Updated: Jul 1, 2020
With all schools being closed and all learning taking place at home these past few months, and seemingly ongoing for at least another few, here are some essential tips for getting you through distance learning successfully during this summer and beyond.
1. KEEP YOUR SPACE AND NOTES ORGANIZED
Most students these days are demotivated about studying at home, let alone during summer. It becomes even more difficult for them to get motivated when things are disorganized. Having a neat and organized study space will help tremendously. This mean the space should have comfortable seating, good lighting, all the necessary stationery, and reliable internet connection. Equally as important is having organized notes. If it is a new class, prepare to take A LOT of notes; summer classes are more condensed and so a lot more material needs to be understood and digested in each lesson. Notes should be dated, clear and concise. If the class is a do-over, the student will (or rather, should) have hand-written or printed notes from the previous term. A good idea is to go through them, arrange them in the same order that the course will be taught (check the syllabus), and highlight any problem areas that felt like weak points last term. This helps one chart a path and be more alert when those topics come up as the course gets under way.
2. MAKE IT A DEDICATED WORK SPACE
The next step is to make it a dedicated space, if possible. This means the space should be associated with studying only. The reason is that we tend to create mental associations with certain areas. For example, people who work and watch TV in bed have weak associations of bedroom and sleeping, and so their mind becomes conflicted as they get into bed to sleep ("should I be sleeping, working, or watching TV?") Keeping a dedicated space for studying - only studying - will strengthen the mental association of the space with school work. That way, you can help ensure that the mind will not hesitate or wander when it is time to get to work.
3. MAKE A SCHEDULE & SYNC IT WITH SUMMER PLANS
Making a schedule will give students the structure that (despite their objections) they are used to and thrive in. When creating the schedule, it is important to involve the student. Not only will this create more accurate time allocation, but it will also make them accountable should they deviate too much from the schedule. Using a simple time-table, make 30-minute blocks of time that you can shift around-- and don't forget to include breaks! It is always best to be specific (i.e. blocks should read "Physics Assignment" rather than just "Science"). Although COVID-19 has put a damper on most summer plans, be sure to mark major exam dates and study weeks into your calendar in order to avoid any conflict with summer social events. It is the student's summer after all, and they will surely need time to relax to help stay motivated.
4. GET OUTSIDE HELP
While the pandemic has put us all in an unprecedented situation, parents everywhere have taken great initiative in helping their children with their home schooling. The issue, however, is that that it takes an enormous amount of time and effort to prepare lessons (problems printing today, anyone??) In many cases, parents are also too busy to review each lesson in order to help their children with the corresponding homework or assignment. Do not hesitate to explore the option of getting outside help, i.e. a private tutor. The last thing children need now is low self-esteem due to poor academic performance caused by the new distance learning era. If your child needs help, seek it! Click the Sign Up button above to get the "3 Secrets to Choosing an Online Tutor" in our next issue.
5. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
Without a specific end goal in mind, it is easy to get demotivated and discouraged. Studies have shown that thinking specifically about an upcoming exam 7-10 days before the exam date (what kind of questions will come up, what resources will I use, how will I use them to study for the exam, etc) for even 15 minutes can help boost students' grades. A Stanford study has also linked the practice to reduced exam-related stress in students compared to their peers. These days, it has become even more vital because most national and international curriculum exams are being cancelled, and there is also ambiguity surrounding the grading criteria for many courses. The idea still holds: it is truly beneficial to have students regularly ask themselves "What am I studying for this summer?" Whether it is for a looming exam, final project, or just the personal goal of moving forward academically, reflecting on an upcoming goal will help their mind focus on the tasks ahead. By keeping the end in mind, we are reminding them that studying and completing daily tasks does not amount to laying bricks, but rather to building a house.
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