How can students succeed in the virtual classroom?

School looks different for just about everyone this year. And as with any sort of change, the transition this year from in-person classes to virtual instruction taken from home comes with challenges for teachers, parents and students.

The Hinsdale Public Library stepped in to help Monday with the virtual program "Teen Success at Home - How to Boost Executive Functioning Skills." Parents of teens were invited to tune in to hear tips from Jenna Flink, tutoring director and coach at Nurturing Wisdom in Chicago, about how to help their students succeed.

Executive functioning skills, including organization, time management, study skills and note-taking, are essential to see a task or assignment through from start to finish.

"These things really are important to how students are doing in school," said Flink, who as a coach and tutor helps students develop these lifelong skills.

Flink suggested starting with a quiet, designated place to study. With everyone at home right now, that might be a challenge for some families. But Flink said that designating an area specifically for school work is important and helps the student organize their time.

The physical tools needed to do that work should also be kept in one place, Flink said. She said a single binder containing pocket folders for each class is a great way to keep things organized. She suggested that students do the same with their online documents, creating a document folder for each of their classes and creating labels to keep their emails in order.

"This will save them time digging around in their inbox every time," Flink said, and will reduce anxiety.

Next, Flink suggested tools for organizing the student's time. Classes are likely scheduled. But for those that are asynchronous, Flink suggested setting a time when the student will tune in to the day's instruction. The student's schedule should also include time for homework and to study each subject outside of class time.

Setting a schedule gives the student a sense of control, Flink said, and gives them ownership over their work and their success.

"The goal is to create an order that students do things in," she said.

This method also applies to long-term projects, which for some students can seem daunting. By breaking large or long-term projects into scheduled steps, students can stay on track and avoid procrastination.

Work is important, but so are breaks, which Flink said should also be scheduled into a student's day. A good guideline, she said, is 25 minutes of study time followed by five minutes spent doing something outside the study space. After four 30-minute cycles, the student should take a longer break.

Because students are getting so much school-related screen time, Flink said students should be encouraged to spend their breaks doing something that doesn't involve the computer.

Flink encouraged parents to be patient with their students as they learn the skills needed to learn in a new environment. She said parents can help by modeling the behavior they want to see in their children.

- by Sandy Illian Bosch

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean