When students are spent and stressed from a long day at school, it can be a chore to get them to complete their homework. So how can one entice these passive, unmotivated learners to pick up the pencil and mindfully coast through their assignments?
Working as a learning specialist and educational therapist, I meet with most of my students for a single hour each week. Therefore, it is imperative that I use every minute of my session wisely. It took me some time to realize that, for some students, it is a fruitless and frustrating chore to push them to plow through assignments. For these students, I need to commence at a slow pace and pause for 5 to 10 minutes, before they are encouraged to plunge into the pool of school work.
What Gets in the Way?
There are a number of hurdles that can topple a student session.
- Low stamina: Many students are cognitively spent after a day of school.
- Poor motivation: Some students have little to no interest in completing homework.
- Attention issues: Some students struggle with attentional difficulties, and if they are fatigued after a long day of school their ability to focus is further compromised.
What Can Be Done to Soothe your Students and Charge Cognition?
My favorite strategy is allowing learners a few minutes to interact with my Zen Table. The Zen Table is a piece of furniture that holds deep recesses that house a variety of tactile manipulatives such as sand, beans, lentils, rocks, and magnets. I have two distinct sides to my table. On one side I have mung beans and magnets, and on the other I have lentils and rocks. Many of my students gravitate to this place where we can let the stress of the day “dribble out of our fingertips” as we gather our thoughts, connect and create intentions, talk about the day, and plan our approach.
I found my Zen Table on Overstock about ten years ago, but I have also created them in crates, large Tupperware bins, chests and boxes. If you look for coffee tables with storage, you can find a number of options. As another possibility, you can create your own Zen Table with these free plans. This option is particularly cool as it features a chalkboard for the top of the table, which can be used to brainstorm ideas or draw out goals.
Other Strategies that Can Help:
There are a number of other tricks I can employ when antsy or apathetic students come to a session.
- As each student has their own motivating triggers, I encourage you to consult with each student and tailor an individual approach.Play Upbeat Music: One of my favorite gadgets at work is the Amazon Echo which I have recently upgraded to the Amazon Show. This voice activated device can play a tune upon command as well as perform many other skills. With many motivating songs, there is a multitude of options. For example, I always begin one of my student sessions with the song Happy by Pharrell Williams. It’s an opportunity for us to elevate our mood and move our bodies.
- Offer a Kinesthetic or Brain Break: Spending a minute or so bouncing on my Zenergy Ball chairs or doing exercises like jumping jacks can pull most students out of a slump.
- Conduct a 3 minute Muse session: For my students that struggle with focusing issues, I have found my Muse is my go-to device. The Muse is an app and headset that can walks students through guided, mindful meditations while providing constant biofeedback on their level of attention.
Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren
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