If you have children, you are likely more than familiar with the sudden energy boost your child gets when the end of term draws near. Summer is in the air! The weather is warmer, the days are longer, and suddenly you can do all kinds of activities that you couldn’t during the winter.
Students are excited to escape the confines of the classroom. But the months of May and June are still important for their education! Curriculum continues as usual until the school year is out, and there is much to learn in two months. Many parents (and teachers) become frustrated in these final stages of term since it can be a challenge to keep children on task and focused on their work. Students may “coast” through their classes, putting their brains on autopilot, which is especially problematic given that summer vacation is an additional two months without academics.
From a teacher’s perspective, the task of keeping students on point can be difficult. Ms. Steele, a French immersion elementary teacher in the HRM, explains that she tries to mix both academics and summer whenever possible. “If it’s nice out, we read outside. If they’ve been working hard, they get ten extra minutes on the playground.” Steele says it’s all about finding a balance. She recommends getting students to work toward a tangible, collective goal in the last months of school (for example, a play or final exhibit). Having the final activity in sight will strengthen their motivation and keep their headspace engaged in their work. Teachers aim to cater to their students’ interest while keeping content relevant and important.
As a parent, there is of course no one-size-fits-all answer to get your student engaged, but here are our top three tips to keep your child successful:
1. Find a consistent (and happy) schedule: Compromise with your child and find a schedule that meets everyone’s needs. Present your child with options so they feel as though they are in control. If the sun is shining, let your child run free! Just not without boundaries. Make sure your child has specific times for play and for work, and keep the work blocks small and manageable. Having assigned times for homework can help the task seem less daunting. Most parenting guides recommend that students should do 10 minutes of homework for every year of school (i.e. a grade 1 student has 10 minutes of work, a grade 5 student has 50). Check with their teacher about homework expectations. Make sure that there is a designated homework area, and that this space is distraction free. Maintaining this schedule will help build consistency and efficiency.
2. Get active whenever possible: Take as much advantage of the outdoors as possible. We all know the countless benefits of regular exercise, so giving your child a healthy dose of oxygen each day will help curb their energy and fulfill their desire to do something. Given that children spend hours and hours inside during school, fresh air will do wonders for their minds and bodies. If you have a child who is glued to screens, set the positive example and be active with your child. Limit technology. This in itself can be hugely beneficial to curbing the restlessness of May and June.
3. Use positive encouragement and pinpoint progress: Encouragement goes a long way! A wealth of research shows that threats are much less useful than positive encouragement and rewards. Try and bring awareness to your language. Instead of threatening to take privileges away, add incentives to keep your child motivated. The goal is, of course, for children to be motivated intrinsically, but incentives might be the boost you need to stay on track. If your child is dutifully completing their tasks, acknowledge their hard work. If there is an area that they are improving in, point to specific tasks that we once difficult but are now mastered (for example, showing your child old activities where they found long division difficult). This reminds children that education is important and useful. Be specific with your praise. If your child is struggling to stay on task, use a healthy reward to motivate them (for example, with 15 minutes of good homework focus, they get an additional 15 minutes outside).
Happy Spring and good luck focusing!
Written by Shila LeBlanc from Halifax Learning. With various locations in the city, Halifax Learning Centre offers many different programs to suit everybody’s needs – it’s more than just tutoring! For more information on programs like SpellRead, Momentum Math, French and more visit their website