Find advice about how to keep children motivated, emotionally strong, and on track academically, from National Teachers of the Year and other leading experts.

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Find answers to questions on motivating children to learn.

Developing Life Skills

Find answers to questions on children's social and emotional development.

  • With some of her class doing remote while others are in person, how do we support the social relationships, building friendships, and building community among the whole class? --Barbara, Lewiston, ME, child in 3rd grade

    • Leila Kubesch, the 2020 Ohio Teacher of the Year and finalist for National Teacher of the Year: Consider a team-building project. I enlisted my online group to propose a service learning project and did the same for my students who attend face-to-face. As the project develops, they are finding ways to collaborate and merge their efforts. We created a Google document for the entire team; creating communication channels helped them engage in meaningful dialogue, share ideas and collaboratively plan the project.
      A parent recently contacted me to offer a project idea for my students. Teachers love ideas and parental partnership! Social activities could include a book club, a project-based program, a service learning opportunity, or even a new activity like online yoga. The good news: you won’t have to keep generating ideas–youth will soon take over when they become friends and get fed up with adult ideas that don’t resonate with them!

  • What if my child is shy and afraid to ask questions with online learning? How do I make sure she doesn’t fall behind? -- Patty, San Jose, CA, child in 4th grade

    • Leila Kubesch, the 2020 Ohio Teacher of the Year and finalist for National Teacher of the Year: There are many ways to address this:
      – Propose to your child to write down their questions and post on the online chat.
      – E-mail questions to the teacher in advance of class to allow them to respond to these questions as part of the lesson.
      – Let the teacher know that your child has questions and is shy–that way your child is not inadvertently called out while answering the question(s).
      – Playing a teacher and student skit at home can help alleviate anxiety about speaking up. Include the child’s questions in the skit to help the child remember what they are. With practice, the child will feel at ease to ask questions and self-advocate.
      – I taught my students breathing techniques and showed them yoga poses to use before meetings where they may feel uneasy in the virtual presence of their peers. They found these very effective.

Learning Differences

Find answers to questions on learning accommodations and supporting children with IEPs.

  • What are the best accommodations for learning virtually for children with ADHD? -- Suzane, Westford, MA, child in 3rd grade

    • Tabatha Rosproy, 2020 National Teacher of the Year: Frequent breaks, the ability to make choices about their learning space so they can be comfortable, and posting visual routines to help them regulate and plan.  Something as simple as pictures of your schedule for the day, or for older kids, times written out on a piece of paper or white board…this can help children with a predictable routine, which helps them feel safe, which is necessary for all learners, especially those who may have issues with self-regulation. But most of all remember – children are not meant to sit and stare at a screen for long periods at a time.  It is totally okay to space work out as much as you can handle! This is not ideal, but it is necessary at this time. Have grace for your child, your child’s teacher, and especially for yourself as you parent through a pandemic!

  • How can children with different learning styles stay engaged during Zoom classes? -- Shami, Atherton, CA, child in 6th grade

    • Tabatha Rosproy, 2020 National Teacher of the Year: Helping diverse learners often comes down to choices. You may have one child at a table, one child sprawled on the floor, and one child pacing the room while listening. This is totally okay, and the kind of accommodation we would make in the classroom!  If your child is struggling with an expectation because of a learning style difference, say something like, “I noticed it is a struggle for you to sit at the table. It can be hard for some people to learn that way.  I have some other spots you can try. You can sit on the couch or try standing by the counter so you can move your body more.  Which one is best for you?” If your child is older, you can ask a more open-ended question like that help you strategize together and give your child ownership of this time.

Academic Success

Find answers to questions on supporting children academically.

  • How do I know if my child is learning if he isn’t tested? -- Kimberly, Greenwich, CT, children in 3rd, 6th, and 8th grades

    • Linda Rost, 2020 Montana Teacher of the Year: Standardized tests are one way to assess a student, as are summative classroom tests that a teacher may give in a classroom setting. Neither of these may be possible during this time. However, there are many other ways that teachers can assess student learning than tests. In fact, there are some learning goals that are very difficult to assess using these types of tests. Teachers are experts at assessing students formatively, while the learning is happening. Teachers can also provide qualitative feedback to students that isn’t in the form of grades. This can help students grow even more! Finally, if you are involved in facilitating your children’s home learning, you can also be involved in assessing their learning. I would encourage you to talk with your teachers about your concerns!

