Written By: Amanda Schumaker
Suffice it to say that when schools sent students home and transitioned to online learning in the spring, many of us had hoped that life would return to “normal” in the fall. Well, the new school year has started and it is anything but “normal.” Instead of heading off to school with new backpacks, notebooks, and pencils, students are sitting at kitchen tables and logging into Zoom accounts.
As I listen to my students talk about the beginning of the school year in my classes and tutoring appointments, it seems like every school has a different model for remote instruction. However, many of these online models have one thing in common: they mirror the academic schedules of colleges and universities. The result? Students are spending less time in class and more time learning on their own.
While this model works for college students – for whom the general expectation is to spend two or three hours studying outside of class time for every credit hour – elementary, middle, and high school students are having a hard time adjusting to it. So, here are five tips that I’ve been sharing with my students (that have also helped me!) to make the most of online learning:
- Create structure and schedules. With in-person instruction, students have to be at a certain place at a certain time, focusing on a particular subject or activity. Without this structure, it’s really easy to lose motivation and lose track of time. Replicating the structure that in-person instruction provides helps you stay on track and complete your assignments (without waiting until the last minute). Keep a calendar of major dates and assignments, like book reports, reading assignments, projects, essays, quizzes, and tests. Time-blocking, or allowing yourself a certain amount of time for each class or task before moving onto the next, is also helpful.
- Take breaks – and get moving! Staring at screens all day can be mentally and physically exhausting. In-person instruction allows students to get up and walk around between and during classes. Allow yourself (and your eyes!) a break from the screens and move around. Take a 30-minute walk outside, play with your dog, or grab a snack!
- Have a dedicated learning space and eliminate distractions. If possible, dedicate a particular spot in your bedroom or other part of your home for school. Make sure it’s away from the busiest parts of your home, and away from Netflix! Leave your phone in another room to eliminate the temptation to text or play games during class time. Having a space that’s clean, organized, and free of distractions will also add structure!
- Socialize! This is what students miss the most – seeing their friends! Try to socialize with your friends when possible. If everyone is comfortable with it, arrange some time to see your friends in person. FaceTime and Zoom are also great for socially distanced conversations. There’s a big difference between texting and having a real conversation! Friend time will hopefully break up your routine and add some laughs to your day!
- Be positive! Don’t be too hard on yourself – and others. The last six months have been hard on everyone – students, parents, and teachers. It’s okay to miss “normal” life and be disappointed with the way the world is right now. But, do your best to be flexible, keep an open mind, and stay positive! Not everything will go according to plan, and that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for things that are out of your control. Do the best you can with what you have!
And, if your student needs or wants more assistance, we’re here to help!