Engaging students in learning can sometimes be a challenge for educators. Even with all the resources in the world at their disposal, if they aren't interested in or engaged with their studies, then they are of minimal use. Lack of engagement can be a particular issue amongst vulnerable students or young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), who can find it difficult to focus on the either the specific task in front of them, or simply their education more generally.
This challenge has been made greater still due to the Covid-19 outbreak, causing huge disruption not only to their learning experience, but their lives more widely. This in turn, has placed even greater significance on ensuring their return to education this term is handled sensitively and in a way that allows us to really reignite the spark between students and their studies.
Here are some top tips as to how we can reengage these children and young people with their studies, and ensure they rediscover a love for education:
Do not expect too much too soon
When welcoming students back into the classroom, whether virtually or physically, it is important to remember that naturally, it will take some time for them to settle back in. This applies to all students, but particularly vulnerable students so extra support and reassurance is important in the initial stages. Don't give them tests in the first day or week back, instead, recognise they are returning to a 'new environment', so will need space and time to adjust and feel comfortable. Encouraging them to learn in the way they feel most comfortable with will help reignite the spark - for example, consider offering a mix of hands-on, physical activities and experiments, as well as providing interactive and gamified content for those who prefer to work in an online environment.
The majority of students will have likely done very little learning during lockdown, and those who have, will have likely been studying individually by reading or working through online content, therefore it is important to get them interacting with both their peers and staff. Returning to education after long periods off can be daunting, therefore interacting and communicating with classmates will help put them at ease and allow them to relax. It will also help them to realise they are not alone, and their classmates and staff members are there to support them every step of the way. It may be a good idea to task students with group activities that get them working together, as often it is the case that enthusiasm and creative solutions are uncovered when you're bouncing ideas off one another!
Build on previous knowledge
It's best to not welcome students back with a brand-new complicated topic, as it will only make them uneasy and may cause anxiety if they are struggling to pick up a concept straight away. Therefore, start with a subject matter that is easily relatable and perhaps one they have covered before. This way you know students will be able to accomplish whatever challenge you set them, which in turn will build their confidence and make them feel at ease with being back in their learning environment. Then, by the time it comes to tackling new and challenging topics, students will feel confident about embracing them.
It's no secret that personalising content to individual students helps them to not only feel integrated in their learning, but also makes them aware of the progress they are achieving, which in turn boosts their confidence. Personalised learning also puts each individual student at the heart of their own education; the challenges they are set, are in a format which matches how they work best, whether that be watching a video or working through an interactive PowerPoint. By tailoring the content to the individual student, you are helping generate their interest in the subject, as they are using a method of learning which suits them specifically.
For young people who have struggled to reengage with their education following the summer holidays or have found it particularly difficult due to the impacts of Covid-19, then Star SEND could be the perfect solution. Our flexible mentoring programs place students at the centre of their learning through a tailored approach. They are supported throughout their education from fully qualified mentors and provided with 1-1 assistance. All children deserve a high-quality education, and here at Star SEND Mentoring we are passionate about ensuring those who need extra support are able to receive it, whilst enjoying and engaging with their education at the same time.