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Teaching and tutoring online provides amazing flexibility to tutors and students. In most cases, teaching remotely can be more effective and convenient than wasting time on commuting to a classroom. But when it comes to teaching children, online learning can be a difficult prospect. You are competing with a myriad distractions available to them at home. At the same time, you are removing your ability to engage in tactile and kinesthetic learning, key aspects of effective childhood education.
Follow these tips to improve your chances of keeping your students engaged, entertained, and on-track in their learning.
Keep it positive and entertaining
Even the most dedicated and hard-working child can feel tired or even discouraged by boring lectures. Feeling forced to do somethings boring or unpleasant can also create an impression that learning is boring, which will hinder the child for years to come. By providing content and learning activities that give the child a creative and rewarding experience can help them grow into life-long learners. If you are committed to teaching children, make sure that you look for engaging and play-like ways to introduce and practice skills. Strive to encourage active participation, rather than passive consumption, to ensure retention of material.
Even if the child has difficulty grasping a concept, if the teacher creates an overall experience of enjoyment, the child is more likely to stick to the process, and learn how to overcome challenges.
Engage students with a sense of responsibility
Offering the child a choice of activity is a quick way to establish a sense of independence and give the student a way to feel like a partner in the learning process. By offering a choice of activity, like “shall we draw a picture or sing a song?” can give the child invaluable practice in thinking ahead, making choices, and developing a sense of self. Participating in this “choose your own adventure” style lessons, you are able to keep your students engaged for longer, and feel more invested about the outcomes of the learning process.
By encouraging your students to choose an activity, you can also develop a deeper understanding of the child’s personality, and provide better-suited options for activities when planning a lesson. Creating a sense of personal involvement and attachment to the content is a powerful way to boost retention and keep the experience positive and meaningful to the student.
Take frequent breaks without stopping the learning process
A child’s attention span is shorter, and they tire quicker. This, however, doesn’t mean that you need to cut your lessons short. Instead, learn to pace the lesson that will include more opportunities to switch tasks. If you start the lesson with a verbal exercise, moving on to something that involves writing or drawing will help the child rest without pausing the lesson. By allocating 5 – 10 minutes per activity (and having a few in reserve if one or two planned activities don’t resonate with the student) you can make each lesson feel like a fun, exciting experience.
Engage their senses and imaginations
Switching tasks is also a powerful way to engage more than one way of thinking in the child. Whether you have a single student or a group, switching among verbal, visual, written, and kinesthetic learning style makes the lessons more fun. It can also improve retention of information by the student.
This approach is called multimodal learning, and is essential to keep a child engaged in the distraction-prone remote learning environment. By having the child engage deeply through the sense (like describing what things feel, smell, or taste like, for example, or imagining an elaborate scene to give context to a story) you help them develop the ability to generate highly memorable experinces.
Focus attention using WALTs
Speaking of focus, a powerful way to keep your students’ attention when they get fatigued or distracted is to verbally talk through “we are learning to…” exercises. Whether you are doing reading, listening, or a bit of movement to practice or illustrate a concept, having the child audibly talk through what they are doing helps keep a pinpoint focus on the activity.
The WALT exercise also helps the child to put their skills in context – associating actions with desirable outcomes. By saying “we are learning to tie our shoes” the child is able to expand their attentional window to see the process in a useful to them perspective. By reiterating the context like “we are learning to add fractions”, the child also learns to keep track of the different skills and sub-skills, helping them navigate their growing repertoire of abilities with confidence.
Make the learning about them
Much like the greater engagement from the student that comes with choice, seeing themselves reflected in the activity helps keep a child’s attention. Engaging the child in using examples from their life, or incorporating their life context into the material will make what you are learning relevant and memorable. By helping connect the everyday experience of the child to the learning material, you are making it easier for the student to integrate the new material into their worldview. By using familiar objects, places, and concerns, your are helping create vivid emotional connections to the material.
Putting it all together
Remember, when teaching children online, you are competing with a world of distractions – from the child’s home environment to the readily available distractions and entertainment through technology. By keeping the child grounded in their world and providing a positive, fun experiences, you are helping them learn key skills like attentional self-control. By showing them ways to cope with distraction, you are setting your students up for a greater level of success and happiness that will help them throughout their entire life.