Tips to Increase Engagement With Virtual Learning
As we all navigate a nontraditional school year with the majority of children receiving educational services through an online platform, here are some helpful tips to increase your child’s attention and help them stay engaged during virtual learning.
Create a Designated Learning Space
Work to set up a learning environment similar to that of a school setting. The space should be a quiet and free of distractions. For example, if your child would typically work at a desk throughout the school day, provide them with a table and chair at which to work. If you are unable to ensure a quiet setting, consider providing your child with headphones to help reduce the distraction of background noise. This area should also be reinforcing for kids. Allow them to put their own personal touches onto their space—such as hanging their artwork or a picture of their favorite cartoon character or selecting school supplies in their favorite color—just be sure not to go overboard otherwise it could become a distraction. Another way to limit distractions is to avoid allowing toys directly in the learning environment if possible or to only have them available during breaks. If your child typically sits better when they have access to some sort of fidget or sensory toy, feel free to utilize it as needed throughout the day.
Make sure to keep all school materials organized and located in the child’s workspace. Have writing utensils and paper nearby if note taking will be required, especially for those learners who may have a difficult time listening and typing at the same time. This helps avoid spending valuable learning time searching for supplies or a certain worksheet. Whatever method of technology is being used (tablet, computer, phone), make sure that it is charged and ready to go prior to the start of the school session. Keep an extra charger nearby just in case the battery runs low!
Maintain a Routine
It’s important to keep a structured routine similar to the daily one a child would experience in school. This can include the morning routine of getting dressed and eating breakfast as well as the nighttime routine to ensure children get an appropriate amount of sleep. Help prepare your child for the next activity or task by utilizing a visual schedule, planner or calendar, or verbal reminders. When possible, allow your child to be part of the process for creating and maintaining their schedule, as it may increase motivation and keep them more engaged. Provide frequent reminders for when their next break in learning will be and utilize “first-then” statements to keep them on task. If verbal reminders can be distracting or aversive, a timer is a great alternative.
Take Frequent Breaks
Incorporate frequent breaks in learning based on what is appropriate for your child. Allow these breaks to be fun and engaging and provide various options for break-time activities. If space allows, consider creating multiple play stations in the home such as arts and crafts, game table, or decompression area. Aim to have break activities occurring away from the designated learning space. Plan for a physical activity or movement play throughout the day to allow kids to exert some energy such as a walk outside, red light-green light, dance parties, or Simon says. Utilize a timer as a reminder for how long is left of their breaks.
Reinforce Positive Behaviors
Remember to provide frequent praise and reinforcement. The teacher may be unable to see the work that is being done by your child or may not have the time to individually praise each child in the virtual classroom as needed. If time in your own schedule allows, don’t hesitate to join in a learning segment to assist with modeling appropriate participation and attending behaviors.
Adjust Your expectations
The transition between attending to a teacher in person to attending to a teacher via technology is significant and will take some time for children to adapt. If your child used to be able to sit and attend to a teacher in the classroom for 20 minutes, but now can only seem to do so for 5 minutes, just remember to allow time for adjustment to this new method of learning. Virtual educational platforms are more focused on verbal and visual learners. Therefore, it may be helpful for parents to recognize other environmental changes that can assist with children that have a physical or auditory learning preference (i.e. sitting on a yoga ball instead of a stool while working). Depending on the speed of the sessions, parents should inquire if their child needs specific subjects recorded to review at a later time to build comprehension. If a child is frustrated that the material is being presented too quickly this could deteriorate their motivation to continuously attend. Utilize a few minutes at the end of the school day to speak to your child to express that with the new format being utilized they are doing their best.
Lastly, Maintain Reasonable Expectations for Yourself
As parents, you have been expected to take on the role of teacher in addition to all of the roles and responsibilities you already carry. For parents of kids who require extra support to be successful learners, this expectation is amplified and can be overwhelming. Remember to give yourself credit for the effort you are putting in and allow yourself grace when the day does not go as planned.
We hope you found these tips beneficial and hope that they are helpful in supporting you and your children as we all navigate virtual learning this year.