Review vs. Reteach: Using Both To Benefit Your Students

It’s the day before a test, and as a teacher, you start to panic for your kids. They’re asking questions during your review session. You’re realizing that their mastery of the material is far below what you expected. You’re not sure if they didn’t study, if you didn’t teach it well, or if something else went wrong, but you know your classroom isn’t in a good place.

This scenario can be heartbreaking when you’re a caring teacher who wants your students to succeed. The good news: this is fixable. Review and reteach are two very different methods of helping your students retain information, but they are not interchangeable.

The difference is simple. Review is what most teachers do the day or week before a large test. You go over large amounts of information, and students ask questions on things that have always been a little bit tricky for them. You see eyes widen as your kids remember things from the beginning of the unit. You might play a game, do a few worksheets from the beginning of the unit, or have kids battle it out in groups to see who can answer the most questions correctly. Review is about reawakening the brain to things that it may have forgotten in time. Review is about remembering- not re-learning.

Reteach is different. It’s targeted to a specific objective that was a struggle for students. It’s not a large scale review. Reteach requires you to constantly have your finger on the pulse of your classroom, finding misunderstandings and fixing them before they become large-scale problems.

In order to effectively reteach material, you need to know what your students aren’t understanding. Dr. Robert Marzano, co-founder and CEO of the educational powerhouse Marzano Research Laboratory, stresses the importance of regular assessment when deciding whether it makes more sense to reteach a concept, or simply review it at the end of a unit. This is where end-of-class exit tickets can come in handy. At the end of the class period, each student gets a paper that has one to three multiple choice questions that will let you as the teacher know whether they understood the day’s objective. Here’s the key: students need to write their rationale (how they knew their answer was correct) underneath their answer for each question. This allows you to see where the breakdown information occurs (if any), and helps you see how to change your instruction during your reteach.

When you use this type of check for understanding to fuel your reteach, one of the following scenarios inevitably occurs:

Every kid mastered the objective. This can be great, if the objective in question was rigorous and challenged your students. Be honest with yourself when this happens- was class too easy? Are you pushing your kids? This may be a sign that it’s time to step up your instruction. A simple look at Brown’s taxonomy can help you ramp up the rigor with higher order thinking questions.

Most of the kids mastered the objective. In most classrooms, this is the sweet spot. To target the students who missed the objective, you have a few options. You can group them together while the rest of the class is working on an extension activity the next day and help break down their misunderstandings. You can ask them to stop in before school, after school, or at lunch for a quick reteach. You can simply check in with the student when you return their exit ticket the next day, asking them to explain to you where they went wrong, helping you to gauge their level of misunderstanding. Make sure you’re getting to those students who missed the mark, and celebrate the students who got it right.

Most of the kids didn’t master the objective. Eek! This can be scary to see as a teacher, but addressing this with the class can be fun. If most of the students didn’t get it, that means some students have the hang of it. While going over the exit ticket at the beginning of class, call on students who nailed it to explain their thinking. Sometimes, having the point rephrased in kid friendly language can work wonders. If most kids are still missing the point, stay tuned- we’re about to get to how to do a full class reteach.

Literally no one got it. Buckle up, teach- it happens to the best of us. It’s time for a full class reteach.

Now that you know where your class stands, it’s time to talk to them about reteaching if they fell into one of the bottom two categories. The key here is transparency. Be honest with your kids- let them know what percentage of them mastered the objective, without calling out names (it’s ok to shout out a rock star, but no one wants to be singled out for doing poorly). UK based educational think tank and charity The Sutton Trust have proven that learning is supposed to be hard at first. Kids actually retain more knowledge when they struggle with a concept in the beginning stages of learning- share that with your class. Have an honest conversation with your kids about what went wrong, and be prepared to own up if you weren’t fully prepared for the lesson or if your explanations weren’t the best.

After the conversation, it’s time to get the reteaching going! These tried-and-true methods work wonders for getting to the proverbial light bulb moment with your kiddos:

Cooperative learning. Education expert Dr. Spencer Kagan’s Sage-And-Scribe approach works well here. If you’re unfamiliar, the concept is easy. You ask the class a question relating to the reteach topic, and then pair your kids up. Partner A answers the question while partner B writes what partner A is saying. After 60 seconds (or however long you feel is appropriate), they switch. After each partner’s answer is recorded, have students look over the answer and create one superanswer. Walk around the room while this part is happening to hear students overcoming their original obstacles with the objective. Carefully select a few answers to read out loud, and watch students suddenly begin to “get” the concept as they hear it explained in the words of their peers.

Switch modalities. Scholastic, Inc. education expert Brenda Weaver notes the importance of recognizing that re-teaching cannot simply mean doing more of the same. Did you use slides to teach the concept the first time? Ditch them, and use a video instead. Used a video before? Scrap that, and have students read and discuss a short article on the concept. Use something new to let their brains explore the concept in a different way.

Have kids simplify. This is a great way to have kids break down the concept, both for themselves and to each other. Group kids into small bunches (3-4 students) and ask them to write a paragraph explaining how they would teach the concept to a kindergartner. This forces children to stop using tough vocabulary, stop using jargon, and really get to the heart of the concept. The big key here is having each group present their answer out loud, so all students in the class benefit from hearing a tough concept re-taught in simple language multiple times.

When students struggle, remember that it doesn’t mean you’re a bad teacher. All educators have concepts that need to be hit on more than once in order to stick. By constantly checking for understanding and reteaching concepts that need to be hit hard, you’re ensuring that your students have the knowledge they need to successfully move forward in your classroom and beyond.

25 Tips For Improving Student’s Performance Via Private Conversations

Do you think employers who want to improve the job performance of each of their employees should communicate their thoughts about how to improve to the entire workforce at once or to each employee as an individual?

The answer to the above question might seem obvious, but innumerable employers don’t communicate properly to their employees. Consequently, many employers never get to know many of their employees. They never learn how to utilize their employees’ skills, what their employees’ short- and long-term work objectives are, and what will motivate them to perform better at work.

A failure to communicate, as the warden tells the inmates in the movie “Cool Hand Luke,” can cause problems among people who are being supervised. At the office, it can cause a morale problem among the staff as a whole and/or a morale problem among specific individuals.

Do you remember what it was like to be a student in school? Many teachers communicate with children when there is an obvious behavior or academic problem. That means teachers don’t communicate with many students at all. When I was a student, I knew many classmates who excelled academically. Teachers left them alone. That was a big mistake.

Teachers need to communicate with EVERY student. Students who get good grades can’t improve their academic skills merely by doing well on tests. Some of them need to write better if they are going to succeed in college. Others need to learn how to work better with classmates. Others need to be motivated to transform themselves from students who do well on tests to students who can start and finish independent projects — the kind of ability they will need to succeed in college and in the workplace.

And then there are the shy students. There were many of them in my grammar and high school classes. They lacked the confidence to speak in class so they didn’t. Their grades were fine to excellent, but they needed someone to spur them to volunteer their thoughts and insights. They needed to improve their oral communication skills.

Lisa Deserves As Much Attention As Bart

How can students improve their academic skills?

I don’t want to discount a teacher’s ability to inspire students via exciting classroom lessons, creative assignments, and an enthusiastic personality that challenges students to be superachievers, but the best way for students to improve their skills is to get specific feedback and advice from their teachers. This feedback and advice helps them focus on what they need to do to maximize their potential.

I remember vividly when someone walked into a class during my senior year in high school and told the teacher that the principal’s office wanted to speak to a student in the class. The student was shy and had good grades. As he walked out of class, several students mumbled in astonishment that this student was in “trouble.”

The student wasn’t in trouble. He had written to his congressman, seeking to interview him for a Journalism class assignment. The congressman’s office responded via the school rather than the student’s home address.

The assumption that teachers and administrators should focus their attention on problem students has to end. Teachers, in particular, should go out of their way to spend roughly the same time with each student. Lisa Simpson deserves as much attention as Bart Simpson.

A teacher’s advice to a student should be private. While the most important advice I can give to teachers is to stress the positive about a student’s performance — to tell her or him three things that she or he did right before getting into constructive criticism — it’s still important that other students not hear the critiques.

In short, it’s MORE important for teachers to communicate with students privately one on one than for employers to communicate with employees privately one on one. It’s important for students at all grade levels, but it’s more important for high school students than grammar school students. This article is for high school teachers talking to high school students.

Below are 25 tips for teachers on how they can improve each student’s academic performance via one-on-one private conversations.

1. Be Positive

Before getting into the step-by-step part of what a teacher has to do to formulate an effective strategy for communicating with students, I want to emphasize how important it is to have a positive frame of mind before getting started. As a teacher, you can be a disciplinarian when managing a classroom of 20 or 30 students, but you should not be a disciplinarian in one-on-one meetings. Emphasizing the positive is crucial.

2. Be Specific In Your Praise

I mentioned earlier that telling students three things they did right in their work BEFORE being critical is important, but the praise should be as specific as possible because students can detect BS. If you are analyzing a fictional writing assignment, you could praise the student’s imagination, dialogue, and characters. THEN, you can get into the flaws. Many people have told me they hate writing because a teacher emphasized their spelling and grammar mistakes. Stressing the negative can discourage students from improving an important skill.

3. Formulate An Organized Plan

You should have a plan for private one-on-one conversations with your students before the school year begins. That means mapping out how much time you intend to spend with students. I would suggest meeting with each student once a month for 10 minutes. Your classroom environment might dictate the logistics of the meeting. You want to be respectful of students’ time so private meetings during class while the rest of the students are working on an assignment is an option.

4. Tell Students Your Plans

Inform students on the first day of class about your plans to meet with them one on one. Remember, many students are conditioned that they only meet with a teacher when they’ve done something wrong. Put your plan in writing, on a separate sheet of paper from the course syllabus and your classroom’s rules (which students should help draft). Emphasize in your plan that your objective is to work with each student as an individual to improve their academic skills. The skills such as critical thinking, ability to question, writing, and speaking should be listed.

5. Tell Parents Your Plans

Informing administrators about your plans is probably mandatory, but informing your students’ parents is also crucial. Urge students to show their parents all the written material you gave them on the first day of class. Post your plans on your class website and/or class Facebook page if you have one and/or figure out a way to communicate with parents. Keeping parents informed about their children’s progress is crucial. Emphasize that you are meeting with EVERY student.

