This is the time of year that snow can start falling and the temperatures get colder. There’s no doubt winter is starting to set in. As the days are steadily getting shorter, the desire to stay motivated is harder and harder. Cold weather doesn’t add to the motivation usually, and it gets harder to get out of bed to go to school. And that was before there was virtual learning every day.
Keeping students motivated during the winter months affects everyone. Adults, being older, usually cope with it a little better since they have had more opportunities to work through it year after year. Children haven’t seen the winter blahs year after year, so they tend to struggle a little more. They usually don’t understand why they feel so down during the winter months, nor how to make changes to stay motivated. With the addition of virtual school and remote learning this year, we expect it to be a little harder than normal to stay focused. We want everyone to stay motivated, so here are a few tips to get through the blahs of winter and be ready for spring.
Tip 1: Create the Perfect Spot for Virtual Learning
When students were in on-campus school, they had classrooms to go to. At home, it may be difficult to replicate a complete classroom that embodies learning. If possible, dedicate a complete room to an educational setting to best simulate an environment ready for virtual learning. Finding a space that can be dedicated to virtual learning helps your student’s body to get in the right zone for learning. With the winter blues or blahs creeping in, that learning spot may need to be updated with brighter colors and vibrant accents to fight off the dreary days.
Tip 2: Attend Virtual School and Complete Schoolwork When You’re Most Productive
One advantage of attending virtual learning is that you don’t necessarily need to attend during exact school hours as if you are attending on-campus learning. While it’s recommended to stay somewhat on that schedule to ensure your body and mind are ready to transition back to on-campus learning, that doesn’t mean you can’t insert some flexibility. You may find that your stay-at-home students have periods during the day that they are most productive. When those periods occur, that’s the time to have students work on schoolwork. Their mind is alert and ready to learn and be creative.
Tip 3: Dress for Success
If you don’t have to put on regular pants to attend school in the mornings, why not just do your schoolwork in pajamas? It seems reasonable and easy. Some don’t need the switch in attire to turn their mind on for learning, but for some students the change of clothes makes a difference. If you’re not dressing for success, you may try it to understand if the right clothes make a difference over the winter months to keep the winter blahs away. Students may also find that wearing bright colors helps to have a positive outlook and keeps their mind sharp for learning.
Tip 4: Eliminate Sources of Distraction
Background noise is one of the most common reasons students lose focus. It could be something as simple as repetitive noise from a household appliance, loud talking from another room, or something else causing a distraction. Your study space needs to be quiet to prevent distractions, but pure silence may also be a distraction. Studies have shown positive results from studying when students listen to music or white noise. White noise would be something simple as natural sounds like raining, running water, wind rustling through trees, or a rainforest. It’s quiet, yet calming. The type of music may not be as important as the loudness of the music. Keep the volume below 85 decibels, which is the threshold when it changes from background to focused sound. Students may also enjoy noise-cancelling headphones instead of a radio or white-noise machine.
Students may also need to turn their phones and other devices connected to the internet on airplane mode, on silent, or possibly just turn them completely off. They offer a distraction, and with everyone getting a little stir crazy, it can become overwhelming as a group effort. Study time needs to stay focused on schoolwork, so eliminate the other items that prevent the motivation to stay focused on learning.
Tip 5: Keep Motivated with Non-School Activities and Plenty of Exercise
Studies have shown that the human brain needs breaks between learning to absorb new material well. Students need a little break, and that may just be a favorite extra-curricular activity to keep them focused and motivated. They may be used to playing a sport during the winter months, they may be involved in specialized clubs or organizations, or they may just enjoy being outside. Whatever they enjoy doing most outside of school, they should try to keep those activities going as best as possible. They need social interaction, and hopefully their favorite activities are still available with virtual school.
Tip 6: Talk About Your Feelings
This last tip doesn’t necessarily have to do with winter explicitly, but it needs to stay available as an option for the winter months. This year has been difficult with all the changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected everyone. The tips that have kept students invigorated in the past may not be as effective this season because there is an added stress level with virtual school and many of the shutdowns. Students may feel like they are unsure of what school will look like in the future, if they will be able to return to sports, what is happening elsewhere, and generally how they feel about life. Recognizing feelings, talking about them with someone, and then letting them go may be a huge help in staying motivated. When they are allowed to simmer below the surface, it can be a drag on the motivation to keep working hard during winter.
This year has been a major change in the way students are learning. Virtual distance learning was something only a few students used for various reasons leading up to 2020, but this year has proven to be a significant challenge to change how and where students learn. These tips should help to keep students motivated through the darker winter months, but they are not all-inclusive. Every student learns a little differently, and what motivates them to stay focused may be slightly different in every household. Planning a set schedule or routine with built-in flexibility in the right environment will help keep students motivated, focused, and progressing as virtual school continues.