How to encourage students to keep learning in the winter
Little girl outside in winter

Keeping students engaged in learning throughout the cold, dreary days of the winter can be a tall order for educators. The wintry weather, gray skies, and limited time to spend outside can be detrimental to their mood and their mental alertness, which can make learning even more difficult.

Teachers may not only experience their own winter-related lethargy, but they may also see their students experiencing some of the same lack of energy that often accompanies this time of year. This scenario can make engaging students a lot more challenging.

But all is not lost! There are ways for teachers to keep the minds of their students churning and learning and make the winter season feel a little more cheery than the weather might suggest.

Take part in outdoor winter sports and games

The winter isn't exactly the type of season that encourages spending great lengths of time outdoors, but with the right gear, there's little reason why kids shouldn't be outdoors playing. And what better way to get kids' minds active than learning through play!

For instance, give kids a basic yet fun lesson on physics by getting them to hypothesize and then test their predictions about the trajectory of a thrown snowball, or test out how long it would take for a glass of water to freeze based on the current outside temperature. You can also discuss the current weather conditions and how they would have played a key role in historical battles fought throughout the world during winter months.

Aside from actual structured games, you can simply take the kids for a quick stroll outdoors. If anything, the fresh air, natural sunlight, and activity will help keep students' minds primed for learning. There's plenty of research out there that suggests that physical activity can help strengthen the ability to focus, which can go a long way once you bring the kids back inside for their next lesson.

Give kids more independence in their learning

Reading and writing are staples of any learning environment. But perhaps students can be offered the opportunity to have a little more self-governance in what they read and the type of writing assignments they complete.

Consider giving your pupils the option to select the types of books they choose to read — within reason — rather than assign a specific book for them to read. Assign writing projects that also offer some wiggle room for choice. For instance, you may offer a handful of options and let the kids decide which assignments to take on.

Not only can a little autonomy help make learning a little more enjoyable for students, but it's also a great life lesson to teach the kids. After all, they'll eventually be required to make their own decisions as they get older, and giving them the opportunity to practice this when they're young can help.

Encourage independence

This is a big one in today's virtual learning environment. A good chunk of students these days are learning from home thanks to the ongoing health crisis. In this type of learning environment, students don't have the luxury of waltzing up to your desk whenever they have a question.

As such, it's important to help students develop a little more independence when working on their school-related tasks, regardless of what season you happen to be in.

To help your kids practice more independence with their learning, be sure to assign tasks that come with very clear and detailed instructions on how to complete them. If you're currently teaching remotely, you may be making yourself as available as humanly possible via virtual learning platforms, but you're not there in person.

To help students avoid becoming overwhelmed and frustrated, be sure to offer instructions that leave little room for confusion. Not only will this make things easier for your kids and help them develop a little more autonomy, but it will alleviate your stresses, too!

Take the classroom outside for a season-long project

No, we don't suggest that you set up desks, chairs, and a whiteboard in the middle of the snowy ground outside your school's walls. But there's no reason why some assignments that typically would have been done inside can't be taken outdoors, even amid the cold and snow.

Perhaps the easiest subject to educate about and conduct a lengthy assignment on would be within the sciences. Choose a certain spot on school grounds or even a short walk from the school's boundaries, or pick a tree to observe over time. Projects like these can help get students to become more engaged as they make their scientific observations over the weeks. From their observations, the kids can culminate their findings with the completion of a final year-end assignment.

Lisa Rennie has been working as a freelance writer for over a decade, crafting unique content aimed to educate Canadian consumers. Her constant state of curiosity and incessant need to get the answers to her never-ending questions serve her well as a content writer. In her spare time, Lisa enjoys trying her hand at exciting new recipes, snuggling with her pup, and reveling in the presence of her kids.

Lisa Rennie is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.
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