6. Be As Private As Possible

Communicating with parents might help you avoid the problem of one-on-one meetings with students in classes when their classmates can hear the conversation. Privacy is essential for effective meetings. Ask parents whether post-school meetings are permissible if you can’t meet with students privately in your classroom or an adjacent room and simultaneously monitor the other students. Post-school meetings without the consent of parents and students is disrespectful. Meetings in your office during study halls are also possible.

7. Treat Every Student Equally Timewise

Don’t spend more time with some students in your formal one-on-one meetings than others — and remind students that is your decision. Students can be quick to conclude that you have favorites if you spend more time with some of them. You can still make yourself available to students who seek your help outside the format of the one-on-one meetings, but make it 100 percent clear that you encourage all your students to seek this kind of help.

8. Don’t Treat Every Student Equally Advicewise

Some students respond exceptionally well to constructive criticism, but others don’t. During the school year, you will learn which students need to be treated with kid gloves. Seeking the advice of these students’ parents is an excellent way to learn how to convey advice and feedback to them. Watch the students’ expressions as you talk to them so you know when to praise them to boost their morale.

9. LISTEN Before Talking

Let your students talk before you do. This is particularly important in your first meeting. Let the students tell you who they are. You want to know each student well before giving them advice. Ask open-ended questions if they’re reluctant to talk. Take notes so you can remember details about the students. Make it clear in future meetings that you remember specific facts about your students. “Hearing without listening” is not a good thing, as the Simon & Garfunkel song “The Sound of Silence” implied. Students will feel more respected if you know and understand them.

10. Set High Expectations

Emphasize in your first meeting that you have high expectations for EVERY student. Students with mediocre or worse grades might have low expectations because they’ve struggled in school for years. It’s YOUR job to boost their confidence and tell them that every student has skills that will help them succeed in life even if the student is unaware of those skills or their skills haven’t helped their grades. Tell students that you will work with them to find and/or improve those skills. Be clear that you will insist on high expectations throughout the school year.

11. Urge Note-Taking

For some inexplicable reason, many students — and adults — consider taking notes a sign that your memory is deficient. The students already know you are taking notes. Tell them why and urge them to also take notes. Emphasize that your advice and feedback to them will be very specific so they should write down the highlights and consult their notes as they seek to improve their skills.

12. Don’t Grade

These meetings are about helping each student. During the school year, some students will improve more than others. Assessing each individual’s progress is important, but be specific without making a judgment. Hopefully, your advice and feedback will improve the students’ performance on tests and class assignments, but they’re a separate issue from your one-on-one discussions.

13. Be Friendly, Not A Friend

Although you want your students to reveal who they are so you can help them learn, it does NOT work both ways. They can tell you about their personal lives, but you should not reciprocate. Relating anecdotes from your life as a teacher and student that could help them learn is appropriate. For example, you can tell them that writing to public figures as a child sparked your interest in Social Studies. However, telling them about personal matters unrelated to their learning and getting together as friends outside class is not appropriate.

14. Maintain Your Composure

This tip seems obvious, but it needs to be mentioned. Some students will disagree with your analysis of their work as well as your advice and feedback. Arguing with them is counterproductive at best, rude and unprofessional at worst. Working on what to say to students who disagree with you is crucial. You can say something like “I respect your opinion. You could be right. However, my opinion is based on 10 years of teaching and working with hundreds of students. That doesn’t mean I’m right, but I believe my opinion has validity.”

15. Admit Mistakes

Students, and adults, don’t like someone who acts like a know-it-all. Teachers who are critiquing others are particularly susceptible to being disliked if they act like they never make mistakes. If you made a mistake such as give advice that doesn’t work, admit it. The students will like you more and trust you more. Trust is important if they are going to listen to you in the future. Besides, students often know when the teacher has made a mistake.

16. Simplify The Skill Categories

Giving students detailed advice is crucial, but you should simplify your overall analysis of their work. You should summarize their performance once each session. Don’t list more than five or six skills. Which skills you list depends on what subject you are teaching, but examples of skills are working with classmates, writing, speaking, problem solving, creative thinking, analytical thinking, research, reading comprehension, and completing assignments effectively. Using the same categories throughout the school year makes it easier for students to follow their progress.

17. Give Advice On HOW To Improve

You just told a student that she did three things right in her essay — it was well-organized, was presented in a reader-friendly way, and had conclusions that were bolstered by evidence cited in the essay. Now, you’re giving her the constructive criticism — her spelling and grammar needs improvement. Don’t circle every error. That saps a student’s morale. Instead, give her advice on HOW to improve. You could give her a “Guide To Grammar” book. Or you might tell her to read a certain amount of books or periodicals or a certain kind of book or periodical. Be specific.

18. Encourage Questions

Do NOT lecture when you get to the constructive criticism. In fact, you should treat this meeting as a dialogue rather than the equivalent of an employer grading the performance of an employee. Encourage students to ask questions about your evaluation. You want to convey a few crucial points in a one-on-one meeting, but don’t seek to control the meeting. Remember how important listening is!!

19. Don’t Be A Conformist

And don’t expect your students to be conformists either. Your students should be improving academically because of their individual qualities. They shouldn’t all be striving for the same goal. Be open to students learning in an unconventional way. A few of the tips below this one provide examples of unconventional advice you can give to students. More importantly, be open to students taking the initiative and suggesting ways they think will improve their academic skills. An example is volunteering to make a speech on a topic that interests them.

20. Utilize Students’ Interests

By letting students tell you who they are, you can improve your chances of formulating a strategy to help them improve their academic skills. If you’re a Math teacher, you might be frustrated that so many students hate Math. Perhaps, though, a few students love basketball. Instead of giving them a Math problem out of a textbook you can ask them to figure out LeBron James’ scoring average by having them add how many points he scored in each game and then dividing that total by the number of games. Yes, that approach worked for me with one student.

21. Encourage Independent Reading

Just like some students hate Math, others despise reading the books required in an English class. If you’re an English teacher, you can help students improve their ability to analyze a book by letting them read a book of their choice, a sports book for example. In class, this could be a substitute assignment. You can then go over the students’ book reports and present your analysis of their work in your one-on-one meetings. Hopefully, the students’ writing skills will improve when they’re writing about something they’re interested in.

22. Encourage Watching Movies

Social Studies teachers also often find that students are uninterested in their classroom lessons. Remember, your objective as a teacher is not to have students memorize facts, but to have them improve their academic skills. Can they write and speak about historic events like the American Revolution intelligently? Perhaps, they can show their skills after watching a popular movie or documentary about a historic event. Deducing which students learn better via an alternative type of learning like videos can help you help students when you go over their work in a one-on-one meeting.

23. Be Very Specific About Non-Graded Work

Giving detailed feedback about graded papers and essays is important, but assessing students’ participation in class discussions and group projects is important too. These activities often aren’t part of a student’s grade. That’s up to you. Take detailed notes during class so your feedback in the one-on-one meetings can be specific. Your feedback might include whether the students are making good points concisely or talking too much and whether they’re excelling in group projects or being too dominant or too passive

24. Help Students With Oral Communication

Many students, including a surprising amount of students who have very good grades, lack the confidence to talk in class. Use the meetings as an opportunity to help them practice talking. Ask them the kinds of questions you ask in class. Let them respond. Don’t judge them. Keep asking different questions. You could tell them the question you will ask in tomorrow’s class so they have a day to prepare an answer. Asking them the same question you have already asked them sounds amateurish, but this strategy has helped bring students out of their shell.

25. Discuss Students’ Future

Many students won’t understand this zealous effort to improve their skills. They think their skills are fine, particularly if they get good grades. It’s YOUR job to emphasize that they might need to improve many of their skills if they want to excel in college, graduate school, and the workplace. Telling them about your experiences or the experiences of others as you or they struggled to make the transition from high school to the next level is beneficial. Besides, you want to tell students that they should WANT to maximize their potential. Praise them as they improve.

Conclusion

Now that I have given you 25 tips for how you can improve each student’s performance via one-on-one private conversations, I have a tip for how you can improve your own performance — don’t overwork.

Yes, I have just advised you to spend who knows how many more hours meeting with individual students than you were previously. However, that doesn’t mean you should be working more hours. Work smarter and harder, but you don’t necessarily have to spend more time working.

Working smarter might mean fewer classroom lectures and replacing them with interesting assignments for students as you talk to one of their classmates. Working harder might mean improving your time management skills.

Or you can tell your principal that you want to be paid more because of your remarkable dedication to the academic success of your students. That’s a joke. Good luck!!

How to Improve Your Remote Teaching Using Body Language

Much of your personality and how you are perceived by students is body language-driven. Your students are making judgements based on how they see you behave.

We know subconscious behavior is more than half of communication.

So how do we make our classroom personality and behavior come through when we are remote teaching?

  1. Make your remote teaching “studio” interesting to look at. Use talking points e.g. sports paraphernalia, pictures and topic related curiosities to help build engagement.
  2. Let your students see more of you than just your face. Let them see your arm movements, don’t be afraid to stand up!
  3. Make sure your lighting and sound are clear.
  4. Be yourself; if you usually move around when you teach, emulate this online, if you’re not being you, your students won’t be comfortable.
  5. Use humor. It’s tough both sides of the camera, don’t be afraid to relax and have a bit of fun!
  6. Don’t be afraid to go off-topic and allow some level of normal conversation, your students are also missing out on time with their friends.

Have you moved your personality online?

This may seem like a strange question for teachers.

Isn’t online personality for dating sites or YouTube stars?

But…

Your personality is key for online or masked teaching engagement with students.

If schools have spent their time and resources moving curriculum online or only spacing desks and sanitising, they have missed the most important part of education- the student/teacher relationship.

Making sure your personality and authenticity come through while remote teaching is key to engaging students and developing a community more closely resembling the in-class experience.

I spoke to the brilliant body language expert and college professor, Alison Henderson (Author of the brilliant book “Closing the Distance in Distance Learning: A Teacher’s Guide to Online and Mask Communication“).

I asked her how teachers could best bring their personality and enthusiasm from the physical classroom to the new remote teaching environment.

Contents  show 

How should you set up your remote classroom?

I am not talking about your Bitmoji classroom, but your home office/classroom set up. You need to set yourself up for your personality to come through the screen. (Encourage your students to take these tips too.)

