Five Ideas to Help Parents Empower Students during At-Home Learning

Written by Margie Dorshorst

Written by Margie Dorshorst

As students continue to learn at home through various educational models, many parents have expressed concern about how to motivate their children to stay engaged and complete tasks both on-screen and off. Some parents have expressed the need to use threats or rewards to motivate their children, while teachers aim for more intrinsic motivation. The differences in motivational strategies can lead to frustration for all parties, especially for the students.  

So, what works best? We asked teachers from around the country to share their expertise, both with applying their knowledge of Responsive Classroom and with engaging students in these new educational environments. Here are five ideas to encourage and empower students: 

  1. Use a scheduleFirst-grade teacher Kari Pidde encourages parents to create a visual schedule with their children based on the daily schedule posted by the teacher. She recommends building breaks for snacks and movement into the schedule. Kindergarten teacher Megan Florentine suggests breaking up longer practice times into smaller chunks. For example, rather than having students spend 30 minutes on a writing assignment, start with 10 minutes of planning followed by a short break. Take 15 minutes for writing and take another break. End by taking the last five minutes to reread or edit the writing.
  2. Set goals – Principal Tina Miller proposes that parents set goals with their children – both for the week and for each day. Parents can connect those goals to students’ broader interests and vision for themselves. For example: “I heard you say you want to be a police officer someday. What work are you doing today that might help you achieve your goal in the future? How do you want to do that work to help build your success?”
  3. Leave the roomThird-grade teacher Susan Wright recommends that parents leave the room to show they trust their students to focus on the teacher during virtual instruction. Second-grade teacher Liz Debrey has appreciated parent support for virtual instruction but sees the positive impact on student motivation when students are trusted to be in their virtual room without an adult present. Both Susan and Liz note that students struggle to attend to the teacher on the screen when the parent is also present in the room.
  4. Ask questions to empower studentsMiddle school teacher Regis Chandler believes parents should empower students by stepping back and asking questions for their children to navigate and problem solve. He advises parents to monitor any online tools that show student progress on assignments. He also encourages parents to ask students questions to support them in being assertive and solving their own problems rather than making the connections for them. Second/Third-grade teacher Sandra Patricia Cano recommends that parents trust the process, the teacher, and the child. Her mantra – “Be curious, not furious!” – is a reminder for parents to encourage their children to ask questions and find solutions on their own.
  5. Get students movingMiddle school teacher Christine Diaz encourages parents to watch out for online learning fatigue in their children. She suggests parents and students set a timer for 20 minutes and get up and move away from the screen and physically move during the break. Educational consultant Gina Castelli recommends parents create a basket for materials and snacks and place the basket away from the workspace so children need to get up and move to get what they need. Preschool teacher Lisa Dewey Wells encourages parents to get outside with their children during those movement breaks. Fourth-grade teacher Sarah Scavone reminds parents to allow students to move to places in the home, within reason, for learning and practice, similar to the choices they might have at school, such as laying on the floor or a comfy chair for reading.

Motivating students to stay engaged in learning has been a challenge in our new models of delivery and also has opened up an opportunity for more home and school partnerships in the educational process. With teachers and parents working together to empower students’ self-motivation, the learning during this time opens doors for more independence, empowerment, and intrinsic motivation for long term success. 

For a more in-depth look at how to empower students through questioning and observation, join us for our one-day workshop, Improving Teacher and Student Language. For additional practice and focused reflection, check out our Quick Coaching Guides: The Power of Observation and Inspiring Curiosity and Wonder through Questioning.

Tags: Academic Choice, Back to School w/ Families, Building Classroom Community

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