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As the weather begins to get nicer and the school year winds down, it’s often hard for students to focus–in a normal school year! But home learning is anything but normal. Lynn vanStee the Director of Educational Support & School Psychologist has some tips and advice to help your child end the year on a positive note.

  • Set an empathic and positive tone for work time.
    • Our kids are taking cues from us.  This is an opportunity to model how to cope with stress, face unknowns, approach new challenges, and deal with our feelings.
    • If your student is bored or frustrated, acknowledge that and let them know that you understand.   Distance learning is hard and we are all learning how to make the best of it.
    • Don’t get stuck there, though, after listening and reflecting together on your child’s feelings, move on to express your confidence in your student’s efforts, the support and care both you and the teacher will provide, and your hopes for the positive things that will happen today.

  • Set goals
    • The goal setting process can be worked into writing a schedule for the day.  
    • Discussing with your student what to work on, estimating how long that might take, and planning a time to do it provide excellent training in the kinds of executive functioning skills your student will continue to need in their schooling and beyond.  Provide as much support as your student needs for setting a schedule, but step back as they become ready to do more planning on their own.
    • Marking tasks off when completed gives a small experience of success in setting and completing a goal.

  • Include choices
    • Student input into the daily schedule provides choice and builds buy-in
    • If a parent is trying to incorporate choice but also needs the student to accomplish particular tasks, offering “forced” choices can be very effective.  Both choices need to accomplish the needed task. It’s a win-win!
      • “For reading, you can either read silently on the couch, or make a tent under the table and read to your stuffed animal.”
      • “For math, you could either start with math fact practice and then do these problems, or do the problems, take a quick break, and run through your math facts.”

  • Make more-preferred activities contingent on completion of less-preferred activities
    • “First, then” are sometimes magic words to move past reluctance or refusal.
      • “First finish writing up to this line (mark the page), then you can read your book.”
      • “First circle all the work you need to finish later, then you can take a break.”

  • Divide the workload into manageable chunks
    • Students often produce work most efficiently when productive periods of 10 minutes (for young children) to 25 minutes are broken up by breaks.
    • If a student is reluctant to start or lacks confidence to do a task independently, the adult can offer to check in after the student gets started, “Show me when you get this far.” (Draw a line a little way down the page).
    • Provide adequate breaks to refresh both brain and body
      • Breaks fight boredom, reduce anxiety, and promote focus and productivity by providing a natural reset for our sensory system.
      • Change up your breaks:  routine punctuated by some novelty keeps things fresh. Break ideas

        What if my student gets overwhelmed by looking at a schedule for the day – it seems like too much!
        A few strategies to try: 

        • Chunk the schedule.  List only those tasks that lead up to the first break on the page you give the student.  When the student finishes the first chunk, show the second chunk.
        • Start with a short easy task to gain momentum.  
        • Offer to scribe the first sentence, problem, etc, as the student tells you how to do it.  Offer to come back and do the last one the same way.


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