  1. Backdrop

Does your environment give your students an idea of your hobbies or interests?

Most teachers have personal interest clues in their physical classrooms. Can you do this in your home space as well? (I have my running medals in the background).

This can be photos of trips or pets on shelves behind you. Team paraphernalia of teams you follow or posters of music groups.

Your face on a blank wall doesn’t give a clue to your personality.

Keep it simple and clean rather than messy with too much going on. You still want your students to pay attention to you. Change up the shelf objects and photos frequently to match your teaching topic or give clues to more parts of you.

Students will come to look for what is different.

It is easy to start quick conversations about your hobbies and activities which will encourage students to share theirs as well.

If you or your students are using virtual backdrops, encourage them to be creative or even create a class background all can use.

This will prevent students from the stress of showing their home environment if they would rather not share.

  1. Sit back from your screen.

The more body language the students can see, the more they will trust you.

Society, as a norm, does not believe what we can’t see.

Therefore, if students see no body language to support or refute your message, they will by default not believe you and will not be engaged. A good rule is for students to see at least chest up on your screen.

You will have to raise your gestures to chest height for them to be seen in the view.

  1. Lighting and sound.

These are the two biggest pet peeves of online meetings.

Make sure you are well lit from in front of your screen. Backlight puts you in silhouette and obscures your facial expressions.

Check your microphone for clarity. Older devices may garble your sound and will require an external microphone or headset/microphone combo.

Schedule an online practice meeting with some fellow teachers to test your lighting and microphone. You won’t know if your mic sounds too “boomy” or creates feedback or something else.

Students might not want to tell you.

In Class Set-Up

  • Set up desks to face where you are teaching/standing. Be aware of how masks change how you are heard. If desks can’t all face the same way, be conscious to move around the room so all students see you at different times.
  • Make sure to avoid standing behind desks or podiums which will cover body language signals.
  • If you can, purchase cheap plastic megaphones. These are easily sanitized and can be used to help soft speakers be heard from behind the mask (and students love to use them).
  • It may help to go back to the old fashioned “stand beside your desk to speak.” You will see more body language signals from your students. And students may speak up more in this “formal” presentation.

Body Language Signals You Send to Students

Whether you are online or behind a mask, your body language has been altered.

Virtually, we can’t see most of your body; and with a mask, we can’t see most of your face. In both situations, the body language you exhibit becomes more important.

Let your personality light up the classroom with your subconscious behavior.

  1. “Move Like You Dance”

This means you must connect your gestures to your spine.

To better understand, stiffen your spine, hold your breath, and move your arms. You will feel like a puppet or robot because there is no connection.

Now move your arms again while breathing and relaxing your spine—this is connected movement.

When your entire body is connected to the spine, you will appear authentic and trustworthy. In the classroom or behind the screen, you must breathe and remain relaxed.

When we become nervous or less confident, we tend to restrict our breathing and restrict the spine.

Normally, we all move with connected gestures and this is what others perceive as authenticity.

Simply put- you “look” like you.

The camera or a mask can make us a bit nervous and restrict our movement. Suddenly, we don’t look like ourselves to others.

In a hybrid model, this is even more important. Your in-person and online behavior needs to be believably consistent.

  1. Use your upper body more

The head, chest and shoulders are great communicators for relationships and collaboration- just what you need online or in the classroom.

Most people tend to rely on hand and arm gestures for most of their communication. Practice moving your chest and shoulders around.

There is a lot of movement available to you.

Start watching for torso movement in others. When do they use this part of the body?

We soften our chest for empathy; we expand our chest for pride and confidence, etc.

Watch Alison’s TedX talk, where she explains more about we can improve our remote teaching body language

  1. Facial expressions

Watch “resting Zoom face” when you are listening to students. If your face becomes neutral and your lips in a line, students will likely think you are disapproving of them or even angry.

Practice keeping a half-smile when listening.

Use “cartoon eyes” to communicate. Particularly with a mask, you will need to exaggerate your facial expressions so everything can come through your eyes.

Even with online meetings, a bit more animation is always great. The computer takes your expressions and energy levels and flattens them when they take 3-D you to 2-D you on screen.

How to Get Students to Engage in Remote Learning?

Now that your personality is coming through- don’t waste it!

Use your personality to create student engagement and community. Model what you want to see in your students. They will be more likely to relax, engage and turn their cameras on if you do the following:

  1. Level with them

Obviously, this isn’t “real school” as we knew it.

Be frank about what will be the same or different from virtual in the spring. Have a discussion of classroom rules and expectations together.

Create a class contract or something to encourage class unity. If you are in the classroom and there are sanitation requirements, be clear about how everything is different.

  1. Add humor

The research fully supports humor for student engagement.

The NEA Member Benefits blog, “How to Effectively Use Humor in the Classroom” highlights Mary Kay Morrison, author of Using Humor to Maximize Learning who was quoted saying:

“The number one quality that high-school kids want in a teacher is a sense of humor… They remember those teachers, and they will become more engaged with those teachers.”

It is easy to add a bit of humor to your classroom.

Everyone needs more laughter.

There are many humorous videos, memes, photos, and jokes to use. You don’t have to be a comedian, simply don’t make everything too serious all the time.

Have students send you funny images and things if you want to see what they think is humorous!

Rely on the goofy parts of your personality. It isn’t only up to grade-school teachers to be animated and fun.

Find fun short games, brainstorms, brain teasers and more to use for breaks during class.

Students will stay with you if they know a fun activity is coming to balance the serious work.

Vocabulary, spelling words, and concepts can be reinforced with games to make the break time applicable to the day’s lesson.

  1. Time without you

The students I interviewed reported their peer relationships is what they missed most about distance learning.

Give students time in small groups without you and with no learning agenda or activity. Let them check in and commiserate with each other from time to time.

They may just reward you with more engagement and leave their cameras on.

  1. Compromise

Particularly with older students who may not want to leave their cameras on or answer questions, explain why it is so important to have cameras on and then come up with times when they can keep them off.

You won’t see body language from them when you are talking, so let them leave cameras off during screen share lectures but require them on for discussion.

Let them use avatars for the first 5 minutes of class and attendance and then require real faces.

These tips will take you a long way toward showcasing the “real you” on-screen or behind a mask.

The next step to real confidence is reading your students’ body language coming back to you.

Conclusion

Making these small adjustments in how we teach remotely will hugely change the level of engagement during your remote teaching lessons and as we all well know, when engagement is there, students make more progress.

It also makes it far more enjoyable for us teachers too!

25 Best Practices for Remote Teaching and Learning

What are the 25 Best Practices for Remote Teaching and Learning?

I’ll dive right in with the 25 best practices for remote teaching and learning. Each one is founded in the evidence and research elaborated on more later in the post.

  1. Identify the need and choose the technology or approach appropriately; don’t create Breakout rooms that no-one will use or a resource that people can’t engage with without a printer, for example.
  2. Be equitable; does everyone you are hoping to reach have the same access to resources? If not, how can you blend your approach? Don’t make assumptions that inadvertently make you appear elitist.
  3. Know your tools; if you are using a platform such as Microsoft Teams or Google Meet, ensure that you know how to work it and run sessions safely. This includes any aspects of GDPR such as personal email addresses, or any potential safeguarding issues – follow your school’s approach and stay safe.
  4. Make it clear what the objectives are; in remote learning, the ability to be responsive is diminished – have clear goals and make sure everyone knows them.
  5. Before starting the session or the sequence, establish the ‘rules of the room’; cameras on or off? Microphones muted? Are we using the chat function? If the content is asynchronous, what do you want from students to show that they have engaged and understood?
  6. Encourage dialogue; dialogue is a part of humanity – we need to engage with others in order to evaluate ourselves, and students who are isolating crave connection; seek to enable it where you can.
  7. Script it; when you can’t ‘read the room’ you can’t afford to go off on a tangent, as there are already enough contextual barriers to engagement for the students at the other end of the screen – background noise, home environment, distractors aplenty – keep it tight, keep it focussed, keep it crisp.
  8. Choose assessment wisely and with a clear purpose.
  9. Keep assessment relevant, meaningful and relatable in terms of feedback.
  10. Space assessment regularly to keep a clear picture of accessibility and progress.
  11. Use task completion as opposed to retrieval as a more engaging and accurate indicator of student progress in remote learning environments.
  12. Make sure students have clear criteria for success in any task, including access to simple models and good examples.
  13. Plan intentionally and explicitly for equity, especially for disadvantaged learners – adapt teaching to cater for individual needs.
  14. Don’t assume that each lesson should just be a ‘one-off’; plan well-structured lessons that are part of clearly sequenced curricula, and manage time appropriately to avoid screen-fatigue.
  15. Consider Cognitive Load. If using a presentation, keep slides clutter-free and keep content to a minimum to avoid distractions or ‘seductive details’.
  16. Don’t read material verbatim off a slide; this will overload students and compromise efficiency.
  17. Make the technology your friend – use it wisely to facilitate human interaction through breakout rooms, chat functions and interactive elements.
  18. Stay in touch; don’t just let the lessons themselves be the points of contact – build relationships through appropriate channels with regular praise and reward.
  19. Take advantage of Apps that can help develop low / no-stakes testing opportunities.
  20. Consider how to blend your immediacy with your ‘bandwidth’; not everything has to be whistles and technological bells
  21. The quality of your instruction still matters; treat remote learning with the respect it deserves and plan for good content.
  22. Remain a ‘presence’ throughout the session; keep practice at stages of guidance, as opposed to full independence; students at home have enough time to be ‘independent’ and instead want some interaction!
  23. Don’t fret about ‘teacher-led’ or ‘student-centred’; teaching activities should be designed for maximum engagement.
  24. Promote metacognitive strategies to enable students to take control of their learning during the ‘gaps’ and the down-time.
  25. Create, experiment and share; build an online community between you and your colleagues to avoid duplication or, worse still, gaps in coverage!

In order to ensure we enact our duty as teachers and education professionals, we have to understand where remote learning is necessary, why it is necessary and how we can we ensure it is of the strongest possible standard.

Gaps must not be allowed to appear in student learning due to circumstances beyond their control.

In short, the best practice for remote learning is an understanding of your technology, your aims and your audience.

