Tips on how to keep kids engaged while learning remotely

Back in March and April, the novelty of learning at home was a bit exciting. Kids were enjoying being “at class” in their pajamas, having a different pace of learning, and overall just doing things in a new way. Now many, many months later, the thrill is gone. 

Almost all students have some amount of remote learning, whether it’s everyday, a few days a week or just during quarantine periods. As the Manager of Behavior Support Services at Da Vinci, I was not surprised that most students are now struggling to stay motivated. To them, online school is just the hardest part of school without all the fun parts. 

Da Vinci’s tips for keeping students engaged in the online learning process

  1. Check in on how kids are feeling. There is a lot to cover academically, but spending a few minutes to connect will improve the students motivation. Whenever possible, try to connect to the students individually. Instead of writing a comment on an assignment, you could record a video message for students. This way the student can see and hear the compliment, and can also watch it multiple times!
  2. Keep it fun. Show short videos to support what is being taught. Explore some of the many games that can keep kids interested and having fun while learning. Playing Prodigy, Kahoot, Sporcle trivia, scavenger hunts, or pictionary gives the students a chance to interact and be involved.
  3. Give frequent breaks. Sitting in front of a screen for hours is an invitation for a wandering mind.  A brain break could be a quick way to help a student recharge and refocus.  Try a two minute mindfulness exercise like star breathing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSgOW879jjA),  a set of jumping jacks, a quick drawing assignment, or a  joke exchange.
  4. Keep lessons shorter. Changing the topic more frequently will increase the chance that the student can stay focused throughout the topic.
  5. Give students a sense of control. They will be more motivated if they have made choices about the format and topics of their assignments.
  6. Give opportunities for kids to be social. Students are missing social interactions terribly. Having group assignments in break out rooms where students need to respond to one another’s ideas encourages connection to other students.
  7. Give assignments that are not in front of the screen. Have the students conduct an interview, make a short movie, write a children’s book or hand write an assignment and submit a picture of it.
  8. Have  virtual field trips. Visit museums, zoos, concerts, story readings. Resources like Google Arts & Culture and National Geographic’s resources for education can provide a different environment for learning.
  9. Create a sense of belonging. Help the students feel heard, and feel like an important part of the group. Help them feel comfortable being there by talking about topics that matter to them and that they can relate to. Have each student talk about their 3 G’s- What I am grateful for, what I am good at and what are my goals. Sharing and hearing others share reminds them that every voice matters, and they are part of the same community.
  10. Build in ways for students to catch up if they fall behind. Many students are feeling less accountability in online learning, and are missing assignments more frequently than when they had face to face teacher contact. They are more likely to be able to make up work and avoid being overwhelmed if there is a clear structure in place for this situation. Give them a clear way to communicate with you outside of the online class format to make it easier for them to reach out to you.

There is no way of knowing how long remote learning will be a reality for today’s students. At DaVinci, we are committed to helping students, teachers and parents throughout this pandemic and beyond. Contact us for assistance with your child’s educational or mental health needs. 

Written by Lorna Bosak. LCSW-R, Manager of Behavior Support Services

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