Over my years of teaching, I found one thing to be true, my students learned better if I could keep their attention and make learning fun at the same time. I have also found this to be true in homeschooling my own children.
One way of accomplishing this goal of keeping lessons fun and motivating is to combine learning with games or activities.
Here are 4 Examples:
Motivation Piece by Piece
Chutes and Ladders, puzzles, playdough, and building games such as Jenga work well to motivate the learner to complete a task. For instance, if you are using a puzzle, have your learner answer 1-3 questions. After completing the questions, allow him/her to have some pieces of the puzzle. Therefore, when the child has completed the lesson, the puzzle will also be completed.
This activity is a great way to use those games and puzzles that have been hiding in your closet. You can use any game your child is interested in such as Battleship, UNO, Kerplunk, Sorry, Connect 4, Perfection, building circuits, and LEGOS.
Build Focus Through Interest-Based Activities
It is best to use this technique when your student is confronted with a challenging activity. Not only do we use this technique at home, but my daughter’s therapists also use this technique to keep my daughter focused during her therapy sessions.
One way my daughter’s focus can be enhanced is if she is allowed to build a Jenga tower. She actually eagerly completes any difficult activities she is given so she can, in turn, build her tower. While in therapy, my daughter completes her articulation exercises at the same time she is completing a pattern with her Jenga blocks. In the teaching world, this is a win-win because the child’s focus causes learning to happen quicker and overall the learning process is seen as fun and engaging.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to use things that motivate your child while instructing him/her. If your learner loves to roll playdough, use that. If he likes to build towers and then knock them over, then use that. If she wants a sticker every time her work in done, use that.
When you use motivators you are not bribing your child to do school, you are instead giving them an incentive. Some children are very incentive driven, so if that is your child use that bend to motivate learning.
Set Clear Expectations
When you set your expectations out front with a clear directive, using “if/then” statements, your child will be less likely to expect any rewards before his/her tasks are completed. For instance, if you are using blocks as your motivator, tell your child that “if” he answers three questions “then” he will earn three blocks.
Depending upon the age of your child, his/her cognitive understanding, the motivation tool you are using, and the type of task you are asking your child to complete, you can change the rules and rewards to make learning more fun and motivational. Break down the puzzle or game into little chunks you are teaching your learner delayed gratification.
An Added Bonus
As you practice these techniques your student will also be developing two very important life skills, delayed gratification and the desire to be a lifelong learner. These bigger picture goals for any child are always worth the work, but isn’t it great that along the way they actually work to increase day to day learning as well?