Good teaching remains good teaching and pedagogy doesn’t change that much!

This article will provide you with the key principles, followed by a more detailed explanation of the theory and research behind each one.

Why Are We Considering Remote Teaching?

When Lockdown hit in March and schools were forced to (for the majority of students) close for what was at the time an unknown period.

School leaders, classroom teachers, Trust boards and all in the profession worked tirelessly to ensure a high-quality educational provision was made available for all those who had the right to access it.

Rapid evidence reviews were collated, advice distributed, schemes and strategies trialled and evaluated.

There were successes, snags, errors and shortcomings but everything was tried to ensure that what worked (and what will continue to work) was identified quickly and implemented effectively.

In ‘Thinking About Pedagogy in an Unfolding Pandemic’, Doucet et al (2020) urge us to put ‘Maslow before Bloom’; safety and survival before formal teaching. However, the latter does still need to take place!

As we now enter a second (Lockdown 2.0) phase of lockdown we also have to consider the possibility of more and more lessons being provided through different means.

This article will outline the key areas associated with Remote Learning, divided carefully into sensible categories that hopefully make for ease of reading and understanding.

What’s the Best Approach With Technology (Or the Absence Of…) In Remote Learning?

The first thing to determine is the nature of the virtual environment in which the learning is to take place and identify the most appropriate medium for its delivery.

So many platforms have taken centre stage as schools seek to further enrich and develop their remote offer, but we must also consider the possibilities for a ‘blended’ approach.

An approach that takes into account the lack of access to appropriate technology for many disadvantaged families, and also the lack of operation wherewithal on behalf of the teachers using it to deliver their lessons.

Consider your confidence as a teacher – there’s a big difference between delivering content to a group of students in the room and a group of students who’s faces you may not be able to see.

Like comedians, much of our responsiveness as teachers is done by getting the ‘feel’ of the room and that is harder to judge when it is simply a set of screens.

In their piece ‘Pivoting to Teaching in a Virtual Environment’, Collins et al (2020) look at the ‘interdependency between content, pedagogy, and technology’ and consider that ‘Learning in a digital context happens through discussion, reflection, and collaboration with students who are prepared to engage in active learning with a community of peers’.

Establishing this community is vital to the outcomes and the success of the approach.

Indeed, an approach similar to that of a Community of Inquiry could be very beneficial. They suggest that choosing the appropriate technology correctly is ‘dependent on two key factors: its support of the teaching objectives, and its unique affordances and potential learning benefits’ – as a teacher you must consider what it is you are looking to achieve and then prepare accordingly.

What’s the Difference Between Synchronous and Asynchronous Teaching?

We must consider whether we are ‘synchronous’ (going out live) or ‘asynchronous’ (pre-recorded) with our teaching too.

Collins et al urge us to consider how we can maximise what the technology does for us in each situation and how we can harness its potential, for example through the use of breakout rooms, determined groupings and the like – more on this when we look at the engagement of students.

Above all we must ensure that we are familiar with the medium we are using, we orient both ourselves and the students with the virtual teaching environment, and we make everything accessible.

For example, if a lesson being delivered synchronously requires a resource, how easy is that resource to use if someone can’t print it?

Collins et al remind us of three further vital components:

  1. Communicate safety and expectations within the virtual environment – including respect.
  2. Have a back-up plan if technology lets you down.
  3. Have a sense of compassion and patience for students as they make the transition to online learning (and a sense of your own efficacy and capacity as you too learn to teach in this way!).

How Do I Judge My Delivery and Content in Remote Teaching and Learning?

As we have seen, the environment is vital but so too is the delivery and the content!

In their Best Evidence Review the EEF state that teaching quality is more important than the medium chosen to deliver said teaching – high-quality instruction can still provide students with opportunities to make progress, regardless of whether it is ‘live’ or via video.

The first thing to consider is the way the content is presented.

Design resources and supporting presentations specifically to be delivered in a remote world as opposed to assuming that something that ‘worked in the classroom’ will naturally adapt itself to the online environment.

It is important to understand some key principles here – Mayer (2005) stated that the most effective content includes only visuals (images) and narration (which can be synchronous or asynchronous) – any additional written content on slides reduces impact and ‘efficacy of learning’.

Mayer suggests the following:

  • Visuals should be dual-coded
  • Visual space should be carefully organized to avoid clutter, take into account principles of distraction and cognitive load
  • Organisational clues such as arrows can help direct attention
  • Visuals must be static; avoid animation
  • Pre-teach important vocabulary prior to multiple interactions with it
  • Use conversational rather than formal language
  • Remove all extraneous text; keep narration simple
  • Avoid sharing your presenter video as well as your presentation – you will be a distraction!

Ultimately, Mayer promotes ‘bite-sized’ chunks of learning where content is continuous; this not only allows for time to break up complex ideas but also to check for understanding and build new knowledge and existing, as we would in any classroom.

How Do I Create Autonomous Learners?

In their work on autonomous learners Xie and Yang (2020) promote ‘learning first, then teaching’; students are pre-loaded with metacognitive and self-regulatory strategies to enable them to take control of their own learning.

After this, a cycle can begin where clear learning goals (a theme consistent with much of the research, including Collins et al) are worked towards with content in the most appropriate format (including hard copy if access to technology is limited), using regular focussed questions that are designed to clearly expose misconceptions or lack of background knowledge.

These questions then help form the basis of the next stage of teaching.

The message for us as teachers is clear – clarity and focus are essential aspects of remote teaching – there is no room for ambiguity, anecdote or metaphor; everything must be crisp, clear and related.

The quality of your instruction is paramount.

How Can I Ensure Good ‘Classroom’ Management and Engagement With Remote Learning?

One significant challenge is the engagement and motivation of your students; they may have logged on but have they checked in?

Engagement with the content relates to anything students do with the material – reading, listening, writing, receiving feedback, asking questions, practicing.

Collins et al (2020) suggest that:

‘forging positive connections with instructors has been shown to play a significant role in student satisfaction, persistence, and success’

and:

‘If learners feel welcome to connect with you, they are more likely to seek the answers to their questions’.

You can still be a positive presence, even if you aren’t ‘there’ in person.

Once you have established the conditions and climate for the learning you can start to work within those parameters with more freedom and personality.

Remember to make it clear when you are delivering instruction and when perhaps you are elaborating or expanding, so as to avoid muddying waters.

The live ‘management’ of the environment is to be considered when delivering synchronously; asynchronous material needs to be carefully considered in terms of its accessibility, clarity and relevance:

  • How easy is it for students to be autonomous and manage the resource themselves?
  • What are your aims here?
  • What does ‘success’ look like?

The EEF suggest that building opportunities for Peer interaction is a vital part of engagement in the learning process – structures that allow learners to interact with each other and provide that vital ‘human’ connection are really important to successful learning outcomes.

Through his blog, Doug Lemov shares a number of strategies for encouraging student participation in online learning – cold call, volunteer, turn and talk in breakout rooms, use of the chat function and use of linked documents such as Google sheets.

All of these can be used at different points to enable those bonds to be created and that interaction to be promoted.

Remember that engagement can be a poor proxy for learning, but it is a decent starting point!

How Do I Conduct Assessment During Remote Learning?

Collins et al state that the purpose of assessment in a virtual environment must be clearly defined and be carefully constructed to suit the ‘distance’ or online model.

As practitioners in COVID classrooms, we have already got used to not being able to circulate the room and engage in that one-to-one support in quite the same way, so we can harness what we have adapted ourselves to do and use these strategies effectively.

To go back to Doucet et al (2020), here are some key aspects to consider:

  • Assessment must provide accurate information on how well learners have understood the content that is ‘to be learned’
  • Assessment must focus on key conceptual understanding
  • Assessment should be performance-based as opposed to focusing on recall
  • Assessment should target higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, e.g. create, evaluate, analyse as opposed to understand or remember
  • Assessment should require task completion, not just knowledge recall
  • Assessment should be regularly spaced to allow for timely feedback
  • Assessment should be preceded by time for students to rehearse any key skills or technology that will need using within the assessment task itself

Doucet et al ask us to consider the authenticity of the assessment by linking it to the real world and situating it in real-life contexts. Criteria for success must be shared and clarified to enable a clearer path to the ‘correct’ response, and allowance must be made for context.

Doucet et al also look at formative assessment opportunities – our responsiveness as teachers, using evidence we elicit to make better teaching decisions – and consider some of the following options: quizzes, surveys, discussion threads, bulletin boards; for the former such simple options as Kahoot or Quizlet can be hugely useful.

A caveat though, from the EEF – ‘using technology to support retrieval practice and self-quizzing can help pupils retain key ideas and knowledge, but is not a replacement for other forms of assessment’.

Conclusion

In very simple terms it is possible for remote teaching to promote high quality outcomes; effective instruction, well-chosen resources, purposeful assessment and, above all, clarity.

An equitable approach is vital as many disadvantaged students may not have a full range of access to technology, time or home support – this must be part of your planning.

How a Teacher Can Improve Students’ Homework Performance

One of the great struggles of modern education is getting students to finish their homework. Even worse, when homework does get completed, students often lack the understanding of the subject matter to perform well. So, teachers have two issues to face when it comes to homework. On the one hand, teachers do want their students to turn in their homework. However, they also don’t want to send homework home that students don’t know ho to complete. There’s no point in assigning homework that students don’t understand and just guess their way through. So, what can teachers do to improve the situation? Each of these issues can be tackled by adopting different strategies.

Increasing Homework Completion

Getting students to finish their homework may be a bit easier than getting people to complete their homework well, so it makes a good first topic to tackle. Here are a few strategies that teachers can adopt to make sure students want to get their homework done.

Integrate Students’ Interests into Your Methods

The first and easiest approach to improving students’ desire to complete their homework is to integrate what they’re interested in to your approach. When students’ interests are part of the curriculum, they’re more likely to get it done. In one research study, conducted by Michelle Hinton and Lee Kern, homework completion went from only 60% to more than 95%. The trick, then, is to find out where your students’ interests lie and finding ways to mix them into homework assignments.

An easy way to do this is by looking to technology. Now, more than ever, kids are connected to the internet. When they’re not playing games online, they’re surfing the internet on their computers or using social media over their mobile phones. It’s not unusual for kids to use tablets these days. So, how can teachers take advantage of this? In this example, teachers could create an online portal where students have access to their work and can engage with each other.

