Ideas for teachers and parents to keep children motivated and engaged when learning from home

Efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) over the past few days and weeks has seen schools and universities across the globe shut down and move lessons online. On Sunday 22 March, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced further steps to combat the spread of COVID-19, including bringing forward the school holidays in Victoria to commence from Tuesday 24 March.

Now is the time to start planning and preparing for remote, flexible learning in the eventuality schools remain closed after the holidays. We’ve already seen teachers working towards ensuring curriculum requirements are being met, and our students’ education and overall health outcomes don’t suffer in these unprecedented times.

Children need to MOVE to learn

A proven way to engage minds is by moving bodies! Sitting for long periods of time not only makes it difficult for children to get the recommended daily amounts of physical activity, it also makes it harder for them to focus, pay attention and learn. Learning from home will inevitably increase the amount of sedentary time children spend daily.

According to Transform-Us!, Australian children spend approximately 64% of their time sitting down (Ridgers ND, Salmon J, Ridley K, et al.), so how do teachers and parents help ensure movement is incorporated into online classes to reduce sitting-time throughout the day when learning from home? Not specific to teaching HPE, below we provide general guidance for teachers and parents to assist with keeping children moving and motivated when learning remotely. Why not try:

  • Regular changes in position - Move children through work-stations around the home to complete different tasks. For example, allow children to complete classwork while sitting or lying on the floor with a clipboard, standing at an appropriate height (i.e. kitchen table), sitting on a fit ball or even lying under the table with their work taped to the underside of the table
  • Build movement into learning whenever possible - Set flashcards out on the floor and make it a relay race to run, gallop, jump, or hop to pick one up and give an answer. Tape word cards at various heights onto a wall and have the child jump to touch them as you read them one by one
  • Include regular movement / brain breaks - Quick brain breaks can be a great way to help students refocus. Click here to access a brain break activity via our shared Google Drive. Also here’s a great article with more brain break activity ideas to help children feel centred and ready to learn. Also try and incorporate regular movement breaks with activities like swinging, rolling, balancing, and rocking or activities requiring movement against resistance (heavy work).
A new frontier for parents

Parents will be experiencing some confusion at the moment about how to best facilitate their children’s learning from home due to COVID-19. We encourage you to share the ideas below with parents to help them confidently navigate this new frontier and feel supported:

  1. Make space for learning – Many adults have a specific area of the home in which they do work, and it’s important you create a similar space for your child. Your children will achieve their best work in a quiet, comfortable, and dedicated space strictly devoted to learning. This space doesn’t need to be excessive (can be the kitchen table!), but should be a different area to where they usually play games or watch television.
  2. Maintain breaks such as snack time and recess – Routines and schedules are extremely important for children at school, and this is no different in their at-home school. Children will function best if they maintain their routine as close to normal as possible. Setting alarms similar to those they would encounter at school (i.e. school bell) can be helpful for keeping kids on a schedule. Around lunch time, encourage them to get up, get some fresh air, if possible - go for a walk or bike ride, or have a snack so they are not sedentary for the entire day.
  3. Limit distraction – Try to limit children’s use of devices, other than what is needed to complete their school work, until their lessons are done. If you choose, you can allow your child to play on a device during a designated break, but make them aware they only have a limited amount of time until they need to get back to work.
  4. Allow them to interact with friends via video chats – As children are used to lots of social contact at school, they will inevitably feel the social impact of being away from their friends. While it might not be safe for children to see their friends in person, they should be allowed to interact with them online, beyond social media or text messaging. Video chats are often the closest thing to seeing someone in person, and can be a great way to connect with peers whilst remaining socially isolated. Consider speaking with other parents to organise a video chat playdate.
  5. Mix screen time with traditional learning mediums – Overuse of screen time can have adverse impacts on young minds, so it’s important to mix it up. It is likely children will want to continue to use a screen of some sort during their breaks from doing work, so it’s important to limit screen time by mixing in old school mediums as well. As much as possible, parents should try to encourage handwriting, as well as print and book reading.
  6. Stay in touch with other parents – Staying in touch with others at this time is important for everyone to avoid feeling socially isolated. Check in with other parents to see how they’re going, learn how they’re adapting to schooling at home and ask if they need help as well.
  7. Don’t let your children think of this time as a holiday – It will be easy for children to feel like this time at home is a holiday. It’s important to remind them their education still comes first. Class assignments, tests, exams etc. aren’t going away just because classes have moved online.
  8. Remember to schedule time for fun – Don’t forget to have fun with your children while they are at home. It’s a great opportunity to bond over family card games, charades, or chess, or getting outside for a hike, bike ride or walk together (being mindful to observe social distancing and government advice).
General tips for everyone
  • Hydration is important for healthy brain function, so be sure to incorporate a drink of water in breaks. Hydrated students will think more clearly, be more energised and it is better for all systems of the body to be receiving at least 2 litres of water a day. This is essential for teachers too! Remember to keep a water bottle at your work space.
  • Take care of your mental health. Everyone is experiencing a lot of different emotions right now, processing the anxiety of how a global pandemic will affect our everyday ways of life. As teachers and parents, it’s critical to remember we cannot effectively take good care of others if we are not taking good care of ourselves. When you’re not working, be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that despite social distance we’re all in this together, so call your friends and family for a chat. Do activities which calm your mind. Remember to laugh. Take a look at our ideas for looking after your mental health and wellbeing at this time. Teachers can also visit WeAreTeachers’ Helpline on Facebook to share experiences and get ideas for maintaining good mental health whilst facing school closures.
  • Practice good hygiene. Everyone can protect against infections by practising good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene at home such as:
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing with a tissue, or cough into your elbow
  • Dispose of the tissue into a bin and then wash your hands afterwards.
  • Wash your hands regularly, after using the toilet, and before eating.
Further resources for HPE teachers

ACHPER Victoria is working hard to ensure we can continue to support your professional learning needs through online learning and digital resources. To date, we’ve put together a Google Drive resource library, hosted a Facebook Live session, released videos and dedicated two Tips of the Week HPE (TOTW) to provide information for HPE teachers to help prepare and initiate teaching at home.

Click here to access all our resources to help you deliver HPE at home >>

Also click here to access our VCE® Resources Flash Sale - a great chance for you to pick up revision and classroom activity ideas for VCE students if you previously missed out!

Watch this space or sign up to receive updates on further announcements and future products and services including digital resources, online courses and future face-to-face events.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with further questions or advice about delivering quality HPE in these unprecedented times. We’re here to help!