Schools have been making the shift from teacher- to self-directed learning with independent projects, online tutorials, etc. Self-motivated learning is an important skill for your child to learn to prepare for the real world. Here are some tips to help your child become an independent and engaged learner:
1. Create simple step-by-step objectives together. When they have homework or a project, it can be overwhelming, and your child may have no idea where or how to begin. Sit down with them and show how to break it into smaller more manageable tasks by using a to do list. Your child could choose to do it as a piecemeal approach (finish this page of Math or this part of the assignment) or with a timed objective (half-hour of work then 5-minute break). This alleviates any anxiety and creates an ‘end in sight’ to keep your child motivated.
2. Discuss the time of day that they feel the most alert and focused. For many teens, that may be later in the evening while elementary students may be right after school or on weekend mornings. Then create a weekly schedule during these optimal times for learning.
3. Have your child identify distractions they may encounter (social media, their phone, tv, video games, their sibling(s)?) and explain how they can avoid them to stay focused.
4. Learn how you learn. Talk to your child about what kind of tools help them learn best. Does a YouTube video explain the concepts? How about making a study sheet and using colourful sticky notes or pens? Flashcards? Turning the content into a game to study for tests? It’s important that your child understands the way(s) they learn in order to make the most of their time and best retain the information.
5. Set rewards. We all work harder when we have a goal or reward to work towards. Students can set their own personal reward after they complete a certain number of tasks on their To Do lists. This may be a treat to eat or gaming – whatever the learner finds rewarding. It’s important that they choose this reward on their own to ensure they stay motivated.
Teaching your child how to tackle tasks on their own gives them more chance for success now and in the future.
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.