An online social media site, like a Facebook page, gives students the chance to interact with one another. Homework could be assigned through the portal and online discussions used to connect students, who can help one another with the work. Technology is among the easiest ways for teachers to integrate student interests in a time of unparalleled connection.

Create Completion Tools

One way that teachers can help ensure that students get their homework done, particularly if they themselves have trouble sticking to schedules, is by creating tools that they can use to help their students keep track of what’s due. The easiest way to do this is by creating a homework calendar. A physical version of this might be kept in the classroom on a large display, allowing students to regularly review what’s due and when. A blank copy of this calendar can be given to students so that they can fill in dates and remove them based on how the class is moving along.

However, an even better way of creating a calendar for students is by making an online one. As noted, social media sites are great ways of keeping students up to date on what is due and when. An online calendar can be maintained on a class website or social media sites where students can easily review changes to the calendar. The power of the internet has made it much easier for teachers to keep students up to date on changes happening in the course.

Establish a Routine

Very often, teachers fall into the trap of getting behind in their work and assigning homework on days they don’t intend to. Maybe they mean to assign it one a Monday but, because they fall behind in their lessons, they instead assign it on a Tuesday. This is actually a really easy way of hurting the chances that your students will turn in their work.

Kids, like adults, benefit from having a routine. They don’t like having to guess what days they’ll need to turn in homework. Because their lives are already so hectic, it’s not uncommon for them to get confused about what work is due on what days By having a regular routine, you’ll help improve the chances that the homework gets turned in. If homework is assigned every Monday and due every Wednesday, make sure that you stick to that routine.

Week to week, students are regularly having to balance their personal lives with their academic ones. They also have to integrate extracurricular activities. In all of the chaos, it’s not uncommon for students to mix up days when homework is due for certain classes. A regular routine will help ensure that this doesn’t happen.

Improving Homework Completion and Performance

Some strategies for improving homework completion are also well suited for improving performance. Here are just two approaches you can consider to help you not only ensure students not only turn in homework more regularly but perform better on the work they do.

Adjusting Difficulty

Sometimes, students don’t finish homework not because they lose track of what’s due, but because they simply struggle with the material. In class, teachers are taught to differentiate their instructions. Each student learns at a different pace, and teachers are most effective when they understand how to assign work that’s of different levels of difficulty. However, this isn’t a lesson that should stay restricted to the classroom. Teachers should also take the time to develop differentiated homework. By adjusting the difficulty, teachers make it all the more likely that homework will get done.

This strategy may best be used by adopting testing that’s not so much designed to grade students as much as to simply gauge which students need the most support. Teachers need to have a firm grasp on what their students are capable of and what they know and do not know. Unfortunately, students can sometimes feel pressured under test conditions. For struggling students, this can make it all the more likely that they’ll underperform. It may be useful to consider tests that are non-graded but still provide insight into how students are performing. This sort of low stakes assessment may help provide an accurate picture of what students need the greatest adjustment to the homework you give them.

Provide Additional Resources

Another way that teachers can help guarantee that teachers will complete their work is by providing additional resources that students can use when getting their work done. Sometimes, this might mean pointing to resources that students can find in the library. At other times, this might mean pointing to websites that can help get students through their lessons. For instance, YouTube has become a wildly popular resource for teachers. Now, more than ever, YouTube is filled with instructional videos that can help guide students through particularly difficult problems. There are also countless videos that discuss the plots of books or take students through science and math problems.

However, with the modern internet, teachers can also provide their own additional resources. Websites and social media sites can be used to make posts and host files that students can access. These files might provide additional context about a historic event or guides through particularly hard math problems. This can be a more time-consuming effort if teachers want to put together their own resources from scratch. However, it’s also not difficult for teachers to find resources that they can host online. Using this approach can reduce the associated with putting together a teacher’s own original materials.

Improving Homework Performance

Finally, there are also approaches that are tailored toward improving homework performance. These strategies make it more likely that your students will do better on the homework that you assign.

Get Parents Involved

This is time consuming, but it can have one of the best payoffs if you’re trying to improve outcomes in student homework. Parent involvement is linked to numerous benefits among students. When parents get involved in their child’s education, it leads to better performance and a higher level of engagement. Those benefits carry over to homework.

One study conducted among sixth and seventh graders revealed that when parents helped their children with their homework, it led to better outcomes. This study was interesting not only because it benefited students in general, but specifically because it helped at-risk students. These students are often those who are most likely to underachieve. Due to various circumstances, ranging from a lower socioeconomic background to violence in the community, at-risk students often perform more poorly than students who are not at risk.

Despite the chance that these students will perform more poorly on homework, researchers discovered that their performance jumped when parents became involved. This intervention did require effort and time. Parents had to be trained in how to help their children. However, the results were clear. Over the course of a 10w-eek homework program, students saw improved marks in mathematics. This showed that with help from appropriately trained parents, even students who were at the greatest risk of failing saw improvement in their performance.

Flip Your Classroom

Now this is another radical idea that some teachers may want to consider if they’re ready to really make significant changes to how they approach in-class versus homework. The idea of the flipped classroom is fairly simple. Using this model, teachers take homework and, instead of having students do it at home, have their students do it in the classroom. This approach is beneficial because it lets teachers, who have all the knowledge and experience necessary to guide their students, assist their class with the completion of the work.

If the students are doing their ‘homework’ in the classroom though, then what are they doing at home? Well, the flipped classroom also means flipping instruction so that it happens at home instead of the class. In a flipped classroom, teachers do some teaching in the class and introduce lessons. However, they leave the majority of text reading to be done at home. Teachers may put additional videos and resources online, but the majority of instruction occurs at the student’s house, not the classroom. When students arrive in class, they’re expected to have learned the basics of their lessons. Teachers review these lessons briefly and go through some introductory instruction. Then, teachers guide them through more difficult work .The most active part of the lesson is left for the classroom, where students can engage with one another and their teacher. The most passive part of the lesson, on the other hand, is left at home.

Homework Clubs

At some point, it’s up to educators and administrators to come together to find ways of improving academic performance together. Many students who struggle on homework at home may benefit from a more community-oriented approach. For this reason, schools should focus on putting together an environment where students can do homework together under the supervision of adults.

Study halls should serve this purpose, but they often do not. Instead, students tend to complete most of their homework independently when in a study hall. This is often because students from many different classes find themselves together with a single adult who specializes in a limited number of topics. Instead of depending on study halls to help students get their work done, schools can put together homework clubs that will help students perform better on their work.

Homework clubs bring together students to work together under the supervision of parents and teachers. Homework clubs are structured. They meet together at regular times and often involve groups of parents or teachers that oversee the club. Just like any other club, like chess or drama clubs, they require adult supervision. This supervision is particularly important for homework clubs though, where students need the help and support of adults to help them improve their scores.

The best part about homework clubs is that they take the negative feelings off of homework and help students enjoy their academics more. Students get to work outside the classroom alongside friends. These clubs don’t have to be held in a school. They can also be held in a library, for instance. Homework clubs typically happen right after school though, so these clubs should be held somewhere near the school. Homework clubs provide a positive environment where friends can be together and work on their homework as a group. Overseeing them are trained individuals who can help them in a variety of topics, almost like a tutoring center.

Conclusion

There are countless ways that homework performance can be addressed. For some teachers, the emphasis may be on simply improving homework completion. The steps for doing this are often easier than the steps required of improving homework performance. Teachers can help students complete their work more frequently simply by being consistent, providing calendars, or making the homework more engaging.

Improving academic performance is a bit trickier, but there are many ways to get this done as well. There are steps teachers can take independently, like flipping their classroom or providing additional resources to students. However, larger changes require a commitment from teachers, administrators, and parents. Homework clubs can be a fun approach to getting homework done, but it requires having the proper venue, the appropriate number of supervisors, and the commitment to helping students day in and day out.

Regardless of what approach teachers take, this list of interventions includes many ways that homework completion and performance can be improved. Which approach is best depends on the teacher and their own assessment of the needs of their classroom.

10 Habits of Highly Effective Students

The key to becoming an effective student is learning how to study smarter, not harder. This becomes more and more true as you advance in your education. An hour or two of studying a day is usually sufficient to make it through high school with satisfactory grades, but when college arrives, there aren’t enough hours in the day to get all your studying in if you don’t know how to study smarter.

While some students are able to breeze through school with minimal effort, this is the exception. The vast majority of successful students achieve their success by developing and applying effective study habits. The following are the top 10 study habits employed by highly successful students. So if you want to become a successful student, don’t get discouraged, don’t give up, just work to develop each of the study habits below and you’ll see your grades go up, your knowledge increase, and your ability to learn and assimilate information improve.

1. Don’t attempt to cram all your studying into one session.

Ever find yourself up late at night expending more energy trying to keep your eyelids open than you are studying? If so, it’s time for a change. Successful students typically space their work out over shorter periods of time and rarely try to cram all of their studying into just one or two sessions. If you want to become a successful student then you need to learn to be consistent in your studies and to have regular, yet shorter, study periods.

2. Plan when you’re going to study.

Successful students schedule specific times throughout the week when they are going to study — and then they stick with their schedule. Students who study sporadically and whimsically typically do not perform as well as students who have a set study schedule. Even if you’re all caught up with your studies, creating a weekly routine, where you set aside a period of time a few days a week, to review your courses will ensure you develop habits that will enable you to succeed in your education long term.

3. Study at the same time.

Not only is it important that you plan when you’re going to study, it’s important you create a consistent, daily study routine. When you study at the same time each day and each week, you’re studying will become a regular part of your life. You’ll be mentally and emotionally more prepared for each study session and each study session will become more productive. If you have to change your schedule from time to time due to unexpected events, that’s okay, but get back on your routine as soon as the event has passed.

4. Each study time should have a specific goal.

Simply studying without direction is not effective. You need to know exactly what you need to accomplish during each study session. Before you start studying, set a study session goal that supports your overall academic goal (i.e. memorize 30 vocabulary words in order to ace the vocabulary section on an upcoming Spanish test.)

5. Never procrastinate your planned study session.

It’s very easy, and common, to put off your study session because of lack of interest in the subject, because you have other things you need to get done, or just because the assignment is hard. Successful students DO NOT procrastinate studying. If you procrastinate your study session, your studying will become much less effective and you may not get everything accomplished that you need to. Procrastination also leads to rushing, and rushing is the number one cause of errors.

