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Top 10 tips for keeping students motivated while studying at home

This article has been written by Lee Jackson FPSA PSAE, Award-Winning Speaker and Presentation Coach.

We asked one of our authors and popular motivational school speaker, Lee Jackson to give us his top 10 tips for helping students to stay motivated and healthy during the Coronavirus crisis lockdown.

1. Every weekday is a school day. Just because schools aren't physically happening right now, they are still engaging online with students. See Monday to Friday as school time. More flexible, but still school time.

2. Develop good routines. A good routine can be the difference between getting work done and not getting work done. One of the challenges of this crisis is that many of us suddenly have no fixed routine. Schools served us well with solid routines. The students knew they had to be there at a fixed time. They knew what time the lessons finished and the buzzer used to sound at the end of the lesson, for lunchtime and home time too. So while students are at home, it’s good for them to develop routines too, some teenagers really thrive with routines.

3. Stay connected with school friends. At times like this it's easy to forget that much of school was actually hanging out with their friends and doing stuff away from lessons. And now while the lockdown is on, it’s always good for them to keep connected with their friends in different ways. So encourage them to keep connected with their school friends over video and phone (just texting and social media is not quite as good for us as real human interaction).

4. Help them understand why. Helping them to understand why they study is such a big part of the motivation to study. No one can really motivate us from the outside. People can't push us to do things for very long. We have to ultimately find the motivation inside. They call it intrinsic motivation. And that comes from understanding why we do things. Encourage your teenager to ask the question why am I studying? In other words, help them to think bigger and to see the end goal, this really does help them to see why they do the day to day work.

5. Celebrate the learning of new skills. Help them to realise that there are certain skills that they learn by studying. They learn study skills, revision techniques and they also learn practical things such as working out equations and writing in certain styles. Ask them at the end of the day what new skills they've learnt today. Little victories and the fact that we are learning new skills is helpful to spur us all on. I often stop at the end of a busy day and ask “what did I learn today?”, if I don’t, I forget what I’ve done and just move on.  

6. Get them equipped. The practical things they need can be used to encourage them. Even though most work is done online these days it is still good to buy them nice pens and notebooks. A little whiteboard to work on is great too, schools often use whiteboards. You can get small ones very cheaply online and it helps them to write things down and work things out visually. So give them the tools that they need. If you're able this is a good time to buy them some nice stationery, a good pencil case, notebooks, etc. Some teens absolutely love that, particularly if the items have got their favourite sports team, band or brand on them.

7. Get outside. Encourage your teenager to get out in the fresh air at least once a day. Exercise is good, it helps us to think, it gets the blood pumping into our brains and also just the sights and the sounds of being outside makes a change from the familiar noises in a busy house, a silent bedroom or even their favourite music.

8. Staying positive. When life is a little uncertain, it's hard to stay positive every day. So I like to think about being ‘realistically positive’. It's unrealistic to say that we should walk around with a smile on our face every minute of every day. We should aim to be ‘realistically positive’ - we shouldn't pretend this crisis isn't happening, but we also shouldn’t obsess over it too. I am learning to only check the news once a day (usually on the radio) and also look to the future and try to be grateful for the little day to day things. A positive mental attitude or as some schools call it ‘a growth mindset’ helps us to work harder every day. Encourage them to see hope for the future. There's always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how bad the situation is. What can they look forward to? What can they write down as a big goal? What are they looking forward to when lockdown is finished? If they like school, what are they looking forward to particularly when they get back into the classroom? These things to look forward to can spur us all on. So plan the day to day plan routines, but also think a little bit about the future too.

9. Keep connected with school. As a parent and carer, make sure that you keep connected to school. Maybe you have the mobile number of the teacher, or your teenagers head of year. Contact them every few weeks just to check in with them. Maybe their school has emails or text messages that they're sending you. Or some I've heard, have got Facebook groups now too where parents and carers can ask questions of the schools and get answers pretty quickly. Keep that connection with the school. It helps your teenager to know that you are in touch with their school and also it helps you to make those connections and get extra resources and advice when needed.

And finally…

10. Build a team - around you and your teenager. Success is never a solo sport. It's always a team sport. We don't do it alone. I love to tell the story of the P.L.U.T.O. pipeline in World War Two. In order to fuel D-Day, the army realised that we’d need fuel, and a lot of it! And so they designed an underwater secret pipeline from the Isle of Wight, to the coast of France. It supplied millions of gallons of fuel to fuel D-Day to keep the tanks, the ships, the armoured carriers moving. Without those those pipelines, D-Day would have ground to a halt after a few hours. We all need fuel to keep us going, we need good people to give us life. Even if you have very few family physically around right now, it doesn't have to be just you spurring on your teenager. Parents have been telling me how they've been getting their teens to have video calls and make connections with family members, school staff and family friends - a team of people that can just spur them on and encourage them. They might not be able to be taken out to a coffee shop at the moment, but they can have a coffee and chat over video. Even little handwritten notes make a big difference from people, ask people to write a note your teenager to help them and encourage them in their work. I got a handwritten note just the other day and I realised that I've not had one in the post for years, so it was a great surprise.