Over the last year and a half, students across the world have adjusted to online learning. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person classes have often been limited, leaving students to attend Zoom classes from home. Many students may have previously been unfamiliar with this method of learning, forcing them to learn new ways to stay focused and motivated outside of the typical school environment.
While online learning typically keeps students more protected from sickness than they would be in the classroom, studying and attending classes from home has proven to be difficult for some. Since the pandemic began, research, such as this article from NBC, has shown higher levels of stress, anxiety, and a lack of motivation in remote students.
In an interview with NBC News, Sarah Miles, the head of the study, said “remote learning — and I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone — is just more challenging. It’s harder for kids to feel connected. It’s harder for teachers, for the adults in the school, to connect and that’s a foundational element. In order for kids to learn, they need to feel safe and connected. Everything else rests on top of that.”
While some schools across the U.S. are slowly returning to in-person classes, shutdowns are still a possibility as COVID-19 cases arise, and not all schools are back open for in-person learning. This means that some students are still facing the challenges of online learning as they head into the 2021–2022 school year. Additionally, those students who are heading back to the classroom may require extra support and readjustment as they make the transition back to in-person learning.
This support is important not just in school, but at home as well. Although some students might struggle to stay on-task and be motivated at home, having an environment conducive to learning at home can help set them up for success. Whether a student is completing homework, studying for exams, or even attending Zoom classes, a comfortable study pace is an essential part of reaching their goals. Here are a few ways to create an engaging learning environment at home that will give students the space they need to succeed.
Choose a Comfortable Space
It’s not just what’s in a space that matters — it’s the kind of space that’s used that also matters Choose a spot for your student’s study space that reflects the kind of environment they work best in. For example, some people need a bit of background noise to focus; others need total silence. Setting up a designated time each day for your student to work at the kitchen table or in the living room could give them an environment with little stimulation, so long as household members keep from interrupting their learning. Alternatively, putting a desk in the student’s bedroom or a guest room or letting the student work outside can give them a distraction-free, quiet area.
It’s also important to consider how much flexibility your student needs in their study space. A traditional desk can be a well-structured, solid place to study which mimics the feeling of being in a classroom. However, some students work best in more flexible, unconventional spaces where they can move around as needed. If your student doesn’t enjoy sitting at a desk or table for long periods of time, try finding a corner where they can set up a pillow, bean bag chair, ottoman, or even sit on the floor. If given enough space, they can still spread out all of the materials they need around them, and a lap desk or hard book can provide a good writing surface.
While letting your student choose where they work most comfortably is beneficial, having a space that’s too comfortable and unstructured can be detrimental to their focus. Working on a bed, for example, has been shown to increase tiredness and associate work with sleeping — a problem that can lead to less rest when it does come time to relax.
Make it Organized
No matter where you put them, organizing your school supplies is essential for staying on top of assignments and keeping a neat, calm space. Decide on how best to organize your student’s supplies; desks usually come with built-in drawers, but your student might need more space to put their materials, especially if they prefer a more flexible setup. Items like desk caddies, shelves, magazine holders, and small bins provide storage space and can often be found for low prices. Other items like mugs and bulletin boards can be used to store pencils and pin important dates and reminders.
Let There be Light
Lighting can make a big difference in a student’s mood and ability to focus. Choose a study space that’s well-lit with an overhead light or lamp, and consider adding additional lighting if needed. Lighting such as desk lamps and reading lights can be especially useful for late-night studying, or if a student shares a room with someone else who may not be doing schoolwork at the same time. If possible, choose a space with lots of natural light, like by a window or outside. Natural lighting is often brighter and less harsh than fluorescent or yellow lighting, and having an outside view can also make a student more relaxed and happier as they do schoolwork. If using natural light isn’t possible, consider purchasing a light that simulates sunlight as an extra addition.
Personalize and Decorate
A study space doesn’t have to be boring or just functional; a warm, positive environment filled with things that make your student happy will make studying less of a bummer and more fun. A space that has character and is interesting will make them more likely to stay in their study space. Let your student personalize their space if possible: hang up photos, artwork, positive quotes, and posters on the walls; add blankets, cushions, and even stuffed animals or small toys to their space to make it cozier; consider lighting a candle or hanging string lights to increase warmth and relaxation. While having too many fun items around can lead to distraction, a good study space should be one that uplifts a student and doesn’t make learning feel like a drag. Bright colors, cozy items, and inspirational decor will help your student feel good, increase confidence and make them more productive!
Written By: Christina Avery