6. Start with the most difficult subject first.

As your most difficult assignment or subject will require the most effort and mental energy, you should start with it first. Once you’ve completed the most difficult work, it will be much easier to complete the rest of your work. Believe it or not, starting with the most difficult subject will greatly improve the effectiveness of your study sessions, and your academic performance.

7. Always review your notes before starting an assignment.

Obviously, before you can review your notes you must first have notes to review. Always make sure to take good notes in class. Before you start each study session, and before you start a particular assignment, review your notes thoroughly to make sure you know how to complete the assignment correctly. Reviewing your notes before each study session will help you remember important subject matter learned during the day, and make sure your studying is targeted and effective.

8. Make sure you’re not distracted while you’re studying.

Everyone gets distracted by something. Maybe it’s the TV. Or maybe it’s your family. Or maybe it’s just too quiet. Some people actually study better with a little background noise. When you’re distracted while studying you (1) lose your train of thought and (2) are unable to focus — both of which will lead to very ineffective studying. Before you start studying, find a place where you won’t be disturbed or distracted. For some people this is a quiet cubicle in the recesses of the library. For others it is in a common area where there is a little background noise.

9. Use study groups effectively.

Ever heard the phrase “two heads are better than one?” Well this can be especially true when it comes to studying. Working in groups enables you to (1) get help from others when you’re struggling to understand a concept, (2) complete assignments more quickly, and (3) teach others, whereby helping both the other students and yourself to internalize the subject matter. However, study groups can become very ineffective if they’re not structured and if group members come unprepared. Effective students use study groups effectively.

10. Review your notes, schoolwork and other class materials over the weekend.

Successful students review what they’ve learned during the week over the weekend. This way they’re well prepared to continue learning new concepts that build upon previous coursework and knowledge acquired the previous week.

We’re confident that if you’ll develop the habits outlined above that you’ll see a major improvement in your academic success.

12 Strategies to Motivate Your Child to Learn

Parents who want to homeschool their children but still have some reservations about it should take time to consider the positive and negative aspects of homeschooling.

The following information will help parents know what to expect when they homeschool their children, detailing both the benefits and disadvantages. It will enable you to make a better informed decision if you’re still uncommitted to homeschooling, and it will help you determine what negative aspects of homeschooling you will be able to tolerate and what positive aspects of administering your children’s education you will enjoy.

Top 15 Benefits of Homeschooling

Parents have the opportunity to:

  • Determine the curriculum and their children’s schooling schedule
  • Demonstrate to their children that education is fun
  • Create strong bonds with their children
  • Adapt teaching methods best suiting how their children learn
  • Spend extra time with their children on difficult concepts and move ahead after children master a subject or concept
  • Create a flexible schedule not possible for children enrolled in public school
  • Provide religious and ethical instruction for their children
  • Shelter children from school violence, drugs, and other negative behaviors children in public schools frequently encounter
  • Provide their children with the personal interaction that teachers in large classrooms are not able to provide
  • Spend extra time helping their children develop any special talents they possess, including musical, athletic, etc
  • Discuss controversial topics at their discretion with their children
  • Enjoy spending more time with their children
  • Assist their children during adolescence and other trying times
  • Draw closer to their spouse as they homeschool their children together
  • Take their children on vacations when public school is still in session

Top 10 Potential Disadvantages of Homeschooling

Homeschooling parents are required to:

  • Be around their children all day long. This can be difficult when children become restless and misbehave
  • Frequently explain their reasons for homeschooling their children to friends and relatives unsympathetic or confused about their decision
  • Restrain anger and remain patient when children struggle with learning
  • Effectively handle the difficulties of moving at a slower pace than public school instruction
  • Spend large amounts of money on books and other learning materials
  • Constantly adapt to be effective teachers
  • Constantly motivate their children
  • Speak with other people homeschooling their children to get ideas about solving difficult problems if they’re unsure about the best course of action
  • Spend time reviewing numerous curriculum programs up to their standards and best suiting their children’s learning needs
  • Spend more time finding playmates and friends for their children in similar circumstances

Although there are many other benefits and disadvantages associated with homeschooling, the aforementioned information provides you with an idea of what to expect as a homeschooling parent.

Homeschooling can be very stressful, but it’s also rewarding. However, homeschooling is not for every parent, and parents unprepared or unwilling to make the commitment to be an effective teacher should avoid it.

Most good students aren’t born good learners. Yes, individual personality plays a big part in a child’s willingness to learn and their overall disposition when it comes to schooling and education, but most children who are good learners at some point had to become good learners. More importantly, any student, who possesses the basic aptitude and receives the right motivation, can become a good learner.

One of the biggest mistakes teachers and parents can make when it comes to developing students and children who are good learners is to limit learning to the classroom. While the classroom will likely be the primary source of instruction, intellectual, social and academic growth should extend outside the walls of the classroom – if you want to really enhance a child’s desire and ability to learn.

The following are proven tips and strategies that will motivate your child to learn. Apply them correctly, and you’ll see your child or student discover the joy of learning.

1. Develop an atmosphere of reading

Some people would argue that reading it the key to success in life. We would most certainly argue that at minimum reading is a key to success in learning. Children who develop a love of reading, develop a love for learning. Children who struggle with reading, struggle with learning.

Reading not only helps children develop a much richer vocabulary, it helps their brain learn how to process concepts and formal communication. And the skills gained from reading extend far beyond increased performance in language art classes. Students who read well experience an enhanced ability to learn in all subjects – including technical subjects such as math and science.

Help your child develop reading skills and a love for reading by filling his world with reading. Read to your child frequently. Have your child read aloud. Create a family reading time where everyone focuses on reading for 20 minutes a day. Through your own example of reading and by filling your classroom and/or home with reading materials (novels, posters, newspapers, magazines, etc.) you’ll create an atmosphere of reading that will demonstrate to your child (or students) just how important reading is.

A key to developing good readers is to make reading fun – not frustrating. If a child decides that reading is boring or frustrating, they won’t want to read and their ability to learn will be diminished. Let children pick their own books to read, help them read, and create activities for them that make reading fun.

2. Put your child in the driver’s seat as much as possible

When it comes to education, all some kids experience is control, control, control. When a child feels controlled, or out of control when it comes to their education, they often withdraw from learning. It’s important to guide children through the learning process, but it’s just as important to allow children to have control of their own learning experience. Whether at home, or in the classroom, provide children the ability to have direct input into their learning choices. A good way to do this is to provide children options. For example, when assigning a writing project, allow children to choose their topic to write about.

We also recommend allowing children to choose their own extracurricular activities. The more control and input you’re able to provide a child, with respect to their learning environment, activities, and style, the more engaged and motivated a child will become to learn.

3. Encourage open and sincere communication

Encourage your child or student to express his opinion about what’s going on with his education. Create an open atmosphere where he feels comfortable expressing his likes, dislikes or concerns. When he shares his opinion, make sure to validate his feelings – even if you disagree. When children feel like their opinion doesn’t matter, or they’re stuck, they’re likely to disengage from the learning process. Good learners know their opinion matters and feel reassured that they can be open about their educational experience without being judged, put down, discouraged or ignored.

4. Focus on your child’s interests

When learning engages children in areas and subjects of interest, learning becomes fun and children engage in learning. If you really want to help your child to become a good learner, encourage him to explore topics and subjects that fascinate him. If he likes dinosaurs, help him find engaging and interesting books and stories about dinosaurs. Then challenge him to identify his five favorite dinosaurs and explain why he chose each one.

5. Introduce and encourage different types of learning styles

Every child has learning preferences and styles that are best suited to their way of learning. Some children have a dominant learning style, while others prefer to learn using a mix of learning styles. There isn’t necessarily one right or wrong learning style, or mix of learning styles. However, by helping your child discover his preferred learning styles, you can use techniques that will improve his rate and quality learning.

There are seven fundamental learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Verbal, Physical, Logical (mathematical), Social and Solitary. For example, children who are visual learners learn best by seeing how things work. Conversely, children who are auditory learners learn best by listening to things being explained. For young children, it’s beneficial to explore and employ different types of learning styles.

6. Share your enthusiasm for learning

Enthusiasm rubs off, especially when it comes to learning new things. If your child or student sees that you’re sincerely enthusiastic about learning, they’re likely to become enthusiastic about learning. Whether it’s history, science, reading, writing or even math, help him see that learning is a journey of exciting new discoveries. Take every opportunity – without being overwhelming or overbearing – to discover new information with him. As your child sees the joy and excitement learning brings to your life, he’ll begin to share your enthusiasm for learning new things as well.

7. Make learning fun through game-based learning

Game-based learning is not a new concept. It’s been around for a long time. Game-based learning can be very advantageous for many reasons. Using games as an education tool not only provides opportunities for deeper learning and development of non-cognitive skills, it helps motivate children to want to learn. When a child is actively engaged with a game, their mind experiences the pleasure of learning a new system. This is true regardless of whether the game is considered “entertainment” (e.g., video game) or “serious” (e.g., military simulator). Games that are entertaining provide the added benefit of motivating children to want to engage in the learning process and want to learn more.

Game-based learning is also an effective motivation for team-based learning – which can be particularly beneficial for children in a classroom setting. Students typically try harder at games than they do in courses. Games are more engaging. There is also the competitive aspect to playing games. Students are trying to compete or win, on behalf of themselves or their team. They may strive to perform at a higher level in an effort to earn more points for their team or because they want the opportunity to play.

Game-based learning is a great way for parents and teachers to introduce new ideas, grammar, concepts, and knowledge in a way that motivates children to learn.

8. Focus on what he’s learning, not his performance

Instead of asking your child how he did on his math test as soon as he gets home from school, have him teach you what he learned in math today. Focus on what your child is learning, as opposed to how he is performing. While performance is important, focusing on his learning experience will (1) communicate to your child that actual learning is more important than test grades, (2) results are not the most important thing, (3) you’re more concerned about him than you are about his performance and (4) by focusing on his learning experience that day you’ll provide him the opportunity to put into his own words his lesson and solidify what he’s learned.