  • How do we gauge their progress, especially if both parents commute to work? -- Nubia, Claremont, CA, child in 4th grade

    • Linda Rost, 2020 Montana Teacher of the Year: This is a challenging time, and we need to afford ourselves grace. Talk with your classroom teacher and let them know about the situation. Depending on the child, there may be different ways to help them organize their time and monitor their learning. My own children are learning at home while I am teaching in-person, so I understand the challenge. Set up a daily planner or organize the work they have to do in a way that makes sense for them. It is also important to have a quiet learning space where they can organize their materials. For my family, we’ve had to split the workload, since we both work, and find time to work with our children individually to monitor growth. Most of all, it is important to remain positive and encouraging. Children learn best in a positive environment.

  • How can I support the teacher? -- Mary Lou, San Diego, CA, child in 2nd grade

    • Linda Rost, 2020 Montana Teacher of the Year: We need to extend grace to everyone working in this challenging situation. While parents and students are navigating uncharted waters, teachers have also been placed in a situation they have little control over. Many have had little time to prepare and will have to be able to pivot to another format at a moment’s notice. The best way to support the teacher is to make sure your child has everything needed to access their learning best. Then, you can reach out to the teacher, tell them how much you appreciate their efforts, and ask how to help. An encouraging email, note, phone call, or even materials for their classroom, can go a long way. Finally, if the situation arises, support their efforts to keep their students and classrooms safe.

Screen Time and Technology

Find answers to questions about screen time and technology concerns.

  • How do I keep my child from being distracted while on Zoom lessons? -- Patricia, San Pedro, CA, children in Pre-K and 1st grade

    • Tabatha Rosproy, 2020 National Teacher of the Year: Little bodies struggle to sit still for long periods of time– that is normal!  Give your children choices like standing, lying on their tummies, or sitting where they can be comfortable. Then, set a visual timer to help them regulate the time they are expected to focus. Show them the timer (either digital, or a kitchen timer, or a sand timer), and set your expectations early, “I am going to set this timer for 5 minutes. Then, you can choose a new place to sit/stand/work.” Let them move every 5-7 minutes. I like to give children two choices, as not to overwhelm them and help them feel in control, such as, “You can stand up or move to the floor, which one is best for you?” Post images of what the expectations are, and when, on Zoom lessons. For example, eyes on the screen, quiet voice, listening ears. Review expectations for every session.

  • How can we supplement what is being taught in remote learning that doesn't add to technology fatigue? -- Kristen, Elmhurst, IL, children in 1st, 2nd, and 4th grades

    • Chris Dier, M.A., Ed. M., 2020 Louisiana Teacher of the Year: If you’re able, try to get a hold of physical materials. Schedule frequent breaks from the screen and go outside. Give their eyes a rest from technology by supplementing learning with books, hands-on activities or nature walks and real-world field trips. Check Spotify and Librivox for free audio children’s books. Go outside and do activities they enjoy (playing sports, hopscotch, or even going for walks). Plenty of science experiments that can be conducted at home with household materials. Not all learning has to match the curriculum of the school; cook together, learn an instrument, play board games, or create arts and crafts projects. Remaining social is equally crucial. Lastly, old fashioned paper and pencil can go a long way with a child who is still learning fundamentals.

  • How can we better separate technology as a learning tool from the same technology as a gaming, entertainment, and social media tool? Our child’s entire world is through 24/7 engagement with an iPad. -- Gregory, Wilmette, IL, child in 8th grade

    • Chris Dier, M.A., Ed. M., 2020 Louisiana Teacher of the Year: This is a challenge we are all facing with virtual learning in the digital age. It’s important to set up a schedule, with their input, and establish consistent, clear expectations. Teenagers do well with set plans and knowing exactly what is expected of them, especially during a time of ambiguity. In this schedule, set a time of the day where the iPad is to only be used for educational purposes, and be clear on what those purposes entail. Then, create a time where the iPad could be used for entertainment purposes: social media, gaming, or watching videos. Help them stay on this schedule as much as possible. Remember, while structure is important, it doesn’t have to be perfect as we should all be giving our children grace during this time. And don’t forget to give yourself grace as you navigate this as well.

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