A lot has been said and done about this topic already and yet I have high school students reaching out for help. As a mom of a teenager, I have been experimenting with different strategies as well to determine what works and what doesn’t. This blog post is dedicated towards making online schooling more engaging and productive.
The key to thriving in an online school setting is to ‘mimic’ or ‘pretend’ like you are actually getting ready to ‘leave’ for school. This means that you can’t just roll out of bed and roll into school. Here are some strategies to consider as you get ready to start your day:
Think about your morning routine pre-Covid. Did you wake up an hour or so before school started, eat breakfast, take a shower and organize your books and material? Ideally, you should continue with that routine even today.
I would also try to schedule in some exercise before you are chair bound for the day. It could be as simple as a quick run around the neighborhood, or if you are really pressed for time, you could try a few jumping jacks to get your heart pumping faster. Small steps will go a long way in not only keeping you physically fit, but also to help you boost your memory and concentration skills.
For some other kids, quiet time and mindfulness work well. You can shut your eyes for 5 minutes, use an app like ‘Smiling Mind’ to center yourself or just spend some quiet time to orient yourself to the present so that you are ready for the tasks that lie ahead of you.
Of course, getting a good night’s rest is paramount to excelling academically.
During online class time, students have admitted to ‘zoning out’ and missing out on what the teacher has discussed. Here is what you can do to stay engaged:
Take notes! This is a forcing function to keep your mind focused on what is happening in class. This is especially important for kinesthetic learners, who learn best by using their hands.
Ask questions in class to stay alert.
Avoid external distractions. Keep your cell phone in another room and close all unnecessary tabs on your computer. Clear up your workspace to keep only essential materials accessible.
Keep a bottle of water next to you so that you can keep hydrating. But avoid snacking during class time and getting ‘too comfortable’.
Try to keep your video camera on as far as possible. This will encourage you to maintain a good posture and pay attention. Poor posture can lead to headaches associated with eye strain.
Try to change the setting on your video call so that you are not looking at (and getting distracted by) the other participants on the call. Focus only on the presenter.
During the 5-10 minute transition periods:
Get up and stretch. Do a few quick exercises if you can. It could be anything that gives you an adrenaline rush and refreshes your mind. (My kids look forward to dueling with lightsabers during transition times!)
Take care of your needs: go to the restroom, get something to eat.
Look away from your screen. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that after 20 minutes of screen time, you should take a 20 second break and look at objects that are 20 feet away. Alternatively, you can shut your eyes for 20 seconds.
Make a list of things that you can do during transition time on a post-it note and stick it on or near your computer. This will allow you to pick an activity and act quickly.
Organizing your time after school:
Without a formal structure, schedule and accountability of a traditional school system, projects and assignments can often be placed on the back-burner until it’s too late. Then they are rushed and hastily completed a few hours prior to the deadline. Undoubtedly, this will negatively impact the student’s grade. If you want to avoid falling into this ‘procrastination’ trap, consider the following:
Approach online learning with the right attitude. A lot of us don’t love the situation that we are in right now, but recognize that you can’t control it. You can only change your attitude towards the situation. Things will come easier to you when you adopt a positive and growth mindset.
Reward yourself after your task is complete so as to associate positive emotions with it. This may even motivate you to come back to the task the next time around. For example, allow yourself a nap, 30-minutes of outdoor time or a chat session with friends as a reward for your hard work.
Try using the ‘Pomodoro’ technique to focus on the task at hand. Many of my students have downloaded this app onto their phones so that it is easily accessible.
I highly recommend that students read Sean Covey’s '7 Habits of Highly Successful Teens', and especially focus on the ‘Time Quadrants’ exercise. This is a great tool for students to introspect and identify where they are spending most of their time. The more dedicated ones will strive to re-shuffle their priorities.
At the end of the day, it’s a privilege to spend time with family. Especially since it is easy to feel isolated and disconnected during these times. Sometimes our family time lasts an hour, and sometimes it’s only half an hour – but it’s always meaningful. 10 pm is bedtime and 7 am is wake up time. And then it’s rinse and repeat.