9. Help your child stay organized

Helping your child organize his papers, books and assignments will go a long way to helping him feel motivated to learn. Disorganization is typical among young school age children, but it can also lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed. Overwhelmed children spend more time and effort being frustrated and worried than they do learning. Be patient, but consistent, in helping your child organize his school supplies and assignments. This will help him feel in control, less overwhelmed and more motivated to learn.

10. Recognize and celebrate achievements

No matter how small they may be, it’s important to recognize and celebrate your child’s achievements. This is especially important for elementary age school children who require constant positive reinforcement to keep them motivated to learn and challenge themselves to do better. We’re not suggesting that you praise mediocrity, but that you offer recognition and celebrate your child’s achievements. Finishing a difficult project deserves a special treat; doing well on a math test could call for a trip to get ice cream. Always use positive reinforcement as your tool to motivate learning with your child.

11. Focus on strengths

Focusing on strengths can be difficult when there is so much your child struggles academically. Notwithstanding, focusing on your child’s strengths is vital to healthy emotional and academic development and progress. Focusing on your child’s strengths is another form of positive reinforcement that will motivate him to keep learning. Conversely, focusing on your child’s weaknesses does nothing but cause discouragement, distress and a lack of desire to learn. Did Johnny fail his math test? Well then, in addition to getting him a little extra help with his math, make sure to congratulate him for how well he’s doing in science class.

12. Make every day a learning day

Turning every day into a learning day may sound like a bit much, but it really isn’t, if you go about it the right way. Whenever possible, encourage your child to explore the world around him, ask questions and make connections. Help him categorize, classify and think critically of what he sees and experiences. Turning every day into a learning day will help your child develop the internal motivation to learn in the classroom, at home or wherever he may be.

Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in the Classroom

“Emotional and Behavioral Disorder” is an umbrella term under which several distinct diagnoses (such as Anxiety Disorder, Manic-Depressive Disorder, Oppositional-Defiant Disorder, and more) fall. These disorders are also termed “emotional disturbance” and “emotionally challenged.” According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children with emotional and behavioral disorders exhibit one or more of these five characteristics:

  1. An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
  2. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
  3. Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
  4. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
  5. A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

IDEA guarantees students access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) possible. As such, students diagnosed with emotional disorders (ED) are often included in general education classrooms. However, severe cases often require students to be taught in special education “cluster units,” self-contained programs, or even separate schools.

Under the umbrella term of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, there are two categories: Psychiatric Disorders and Behavioral Disabilities.

Psychiatric Disorders

This category encompasses a wide range of conditions. Psychiatric disorders are defined as mental, behavioral, or perceptual patterns or anomalies which impair daily functioning and cause distress. Some of the most common examples of these diagnoses include:

  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder (aka Manic-Depressive Disorder)
  • Eating Disorder (such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Psychotic Disorder

From a teacher’s perspective, psychiatric disorders present a profound challenge for a number of reasons. For one, schools are not hospitals, and teachers can not be expected to “treat” these disorders. Students who struggle with these sorts of challenges are often undergoing treatment and may be receiving medication. Medication can affect people in unexpected ways and, because medical information is confidential, teachers may be unaware why students are acting the way they are. This makes it difficult to respond appropriately to certain behaviors. Additionally, students suffering from these conditions may be simply unable to meet academic and behavioral expectations. In such cases, students need to receive special education interventions of some sort, and may need to be moved into a special education classroom.

Behavioral Disabilities

Children with behavioral disabilities engage in conduct which is disruptive to classroom functioning and/or harmful to themselves and others. To be diagnosed as a behavioral disability, the behaviors must not be attributable to one of the aforementioned psychiatric disorders.

There are two categories of behavioral disabilities: oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.

Oppositional defiant disorder is characterized by extreme non-compliance, negativity, and an unwillingness to cooperate or follow directions. Children with this condition are not violent or aggressive, they simply refuse to cooperate with adults or peers.

Conduct disorder is much more severe. This disorder is characterized by aggression, violence, and harm inflicted on self and others. Students with conduct disorder typically need to be taught in special education classrooms until their behavior has improved enough to allow contact with the general education population.

Strategies for Teaching Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

As with other conditions, students with emotional and behavioral disorders need a positive, structured environment which supports growth, fosters self-esteem, and rewards desirable behavior.

Rules and Routines

Rules need to be established at the beginning of the school year, and must be written in such a way as to be simple and understandable. The wording of rules should be positive: “Respect yourself and others” is a better rule than “Don’t hurt anyone.” Keep it simple: 6 rules or less.

Consequences for breaking rules should also be established at the beginning of the school year, and applied consistently and firmly whenever the rules are broken. The consequences must be consistent and predictable. When administering consequences, provide feedback to the student in a calm, clear manner. That way, the student understands why the consequence is necessary. Try to avoid becoming emotionally reactive when rules are broken. Emotional reactivity gives the student negative attention, which many children find very rewarding. Remain calm and detached, be firm yet kind. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, but crucially important for positive results.

Routines are very important for classroom management. Students with emotional and behavioral disorders tend to struggle with transitions and unexpected change. Going over a visual schedule of the day’s activities is an effective way to start the day, and helps the students feel grounded.

Techniques for Supporting Positive Behavior

Students with emotional and behavioral disorders often need to receive instruction in a special education setting because their behavior is too maladaptive for a general education classroom. Here are a few ideas to guide and support growth towards more positive, adaptive behavior:

  • Token Economy – Students earn points, or tokens, for every instance of positive behavior. These tokens can then be used to purchase rewards at the token store. In order for a token economy to be effective, positive behavior must be rewarded consistently, and items in the token store must be genuinely motivating for the student. This takes a fair amount of preparation and organization, but has proven to be quite effective.
  • Classroom Behavior Chart – A chart which visually plots the level of behavior of every student in the classroom. Students who are behaving positively progress upwards on the chart; those who are behaving negatively fall downwards. This makes every student accountable, and helps you monitor and reward progress. This won’t work if difficult students perpetually stay on the bottom of the chart. Focus on the positive to the fullest degree possible, and keep them motivated.
  • Lottery System – Similar to the token economy, students who behave in positive ways are given a ticket with their name on it. These tickets are placed in a jar, and once or twice a week you draw one out. The winner of the lottery is rewarded with a prize.
  • Positive Peer Review – Students are asked to watch their peers, and identify positive behavior. Both the student who is behaving positively and the student who does the identifying are rewarded. This is the exact opposite of “tattle-telling,” and fosters a sense of teamwork and social support in the classroom.

Teaching children with emotional and behavioral disorders can be extremely challenging. Remember: fostering and rewarding positive behavior has proven to be vastly more effective than attempting to eliminate negative behavior. Punishment and negative consequences tend to lead to power struggles, which only make the problem behaviors worse. It is not easy to remain positive in the face of such emotionally trying behaviors, but don’t give up. Your influence could mean a world of difference to these students who are struggling with an incredibly difficult condition.

Learning a Foreign Language Supports Academic Achievement and Cognitive Development

There are many academic benefits of studying or learning a foreign language for students and children – some obvious, some not so obvious. One study has shown that children who have studied a foreign language in elementary school tend to perform better on standardized tests than those who have not. Another study suggests that students who are taking a foreign language class outperform academically students who are not taking a foreign language – and the list goes on. Below we’ll explore how research shows learning a foreign language supports academic achievement and provides cognitive benefits to students.

Language learning leads to higher standardized test scores.

Various studies suggest there is a strong correlation between learning a foreign language and achievement on standardized tests. In one study, a random selection of 3rd-graders received a 30-minute Spanish lesson three times a week for an entire semester. Spanish lessons were conducted entirely in Spanish and focused on verbal skills development. Students who participated in the Spanish program the entire semester scored notably higher on the Metropolitan Achievement Test (MAT) in language skills and mathematics than students who did not participate in the Spanish program. (Armstrong, P. W., & Rogers, J. D. 1997. Basic skills revisited)

A similar study that focused on the verbal achievement of middle school students who studied a foreign language yielded similar results. Middle school students who studied a foreign language performed significantly better in language mechanics and reading comprehension on the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills than a group of control students who participated in the Challenge Reading program. (Carr, C.G. 1994. The effect of middle school foreign language study on verbal achievement as measured by three subtests of the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills [Abstract])

Language learning is beneficial to bilingual and two-way immersion programs.

A study conducted by Cohen, A. D. via the Culver CitySpanish immersion program showed that after two years of bilingual education, students who spoke English as their first language were able to acquire competency in speaking, reading and writing Spanish, while maintaining the same level of proficiency in English and mathematics, as students enrolled in English-only academic programs.

A study that examined the achievement scores of elementary level English as a Second Language (ESL) learners enrolled in a two-way immersion (TWI) program, and a Structured English Immersion (SEI) program, at the end of their third year of study achieved at-or-above grade level in both English and Spanish. (Pagan, C. R. 2005. English learners’ academic achievement in a two-way versus a structured English immersion program [Abstract])

Language learning improves students’ reading abilities.

The results of numerous studies show a strong positive correlation between the study of a foreign language and improvement in reading fluency and comprehension. A study conducted by A. D’Angiulli and E. Serra in 2001 (The development of reading in English and Italian in bilingual children) suggested that adolescent bilinguals score higher on word-reading and spelling tasks than skilled monolingual readers of the same age group. The results of a similar study showed that sixth-grade students who studied a foreign language in school scored higher on reading achievement tests than six-grade students who had not studied a foreign language. (A study of the effect of Latin instruction on English reading skills of sixth grade students in the public schools of the district of Columbia, school year, 1970-71.)

Language learning improves students ability to learn other languages.

Not surprisingly, students who are able to learn one foreign language find it significantly easier to learn another foreign language. One study, conducted by T.H. Cunningham and C.R. Graham in 2000, showed that students who participated in a Spanish immersion program experienced improvement not only in Spanish vocabulary but also in their native English vocabulary. Middle school students in the Spanish immersion significantly outperformed English monolinguals on a Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT). It seems that learning a foreign language also yields improvements in students’ native language.

Learning a second language increases linguistic awareness.

A study sponsored by E. Demont in 2001 demonstrated that children who are immersed in a bilingual environment have an enhanced ability to manipulate morpho-syntactic structure. That is, these children are able to interpret and comprehend written language with greater ease than monolinguistic children and are better at grammatical judgment and word recognition.

