheating, solvers, doing homework using the “google” method. What difference does it make how to achieve results if the main thing is not knowledge, but a new phone?
So the best advice on how to get your child interested in learning is to make him sincerely love the educational process. This is not always easy, especially if the school has authoritarian teachers, the atmosphere in the classroom is spoiled, or there are conflicts.
How to get your child interested in studying: advice from psychologists
Tip 1. Create a mood for learning
tired, in a bad mood or when you have a headache. It's the same with studying.
The child should sit down for lessons calm, rested and full. You can involve him in classes, help him tune in to study, making the perfect workplace with him: with an organizer, stickers, a comfortable chair and suitable lighting. It helps to tune in and review notes from previous classes before preparing homework.
Tip 2. Keep your child interested
Reward anything positive that comes into your teen's radar. If he likes astronomy and stars, take him to a lecture at the planetarium, buy a sky map and a colorful encyclopedia. There is an interest in reading - visit literary places, for example, Pushkinsky Gory and Yasnaya Polyana, visit open poetry evenings. Try to participate in all activities on the topic of interest to the child, and then be sure to share your impressions with each other.
Tip 3. Be inspired by the examples of great people
As mentioned above, people who have achieved success in life are walking volcanoes of intrinsic motivation. The Centennial generation loves the success stories of businessmen, entrepreneurs, technology innovators. Read with your child the biographies of Jack Ma, Elon Musk, Sergey Brin. Each of them is an example of constant self-learning. Since childhood, Jack spent many hours communicating with foreign tourists in order to learn English, Elon studied manuals on astronautics, physics, rocket science from scratch and became a great professional. Their success stories are sure to help keep kids interested in learning.
Tip 4: Answer all questions
Don't dismiss your child's questions, no matter how naive or useless. Telling everything in detail and with pleasure, you will form in him the habit of being inquisitive, analyzing what is happening around, thinking critically, asking questions to yourself and others. And then you don’t have to force the child to study, he himself will do it with great pleasure.
Tip 5: Create the Right Environment
It is often the lack of interest in learning among peers that discourages a teenager from learning. The right environment can help instill a love of education. Friends in sections and circles, classmates and mentors, older brothers and sisters, friends from olympiads and competitions - any person who is respected by a teenager can set an example for him and interest him in his studies.
Tip 6. Learn with your child
Show that you are also interested in learning new things. At Foxford Home Online School, for example, you can watch webinars with your child when you have a free moment. Educational videos and documentaries on YouTube are also suitable.
Another good way to learn together is through games.
Tip 7. Praise and properly criticize
Competent feedback is one of the effective tools of motivation. Praise your child for showing interest in learning, creative solutions, and disciplinary progress. Criticism is also needed, but not in the form of value judgments (“You prepared poorly!”) Or emotions (“I knew that you would let me down again”). Sit down with your child and analyze what worked and what can be improved next time.
Do not evaluate the child: “You are very smart”, “Well done, you did the best”. So he will constantly wait for the evaluation of his actions, will become dependent on your opinion about him. It's better to say how you feel because of his actions. This will appreciate the act itself, show that you care, you sincerely worry, and teach the child to pronounce his emotions. For example, if he completed the task correctly, say "I'm very glad that you learned this topic perfectly." Better yet, ask how the child feels after overcoming difficulties.
Elena Petrusenko, Foxford Home School psychologist
Tip 8. Free your child from superfluous things
It is impossible to know everything and everything. If a teenager is not at all interested in, say, chemistry, you should not force the child to study, achieving ideal results - it is enough to know the certification minimum. He will finish school and forget about valency and chemical formulas, and an in-depth course in his favorite subject can play a decisive role in admission. Let him better direct his forces to those disciplines that really fascinate him. At Foxford Home School, there are individual educational routes in which more hours are devoted to the disciplines that the student needs.
The more freedom you get, the higher you fly. When I realized that in Foxford's home online school any knowledge is available to me - just have time to take it - I began to strive more for it.
Maria Sokolai, student at Foxford Home School
What not to do to force a child to learn
Compare it to a “friend’s son”
Competition, of course, can become a source of motivation in an adult, but already age and not for everyone. And if you constantly compare the child with other children, this, on the contrary, demotivates and does not help to interest the child in learning.
No matter how upset your child is with his next manifestation of slovenliness, do not insult him. Words hurt a lot, remember that one phrase can be remembered forever and become an attitude that will negatively affect a person’s whole life.
If a child is constantly told that he is stupid, a slob, a slob and other unpleasant things, he will not even have a desire to try to fix it. Why do something when adults have already put a "label" on you? It is better to evaluate the efforts of the child or the result of his work. For example, say “I saw how long it took you to study for this test. I'm proud of you!
Elena Petrusenko, Foxford Home School psychologist
Overloading with studies
In 1965, American elementary school teacher Barbara Shiel conducted an interesting experiment with her class of 36 difficult teenagers. She announced that everyone during the day will be able to do whatever they want. The next day it was the same, but now Barbara helped the schoolchildren to plan for the day. Then she explained that there is a certain curriculum for a week that needs to be completed. The result of the experiment was that all the guys started the internal motivation, and they became much more successful in doing.
Do not put education at the forefront, encourage hobbies, sports, music, creativity. Leave time for hobbies and socializing with friends. Even when studying becomes a favorite thing, you need breaks for other activities.
Continue attending a regular school
If you feel that the traditional school system reduces your child's intrinsic motivation and natural curiosity, consider changing the format of education. And then you don’t have to think about how to interest the child in learning, he will study with pleasure. Every year more and more mothers and fathers choose family education, where they can individualize the learning process and find support from professionals.