It can be hard for children to maintain their attention span across the day. With school classes, supplementary lessons, and CCA activities, it’s no wonder that children become exhausted quickly, and lose focus during the one period they think is the ‘least impactful’: tuition. So, let’s talk about how you can engage your children, and make sure that they’re retaining content.
Each child has their individual strengths and preferred modes of learning, but the following principles should generally apply when forming your curricula.
Consider non-traditional mediums of learning as additions to normal schooldays
For most tuition teachers, teaching consists of going over textbook content or practice books, having the children go through problems, and then addressing them. While repetitive methods may work to some extent, there are too many principles that may fall through the cracks. It also doesn’t teach children to address new problems that they’ve never seen before, only to regurgitate methods for problems they know.
For number-heavy subjects including math and science, children have been shown to learn better through gamification. As a matter of fact, many parents have turned towards games to teach their children, developing many physical and digital game formats to engage their children in these subjects. Other mediums that may see success have included case studies (e.g., teaching your children with examples they naturally develop an interest in), and having the children teach others the same subjects. Home tuition teachers in Singapore frequently adopt these games as educational aids as well.
For information-heavy subjects such as languages and humanities, children are often most taken by stories. For instance, young children can be introduced to the wonders of Mandarin Chinese through great storytelling, with fantastical elements of Chinese history. This, specifically, is less about reading from a book and more about providing a performance. Storytelling experiences are guided with actions, breath, and tone, and convey a feeling to children that cannot be delivered through words alone.
Even if they don’t understand all of the words then, the wonderful experience sticks with the children, and they will then return to it. Storytelling provides children with the context of culture and situation and provides a setting for them to be engaged in. Similarly, teenagers are frequently drawn to well-scripted stories regarding ancient history: when historical or current events are presented as movies or shows, they readily consume and retain that information much better than they would from a textbook. At the same time, they are thought to think deeply for themselves while processing the contexts of these shows.
At Edu Aid tuition agency in Singapore, we frequently use these additional methods to engage our kids, and in fact, encourage them to use them with each other as well!
Take frequent breaks
If you ask your children to simply sit in a chair for three hours and study non-stop, they will get bored very quickly. Children, teenagers, and even adults need to move, and should be encouraged to do so!
One method of this is time-based. The famous Pomodoro technique has students (and adults) schedule 25 minutes of productivity to 5 minutes of break time, when they are free to do what they want. This timing can be adjusted to whatever works the best – some adults will do 50 minutes and 5 minutes; some children work best with 5 minutes and 1 minute. This is a strategy subtly employed by schools and tuition agencies in Singapore, with breaks between classes allowing students to refresh themselves.
For others who struggle to work with time, another method is to allow a series of minor activities that are acceptable to carry out during studying, and not limit those activities – e.g., at any time during their period of studying, they are allowed to get snacks, play with pets, or water their plants. Activities that are not allowed can include being on their phone, watching television, or playing certain games.
Frequent breaks allow us to refresh our minds and re-stimulate them. This is a method that is especially helpful for children who struggle to sit still for long periods of time, and the underlying principle is not to box them into a specific space, but rather to allow a limited amount of choice and flexibility for them to regulate themselves and their own actions.
Use one-off checklists
This is most helpful with parents or home tuition teachers in Singapore. A checklist is set at the start of every study session, and the child can then use it as a gauge to measure their progress. As an incentive, some guardians will include a reward for checking something off the list.
Several important caveats: firstly, you should encourage children to make their own checklists and identify their own to-do lists. You can support and prompt them but try to avoid making the lists for them. Secondly, the lists must be achievable. There is no way for a child to complete eight hours of work in two hours, and the major goal of this section is to encourage children by checking things off the list. If they are unable to check things off or complete the list by the end, this method may become an issue.
The last and most important item is that the checklists are created and used during that study session and discarded at the end. This puts the child’s mind at ease because they are not constantly staring at a to-do list that never seems to end.
These methods and principles are used frequently by our tutors to engage their pupils and have proven to work well. As previously mentioned, however, every child is different. While these principles may underline the curricula drawn for each child, it is always important to ask your children themselves how they feel about tuition, homework, and their workload.