Studing a foreign language may improve performance on SAT and ACT Tests.

Several studies indicate there is a positive correlation between the length of time high school students take a foreign language and high SAT verbal scores. High school students who had taken at least one year of a foreign language showed a statistically significant increase in scores on the verbal Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and California Achievement Test (CAT) relative to students who did not complete a year of foreign language study. (Cooper, T. C. (1987). Foreign language study and SAT-verbal scores. Modern Language Journal, 71(4), 381-387.)

Another study by P.A. Eddy in 1981 supported a similar conclusion, that students who study a foreign language for an extended period of time will outperform students who have not studied a foreign language on various SAT sub-tests and the verbal section of the SAT.

Students who learn a foreign language in high school perform better academically in college.

A study conducted in 1985 by P.D. Wiley (Classical Outlook, 62(2), 33-36. from ERIC database.) suggested there is a strong correlation between extended study of a foreign language (French, Latin, German or Spanish) in high school and improved academic performance in college relative to students of equal academic ability who have not studied a foreign language.

Early language learning may improve cognitive abilities

In various cognitive skills tests performed by K.M. Foster and C.K. Reeves in 1989, elementary age students who studied a foreign language for an extended period of time scored significantly higher on evaluation tasks than their counterparts who had not studied a foreign language. Students who studied French the longest performed the best on cognitive skills tests. (Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) improves cognitive skills. FLES News, 2(3), 4.).

Learning a second language may improve cognitive development and abilities.

A study performed by S. Ben-Zeev in 1977 demonstrated that bilingual children may be required to develop coping strategies that accelerate cognitive development. The study showed that although bilinguals had a lower vocabulary level, that with respect to verbal material and perceptual distinctions they demonstrated advanced processing ability. They also demonstrated a higher capacity for organization of perceptions in response to feedback and the ability to find structure in perceptual situations.

Several other studies have demonstrated a positive correlation between proficiency in a foreign language and cognitive perceptual performance.

Learning a second language may improve memory skills.

Not surprisingly, there appears to be a positive correlation between bilingualism and memory improvement. A study conducted by R. Kormi-Nouri, L. Nilsson and S. Moniri in 2003 demonstrated that bilingualism may contribute to improved episodic memory and semantic memory among children at all age levels.

Learning a second language may improve problem solving abilities.

Bilingualism may also contribute to improved social problem solving among children. A study of 84 Hispanic children from homes where the predominant language was Spanish showed that bilingual children had a greater ability to solve social problems than their monolingual counterparts. (Stephens, Mary Ann Advisor: Esquivel, Giselle B. (1997). Bilingualism, creativity, and social problem-solving. (PhD, Fordham University).)

Learning a second language may improve verbal skills.

One of the biggest benefits of learning a foreign language appears to be in the development of verbal skills. Several studies show that bilingualism supports – even enhances – the development of verbal abilities among students of all age groups.

12 Strategies to Motivate Your Child to Learn

Most good students aren’t born good learners. Yes, individual personality plays a big part in a child’s willingness to learn and their overall disposition when it comes to schooling and education, but most children who are good learners at some point had to become good learners. More importantly, any student, who possesses the basic aptitude and receives the right motivation, can become a good learner.

One of the biggest mistakes teachers and parents can make when it comes to developing students and children who are good learners is to limit learning to the classroom. While the classroom will likely be the primary source of instruction, intellectual, social and academic growth should extend outside the walls of the classroom – if you want to really enhance a child’s desire and ability to learn.

The following are proven tips and strategies that will motivate your child to learn. Apply them correctly, and you’ll see your child or student discover the joy of learning.

1. Develop an atmosphere of reading

Some people would argue that reading it the key to success in life. We would most certainly argue that at minimum reading is a key to success in learning. Children who develop a love of reading, develop a love for learning. Children who struggle with reading, struggle with learning.

Reading not only helps children develop a much richer vocabulary, it helps their brain learn how to process concepts and formal communication. And the skills gained from reading extend far beyond increased performance in language art classes. Students who read well experience an enhanced ability to learn in all subjects – including technical subjects such as math and science.

Help your child develop reading skills and a love for reading by filling his world with reading. Read to your child frequently. Have your child read aloud. Create a family reading time where everyone focuses on reading for 20 minutes a day. Through your own example of reading and by filling your classroom and/or home with reading materials (novels, posters, newspapers, magazines, etc.) you’ll create an atmosphere of reading that will demonstrate to your child (or students) just how important reading is.

A key to developing good readers is to make reading fun – not frustrating. If a child decides that reading is boring or frustrating, they won’t want to read and their ability to learn will be diminished. Let children pick their own books to read, help them read, and create activities for them that make reading fun.

2. Put your child in the driver’s seat as much as possible

When it comes to education, all some kids experience is control, control, control. When a child feels controlled, or out of control when it comes to their education, they often withdraw from learning. It’s important to guide children through the learning process, but it’s just as important to allow children to have control of their own learning experience. Whether at home, or in the classroom, provide children the ability to have direct input into their learning choices. A good way to do this is to provide children options. For example, when assigning a writing project, allow children to choose their topic to write about.

We also recommend allowing children to choose their own extracurricular activities. The more control and input you’re able to provide a child, with respect to their learning environment, activities, and style, the more engaged and motivated a child will become to learn.

3. Encourage open and sincere communication

Encourage your child or student to express his opinion about what’s going on with his education. Create an open atmosphere where he feels comfortable expressing his likes, dislikes or concerns. When he shares his opinion, make sure to validate his feelings – even if you disagree. When children feel like their opinion doesn’t matter, or they’re stuck, they’re likely to disengage from the learning process. Good learners know their opinion matters and feel reassured that they can be open about their educational experience without being judged, put down, discouraged or ignored.

4. Focus on your child’s interests

When learning engages children in areas and subjects of interest, learning becomes fun and children engage in learning. If you really want to help your child to become a good learner, encourage him to explore topics and subjects that fascinate him. If he likes dinosaurs, help him find engaging and interesting books and stories about dinosaurs. Then challenge him to identify his five favorite dinosaurs and explain why he chose each one.

5. Introduce and encourage different types of learning styles

Every child has learning preferences and styles that are best suited to their way of learning. Some children have a dominant learning style, while others prefer to learn using a mix of learning styles. There isn’t necessarily one right or wrong learning style, or mix of learning styles. However, by helping your child discover his preferred learning styles, you can use techniques that will improve his rate and quality learning.

There are seven fundamental learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Verbal, Physical, Logical (mathematical), Social and Solitary. For example, children who are visual learners learn best by seeing how things work. Conversely, children who are auditory learners learn best by listening to things being explained. For young children, it’s beneficial to explore and employ different types of learning styles.

6. Share your enthusiasm for learning

Enthusiasm rubs off, especially when it comes to learning new things. If your child or student sees that you’re sincerely enthusiastic about learning, they’re likely to become enthusiastic about learning. Whether it’s history, science, reading, writing or even math, help him see that learning is a journey of exciting new discoveries. Take every opportunity – without being overwhelming or overbearing – to discover new information with him. As your child sees the joy and excitement learning brings to your life, he’ll begin to share your enthusiasm for learning new things as well.

7. Make learning fun through game-based learning

Game-based learning is not a new concept. It’s been around for a long time. Game-based learning can be very advantageous for many reasons. Using games as an education tool not only provides opportunities for deeper learning and development of non-cognitive skills, it helps motivate children to want to learn. When a child is actively engaged with a game, their mind experiences the pleasure of learning a new system. This is true regardless of whether the game is considered “entertainment” (e.g., video game) or “serious” (e.g., military simulator). Games that are entertaining provide the added benefit of motivating children to want to engage in the learning process and want to learn more.

Game-based learning is also an effective motivation for team-based learning – which can be particularly beneficial for children in a classroom setting. Students typically try harder at games than they do in courses. Games are more engaging. There is also the competitive aspect to playing games. Students are trying to compete or win, on behalf of themselves or their team. They may strive to perform at a higher level in an effort to earn more points for their team or because they want the opportunity to play.

Game-based learning is a great way for parents and teachers to introduce new ideas, grammar, concepts, and knowledge in a way that motivates children to learn.

8. Focus on what he’s learning, not his performance

Instead of asking your child how he did on his math test as soon as he gets home from school, have him teach you what he learned in math today. Focus on what your child is learning, as opposed to how he is performing. While performance is important, focusing on his learning experience will (1) communicate to your child that actual learning is more important than test grades, (2) results are not the most important thing, (3) you’re more concerned about him than you are about his performance and (4) by focusing on his learning experience that day you’ll provide him the opportunity to put into his own words his lesson and solidify what he’s learned.

9. Help your child stay organized

Helping your child organize his papers, books and assignments will go a long way to helping him feel motivated to learn. Disorganization is typical among young school age children, but it can also lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed. Overwhelmed children spend more time and effort being frustrated and worried than they do learning. Be patient, but consistent, in helping your child organize his school supplies and assignments. This will help him feel in control, less overwhelmed and more motivated to learn.

10. Recognize and celebrate achievements

No matter how small they may be, it’s important to recognize and celebrate your child’s achievements. This is especially important for elementary age school children who require constant positive reinforcement to keep them motivated to learn and challenge themselves to do better. We’re not suggesting that you praise mediocrity, but that you offer recognition and celebrate your child’s achievements. Finishing a difficult project deserves a special treat; doing well on a math test could call for a trip to get ice cream. Always use positive reinforcement as your tool to motivate learning with your child.

11. Focus on strengths

Focusing on strengths can be difficult when there is so much your child struggles academically. Notwithstanding, focusing on your child’s strengths is vital to healthy emotional and academic development and progress. Focusing on your child’s strengths is another form of positive reinforcement that will motivate him to keep learning. Conversely, focusing on your child’s weaknesses does nothing but cause discouragement, distress and a lack of desire to learn. Did Johnny fail his math test? Well then, in addition to getting him a little extra help with his math, make sure to congratulate him for how well he’s doing in science class.

12. Make every day a learning day

Turning every day into a learning day may sound like a bit much, but it really isn’t, if you go about it the right way. Whenever possible, encourage your child to explore the world around him, ask questions and make connections. Help him categorize, classify and think critically of what he sees and experiences. Turning every day into a learning day will help your child develop the internal motivation to learn in the classroom, at home or wherever he may be.

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