If your family’s experience with remote learning last spring was anything like ours it included a lot of stress over what our children were supposed to do, tears of frustration because they needed our help (what felt like every step of the way) and arguments about getting assignments completed. We thought that we just had to “get” to summer and then there would be a return to some “normal” in the fall. My own mental bandwidth to facilitate school work was so limited by mid-May that the “school routines” in the house were non-existent. Here are 5 ways drawn from the science of learning that we can all do to purposefully reset for remote learning success!
Step 1: Create a Positive and Welcoming Learning Space
Change the location or configuration of the spaces you and the kids work in so you have a fresh perspective to “go back to school”. You could also re-decorate the area where you all sit to “work.” Design it for easy access to supplies and think through how you engage with technology. Encourage your child to help with the design so they have ownership and feel comfortable. Be creative with the spaces you have available! Butcher paper can turn a desktop into a collaborative brainstorming place or where you record the “to-do” list of the day! If you hang it on a wall with paint safe tape it can become a chalkboard for lessons or a place to stand up while contemplating math problems. If you have a learner who struggles with sitting still, wiggle chairs can change their entire perception of learning. Make THIS remote learning a NEW event. By resetting the physical learning space that your family works in, you can create a new experience.
Step 2: Remote Learning Goal #1, Building Reading Stamina
Create a reading nook where the kids (and you!) read together. Reading is the most important academic skill to foster as its lifetime benefits are exponential. Reading increases vocabulary, supports social-emotional growth through building capacity for empathy, lowers stress and strengthens your brain (brain scans show higher cognitive activity even when reading for leisure). So if there is one area for the whole family to focus on in Fall of 2020, it’s reading! All effort that you put into developing your learners into enthusiastic readers will yield benefits for years to come so make D.E.A.R. a part of your day…Drop Everything And Read!
Step 3: Learning Routine for Starting an Assignment
The hardest thing about remote learning last spring was to coerce my son to begin his tasks. It seemed that he spent more time worrying about how to start the work than it took him to complete it, even when he knew how to do the task. Yelling Nike’s mantra of “just DO it” was not successful, yielding tears and feelings of self-defeat. After multiple meltdowns I realized that as a developing learner, the skill of beginning an assignment was overwhelming. There are multiple reasons why young brains resist starting work including anxiety over the product, an executive function that is still developing and learning mindset. Regardless of the cause, establishing the following learning routine will help!
On a notecard have a checklist similar to the one below, a list of steps to begin any task.
MY Assignment Checklist:
- Find where the directions are located for the assignment and read through the directions identifying the materials needed to do the task.
- Gather all materials needed to complete the task.
- Read directions through again and determine the first step of the task.
- Complete the first step of the task to best of my ability.
- Check in with my parent/teacher/sibling/peer to determine if I am on the right track and discuss how to complete the task.
Ironically the skill of initiating engagement in a learning task is actually more important to develop in school than the academic skills the homework is practicing. This routine is specifically designed to train students to self-regulate their work; identify important resources, break down assignments into small steps and check to make sure they are on the right track before completing the entire thing. Focusing on only the first step of the assignment and doing it independently to the best of their ability is critical to cultivating a strong work ethic with a growth mindset. Once our brain figures out the first step of a task it will naturally problem solve to discover how to accomplish the rest. By focusing only on the first step of an assignment and praising effort of initiation, we take the fear out of learning and provide the support needed to find success.
Step 4: Learning Routine for Self-Directed Inquiry, Innovation & Design
Give your child the space to discover the JOY of learning through a self-directed inquiry routine. This is simply a time in the day when they can delve into projects or topics that they find interesting. What are their passions and questions? Building with blocks, STEM projects or designing an innovation for an everyday problem is the foundation of design thinking. It is so much fun to discover the “why” and “how” of our daily life using resources such as YouTube. How are marshmallows made? Why is there snow in some parts of the planet and not others? Why are vegetables good for you? What really is more important, offense or defense? Which statistic explains the answer (look for the statistic that all of the playoff teams have in common!)? When students pursue this self-directed exploration of a question/topic/passion they understand the purpose of learning which fuels their internal motivation and helps them to develop their identity as a life-long learner.
Step 5: Schedule Social Interactions which Follow Social Distancing Guidelines
A HUGE part of school is socialization…so find ways DAILY that are safe to engage! Here are some ideas:
- Zoo Trips
- Nerf Wars
- Nature Walks
- Tennis (even if it is on the driveway!)
- Clubs based on common interests (photography, coloring, drama, singing, building, yoga)
- Sports activities where kids have their own ball or stick and do drills
As we navigate this stressful time, connecting with friends is an essential part of development and wellness…for all ages!
© 2020 The Connected Learner, LLC