Helping your child to engage in their learning
As home learning has now gone into many weeks it might be harder to motivate children to complete schoolwork. Keeping children engaged with learning in the broader sense might be more relevant. The following ideas might be of some help.
Make it meaningful – Children respond better if a task is meaningful to them. By creating links to their interests or desires (i.e. what’s in it for them) or areas they have learnt before this can help with their motivation. Some children (and adults) like to see the usefulness of a task so where possible make learning functional and practical. An example of this would be writing instructions for making a model or a game.
Routine and structure – It is important for children to have a level of structure and routines in their lives and this can help them feel more secure. However, there is an opportunity to build a routine that works best for you and your family. Instead of needing to start when the bell rings, children and young people can work when it suits them best. Try engaging your child in schoolwork at different times of the day to see when they’re most focused. Within the structure of your day allow children to have some choice of what tasks they complete. Also, it can help for children to set their own goals of how much work they complete by a certain time or day. More information can be found here.
Make learning fun – Remember children are learning all the time at home and outside and not just through formal schoolwork. Games and playing are great ways to encourage children to practise all kinds of skills including counting, problem solving, reading, explaining and social skills. Having fun and being creative keeps children engaged. For example, chalk activities can be used to devise various challenges as well as creating artwork if you have access to an outside area.
Working together – Children often require encouragement to start tasks and once started to then keep going and try to finish the task. It might help if you are both working alongside each other on separate tasks or once your child has started a task to leave them for five minutes and say I will be back to see how you are doing. This will depend on the age and stage of your child and the task itself. Keep praise specific or recognising that your child is putting in a lot of effort. Try to relay the message that it’s okay to make mistakes as that actually helps us learn. The Education World website provides further suggestion on how to engage your child in their learning.
Break it up – Some children can start one task and stay focused until it’s finished. Other children work better in working on one task for a chunk of time and then changing to another task. Often children require quite a few sensory or comfort breaks during a task. This could be a walk round the house or playing with a toy before coming back to a task.
Multi-Sensory – Children learn through lots of different means: visual (pictures, images, videos), verbal (listening to or reading information) and physical movement (hands on, practical experiences, learning by doing). We know that children master new things best when they are presented to them in all of these different ways. So try and include a range of different types of activities which make use of some or all of their senses. Your child can tell you what he knows about a subject while jumping on a trampoline or bouncing a ball. Talking together can really help embed facts as can drawing or making a short video. Some other ideas are suggested on the Kids Academy and Reading Rockets websites.
Thinking about learning (Metacognition) – It is important that children are encouraged to think about and plan how they might tackle activities or tasks, to think about what they might do to help if they get stuck, to keep track of how well they are getting on and what they did well or found difficult. More ideas can be found here. Adults can support this by asking questions before, during and after tasks are underway. This can be a great way of helping children when they are stuck rather than feeling like you have to jump in and give the answer straight away.