I am not sure if it is the weather or just the end of what feels like an incredibly long and arduous academic year. Motivation and energy has flown away. The holidays are beginning and the term is over, what is the plan for the next six weeks? What can you do to keep your child motivated this summer?
Before we go any further, remember a rest is important for both your children and you! I know that putting away the school uniform and turning off the alarm clock for the school run is crucial. Adjusting to a different pace and having a chance to flop gives the brain much needed rest to repair. However, after all the stop-start moments this year, I wanted to think about some ways to prepare your children for the next academic year and develop their independence. This is especially important for those moving into Year 6 with exams and interviews looming ahead.
Human beings are, by nature, motivated to learn. The challenge is: are they motivated to learn what we want them to learn? It is up to the adults to understand what individual children are most motivated by and to use that as a catalyst for motivating them. In the classroom, teachers do this by giving their pupil choice, building confidence, and relating the subject to areas of interest.
Identifying our key motivators is the starting point to creating the right ‘growing conditions’ for a child to thrive and progress, in the 11+ and beyond. Through understanding and using these motivators in lessons and in life, we can increase attention and interest in learning, creating greater confidence and progress. We can tap into our passions, flourish as individuals and ultimately be more positive, productive members of society.
Oh, and by identifying individual motivations with those preparing for the 11+, the chances of them seeing the exams and interviews as an enjoyable challenge rather than a parent-enforced chore is a huge plus point. If your child is The Searcher or The Spirit by knowing how to help them set the right goal it can motivate their curiosity and potential.
Engage the 3 Cs
So as the summer holidays kick off, we encourage parents, to follow the three Cs: control, confidence and connectedness:
- Help children feel in control.
We all know what it is like when we are handed a list of tasks or challenges. It either feels overwhelming or undermining, unless you are being paid and even then we often don’t relish a list. By inviting children to choose a goal or challenge of their own, confers ownership. Perhaps you think this is the summer to really crack times tables or to expand the reading repertoire; Beast Quest books are not the only ones available! The next step is to ask your child to break this down into small steps and goals that they must tick off within the time period you both agree. This is especially important in building independence as it passes responsibility to your child.
- Help children feel confident.
Fear of failure is not limited to adults. Children are hypersensitive to working outside of their comfort zone. We have talked before about the stretch zone where we use ‘what we know’ and then extend it that little bit further. If you ask your child who is a reluctant reader to start reading ‘The Children of Green Knowe’ and they stumble with the archaic language on the first page, then that challenge is dead. Push a child into this zone and they will feel overwhelmed or defeated and give up. The ‘sweet spot’ or ‘the Goldilocks Principle’ is about it being ‘just right, not too hot and too cold.’
Go back to the original goal and identify how confident they feel about each step. Do they need your help and support? Do they have any concerns? What will help them conquer the reading mountain? Perhaps listen to an audiobook of a challenging book; buy some graphic novels and they have to tell the story; you promise to read your favourite book to them; or perhaps they could borrow a Kindle to regularly look up words and enlarge the font. Keep the confidence levels high and motivation is a by-product.
- Help children feel connected.
Children are more motivated when they feel a personal connection to something. Personalising is an important critical thinking skill; teachers develop this in their pupils by asking open-ended questions. Once a child can sense the purpose of an activity or a task it gains importance. If your child is The Searcher, they want to do valuable and important things that make a difference. By allowing them to see the big picture, they can see why it matters and are more likely to set time aside to achieve their goal. Even having the initial conversation with you, allows them to feel connected and to understand why you value their success as well.
Motivation drives our behaviour. It is not a conscious decision, but comes from the underlying need for control, confidence in our abilities and connection to our actions. At the start of each of our five day holiday workshops, we encourage children to set their goal for the time we have together and measure their progress. Success and motivation matters!
Find out more about our methods, metacognitive toolkit and why we embrace the Science of Learning at Meta Prep. Sign up for next term.