Are you ready for Distance Learning? As a tutor, when I show up to a home, I come with my bag of tricks in tow (backpack). Inside is a treasure trove of silly incentives— like a pair of gold Elvis glasses complete with fuzzy pork chop sideburns, a superhero cape, a magnifying glass, and a king/queen’s crown, etc… all of which are meant to motivate children into action and keep them invested in their learning.
Also, be sure to check out my recent post Top 10 Distance Learning Tips for Parents!
For example, if a child and I are reviewing number sense cards and they beat their personal record, according to our official score chart, they get to wear the crown for the rest of our session. The point is that I’ve had years of hands-on experience with children and have logged in hours of time with other teachers to learn about these silly incentives. I’m guessing that in your profession, you also have your own bag-of-tricks that, if left in my hands, would leave me in a scramble.
Today, I’m going to share some of those tricks and treats with you and hopefully help remove some of the mysticism. After this article, I hope I don’t have to hear any more quivering parental voicing saying to me, “Wait, Ms. Preston, is your bag-of-tricks going with you?” or “Ugghhh, what now?”
Guys, I don’t want any of you to feel like this when it’s really not necessary. Today, I’m going to open up my own bag-of-tricks, as well offer you valuable tips that I’ve gathered from family and friends. I’ve officially sifted through my harvest and have picked out the shiniest pearls.
Here are my Top 6 Tips for Keeping Your Child Motivated During Distance Learning.
Create a Sticker Chart to keep your Child Motivated
What has worked for my friend Eva is creating a Sticker Chart for her son Chase, 7-years-old. They bought a pack of construction paper from the 99¢ Store and used a ruler to create 5 rows and 5 columns (25 spaces) on a sheet of paper. They hung it up in front of Chase’s desk, as a constant reminder of his progress. As Chase completes an assignment, he gets to place a sticker on one of the boxes. Once his chart is filled up, Chase gets to pull a Popsicle stick out of a mason jar. There are currently 15 prize sticks in the jar that Chase has formulated himself. *Remember, these are things that HE WANTS TO DO!
Chosen activities of Chase’s have included, deciding what they’re going to have for dinner, 20 extra minutes of online gaming, pizza/movie night, turning the living room into a fort for the evening, and pitching a tent in the backyard for an over-nighter with his older brother and/or dad.
The goal here is not to make the squares on the chart too unattainable. 100 spaces would be too many for Chase. If your child constantly feels that they’re never going to reach their goal then their motivation for the chart will be lost. Create the chart so that the rewards happen more frequently. Also, as Chase thinks of more fun prizes that he’d like to EARN, he adds a new Popsicle stick to the mix. This keeps Chase invested and motivated.
*A punch card also works for older children, if the idea of having a sticker chart feels too “baby-ish” for them.
Create a Daily Mail/Treasure Box
Amanda, another friend of mine, uses another type of incentive for her daughter Avelina. On the outside of her daughter’s bedroom door, she’s placed a mailbox. As a family project, they bought some painting supplies and stickers online and decorated the box. Every morning, Amanda places a piece of mail inside of the box and locks it shut. No peeking! Once her daughter has completed her work for the day, she gets to rush to her mailbox and discover what treasure lies inside. Past treasures have included a scented highlighter, a new barrette or headband, a Highlights magazine, a page of stickers, a ticket to color with mom, a pass to make daddy “pretty”, a pass to stay up 20 minutes past bedtime, family trampoline night, etc… The treasures vary and in many instances, don’t cost a penny. What the mailbox does do, however, is keep Avelina excited!
For my friend Steve, something as simple as placing some sort of silly prop on his son’s desk in the morning, along with a note, helps keep his son Oliver (11-years-old) motivated. Remember, kids are kids, no matter their age. They still love and need opportunities to be silly.
One of Steve’s favorite examples was when he filled his dual-helmet with the connecting straw (you know what I’m talking about people… insert your college days) and packed it with two juice boxes. The note attached said, “Before you even try attempting school today, Oliver, you’re going to need your thinking cap!” Steve later revealed that when he returned home, Oliver was still wearing his hat and had even reloaded it.
For younger children, this is when silly glasses, the magnifying glass, capes, and so forth come into play. And, you may not want to do this every day. As you are the expert of your child, you will instinctively know when implementing this type of silly motivator would be the right move. If you are sensing a dip in your child’s motivation for school or are simply noticing them not acting as cheerful as normal, this would be a great time to pull from your bag-of-tricks.
Again, the 99¢ Store, people! Seriously… the 99¢ Store is my spirit animal.
Fun Friday to Help Keep Your Child Motivated
My colleague Paloma keeps her son Noah, 5-years-old, motivated with his Distance Learning by creating a Fun Friday mystery activity. In addition to being able to wear his pajamas all day and have extra “recess” time on Fridays, Noah gets to pull a Post-it note off a chart after each day of completed work. Needless to say, the secret activity is hidden behind the 5 Post-Its. On Friday, if he’s completed all of his work, he is rewarded with a fun family activity. Fun activities for Paloma’s family have included family game night, making homemade pizzas together (English muffin style), art projects, family hide-n-seek, homemade cookies and milk, and popcorn/movie night (Noah’s choice).
Special Teacher Time
One of the things I hear most often is how much our children are longing for their teachers. Here’s a fact, us teachers are longing for our students just the same. The bond that children create with their teachers is priceless. For every child in their class, teachers create a special “thing” that is reserved just for your child alone. Maybe it’s their morning joke contest… best joke wins! Maybe it’s their special handshake. Maybe it’s side-by-side reading. For me, it was saying the word “JENGA!” each time I greeted Leti, our new Brazilian student. Since she had extremely limited English, we initially bonded through playing Jenga together. This universal game was fun and perfect for us since it didn’t require much talking, except for at the end when the blocks come crashing down and we got to say… “JENGA!!!”
As an incentive to motivate your child through Distance Learning, schedule special time between your child and their teacher. Maybe this is the motivation they need and are craving. Having that one-on-one time to connect with their teacher, hear their voice, hear their words of encouragement , and virtually play the hand-clapping game, Miss Mary Mack, might be exactly what your child needs. EVERY teacher I know, including myself, would absolutely make time for this activity. We love you kids and miss them dearly.
Praise to Help Keep Your Child Motivated
Nothing beats offering your child love, praise, honor, and encouragement. Acknowledging their feelings is also good, healthy, and necessary. Although creating family fun memories is priceless, especially now when families need each other more than ever, nothing beats praise from your parents. Even now, at forty-three-years of age, when my mother tells me that she’s proud of me… I feel like a ten-foot tall giant. I can conquer the world. My heart is filled. Her love and support gives me the motivation and courage to continue. Ditto for your children. Remember… Praise helps children raise!