While there are dozens of support methods to help students engage with what’s around them, nothing is better than inviting students to mentally engage first, to understand the reasons WHY they are doing any given thing, especially learning.
As a former headteacher and lifelong teacher, I offer the following tips to get your children set to focus before any activity you want to engage them in.
Tip 1) With your child, write three ‘why’ statements to see the benefits of the learning period. Help them create positive statements to frame all the learning that will follow.
A) I’m doing _____ because ______
B) I’m going to invest in myself by _______ in order to _______
C) If I want _______ then _________ will help me towards that.
It takes only a few minutes but can be used again with variants, but the mental and spoken act of remembering this can help a student to engage. Use words that assume and require ‘effort’ : engage, invest, undertake, develop.
Tip 2) Whatever the subject, ask your child to think of the skills involved in what they are doing, not just the subject. 5 key ones that cover a great deal are: Communicating (talking), Recalling (remembering), Observing (looking/reading), Researching (finding out) and Implementing (use) — breaking things down into the general skills so even though they may not complete or fully understand a piece of work, they are aware of the skills they are using and take confidence in that.
Tip 3) Link anything they are doing to the real world. Don’t just use general items like ‘maths will help you be an accountant’, find immediate and practical items too — things in your life, your daily routine and make sure you discuss them theoretically even if you can’t implement them now. Examples could be: measurements and materials for a new shed or loft conversion, or a letter to the council about an increase in tax.
Tip 4) Key and rarely considered: Don’t fear boredom! If you want someone to engage with something, the natural opposite should be less attractive. I.e. let them get bored! If screens rule supreme in the house, and there is little to no space for boredom, you’re allowing an environment for engagement to be diminished. It’s ok for students to be bored — feel free to tell them that ‘their boredom is their responsibility’.