10 ways to motivate kids to learn in lockdown

Child doing homework and being helped by parents

Keep kids learning with advice from some of USA’s most motivational educators
Image: Africa Studio

The closure of schools has transformed the lives of children and teenagers beyond all recognition. And while lockdown might have been a novelty to start with, kids are missing their regular routines, their friends and their sports activities.

Is remote learning grinding to a halt in your household? Here’s how some of the USA’s most inspirational teachers and educators suggest turning things around to keep your kids motivated…

  1. Keep it organized
  2. “Develop a ‘learn at home schedule’ for your children. Keep regular hours for meals and bed, too. But don’t get crazy. If there are three hours of schoolwork to be done, that doesn’t have to be from 9:00-12:00. Three separate one-hour study periods may be better. And, just like during the school year, days off matter, too.”

    Timothy Shanahan, Shanahan on Literacy

  3. Take inspiration from your new space
  4. When students can tailor their space to their work, the research suggests that they feel more engaged and are more productive, so encourage students to move the furniture and props to fit their learning needs…For example, a student may be at a traditional desk for math practice but can transition to a couch or beanbag chair to watch online math instruction.”

    – Laura Lee, Edutopia

  5. Understand the purpose of a task
  6. “Even in school it can be hard to keep kids focused on why they are involved in particular activities. But purposeful action is more likely to lead to learning. Ask your children what the purpose of the assignment is; get them to explain it. If they can’t, then see if you can figure out the point and, if you can’t, don’t be afraid to contact the teacher and get them to explain it.”

    Timothy Shanahan, Shanahan on Literacy

  7. Show kids how to plan and prioritize
  8. “Planning involves thinking about the steps needed to accomplish a task, whereas prioritizing entails completing the most important task first. Online coursework will be harder for many students to conceptualize as a priority…Breaking down a task into concrete steps helps create a more effective time management and prioritization process.”

    – Chris Crouch, Medium

  9. Encourage independent learning
  10. Teenage girl doing homework with headphones on

    Give your kids the space to problem solve by themselves
    Image: fizkes

    “[Children] need to be able to identify things they want to learn and figure out how to learn it. That is what adults do every day [but] it’s not something that everyone does naturally. Help [children] find information to help them learn things they are interested in…”

    – Nicholas Provenzano, The Nerdy Teacher

  11. Think outside the worksheet
  12. “Use school at home as an opportunity for deeper learning where kids use their environment to explore different subjects. Household activities like cooking or organizing offer the opportunity to develop problem-solving skills.”

    – Laura Lee, Edutopia

  13. Encourage ownership
  14. “[Concentrate on] life skills that can’t be measured in the classroom: Cooking, cleaning, independent study, self-motivation, persistence, time management, and problem-solving, among others. A child’s time and learning is so structured and micromanaged that it is difficult for them to learn these skills and develop independence… Rather than micromanaging their daily schoolwork and fielding academic questions, use this time as an opportunity for children to take ownership of their learning.”

    Kerrie LaRosa, Medium

  15. Keep things in perspective
  16. “Every evening, during dinner, my family plays a game. We call it high-low. The rules are quite simple: 1. You must state a ‘high’ from your day…something that stands out as going really well or making you happy. 2. You state a ‘low’…something that didn’t go so well or made you sad…Everyone is clued in to at least a couple of happenings of everyone at the table…[and] it’s a great starting point for conversations. There will be highs and lows during our day. The important thing is to learn from them all and to be the best humans we can be.”

    – Blake Harvard, The Effortful Educator

  17. Set a good example
  18. Man and son doing homework or work on laptops next to each other

    Through working or reading, set a good example to your kids
    Image: fizkes

    “If you are frustrated your kids aren’t reading during this time in quarantine, maybe you should ask yourself if you’re reading. You need to be doing it just as much.”

    – Jacob Chastain, Teach Me Teacher

  19. Let teachers take the lead

“Teachers are professionals. They know where they are in the curriculum. They know their kids, what point each of them is at, which ones have greater needs than others. …Unleash teachers as professionals… [and] let them go, go, go.”

– Andy Hargreaves, writing for The Washington Post

Children and teenagers miss their school community and normal routine more than many care to admit. Let them know that it’s OK to feel sad and give them plenty of opportunity to talk. As much as we care about their education, taking care of their health and wellbeing is more important than their grades for the time being.

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