Every teacher will tell you that it's often a challenge to keep students in a classroom engaged for an entire class. This is a dilemma that teachers face day in, day out. It doesn’t' seem to matter if the students are young or old, there are always those few that have a tendency to “switch off”.
When it comes to younger students, keeping them engaged is even harder. There’s no denying it, kids are easily distracted.
When it comes to online teaching, the struggle is elevated. It’s considerably harder to keep a very young student interested in a lesson. For one, their teacher could be on the other side of the world. In a child’s mind, this may equate to the teacher not being real. Children these days spend so much of their free time being entertained by a screen making their teacher seems even less real.
So what can be done to keep young students engaged? Sparking their interest is the key, and there are a number of things you can do to keep the lesson interesting for your younger students and give them the desire to learn.
Get To Know Your Student on a Personal Level
Most online lessons are one on one so that gives you a bit of an advantage. There aren’t other kids there to cause a distraction. It does mean that your entire focus needs to be on this one child so, make them feel special. Build a rapport with your younger students. One great way to do this is to have an introductory homework sheet. Include questions about their family, friends, pets, likes, and dislikes. As the student answers each question, encourage them to ask you questions as well. This will help them relax and encourage them to share with you.
Start Each Lesson with a Chat
Most online lessons last an hour. It may not seem like a long time, but when you are sitting there with a young child you need to start at a slower pace. Don’t go straight into teaching mode. Ask your student what they’ve been doing at school, or if they’ve seen any good movies. Sometimes your student may have something they want to show you. Let them! If they initiate this free conversation themselves then half your struggle is done. The chat only needs to last a few minutes and will help your student ease into the lesson.
Kids love to be entertained and the more animated you are as a teacher, the more likely you’ll keep them glued to the screen. You can use puppets to entertain young students. Puppets are a great way to speak to young children as their focus will be on the puppet, not their adult teacher. They are more likely to respond to the puppet, answer questions and more. You can also use a variety of hats and scarves to keep them engaged. Set up your computer or laptop with a wall behind you and have bright pictures that will attract the student’s attention. A whiteboard is also a good tool to have visible within the screen so you can write or draw things during the lesson. Pets also help. If you have a house pet, introduce your student to your pet.
Introduce Music, Songs, and Stories
Most children love to sing so have a collection of songs in your database ready. Fortunately, it is relatively simple to find teaching songs for any subject and any age group. Sing the song to your student first, so he or she understands the message in the song and hears each word sung, then encourage them to sing with you. Again, if there is a particular song they would like to sing for you, even better. You can also share a link to a particular video so they can experience the music and songs visually as well. You can also read your student a story. Just make sure it’s related to the lesson and doesn’t last for too long. Like the songs, if you find a good video you can use that too. While the student is engrossed in the video, you can get your materials together for the next part of the lesson.
Keep Tasks Small
In a classroom, a teacher can hand out worksheets or write tasks on the board for students to follow. Online is somewhat different. You either need to write questions in the chat section and ask your student to type the answer, or you can send them a worksheet and ask them to type the answers. This can be a little difficult as the student will need to print the worksheet, answer the questions and then hold up the worksheet so you can see their answers. It’s tricky, but still doable. You can also give them multiple choice questions to make this part of the lesson easier. Don’t give them worksheets with too many questions or tasks. It takes up a lot of precious lesson time and can be boring for the student.
Include A Little Reading
Reading is a great way to determine your student’s progress and you can incorporate reading into worksheets. This is another good reason to get to know your student because you can either find or put together your own reading worksheets. Choose a topic, find a picture, a couple of paragraphs of text and then include some questions at the bottom of the page. Ask your student to read the text and then go through the answers together.
Teaching online can be just as rewarding as teaching in a classroom, but it does take a lot of patience and preparation. Once you have a few props and activities put together, you’ll breeze through an online class without even realizing an hour has passed. Fortunately, online lessons do not need to be as formal as regular classroom lessons so you have a little more flexibility to tailor each lesson to the individual student. Include things that interest them, be cheerful and give praise when they have completed a task and you’ll have a student that will be excited to connect for every lesson.