Think of the last leg of a race. You’re exhausted and you can see the end in sight. It is so tempting to slow down as student spring fever sets in and the motivation begins to dwindle. For kids, the fourth quarter feels a lot like this final leg.
Despite the fact that motivation naturally lessens in kids after spring break, it’s the time of the year when they likely have the most on their plates. Cumulative exams, standardized testing, final projects and papers, last-minute assignments: there is so much to get done!
Just like a race, the last quarter of the school year can completely impact the outcome.
So how do you keep kids motivated when it seems like they’ve checked out?
We put together a few tips and strategies that parents can employ during the fourth quarter to keep kids motivated and to finish strong.
1. Avoid long-term rewards
As you plan your summer activities, it may be tempting to tie your child’s academic performance to rewards during the summer, such as paying for grades or even a trip to Disney World. There’s definitely some merit in rewarding students for their grades, but the research tells us that when the reward is too far in the future or the task is too big (say getting all As), kids lose steam fast.
Instead of rewarding your child for grades or test scores, try offering smaller rewards for tasks that lead to those big results, like studying for the test or planning ahead for a big project. The reward doesn’t need to be an item like a toy or game, but a privilege the student can attain in the recent future, like going out with their friends on the weekend or an extra 30-minutes of video game time.
2. Help your child avoid student spring fever by planning ahead
Tell me if this situation sounds familiar:
It’s 9 PM and you are finally relaxing. You’ve poured yourself a glass of wine or a hot cup of tea and have your feet back watching the newest episode of your favorite TV show. In walks your child with a look of sheer panic across her face. Her big science fair project is due tomorrow and she completely forgot!
You jump up and together spend hours putting this thing together. You’re mad, tired, and annoyed at your child for her lack of planning. Planning ahead for a lot of kids is really tricky, which is why they often need help.
We recommend having one time a week, preferably Sunday nights, to plan ahead for the upcoming week.
- Spend this time mapping out upcoming tests and projects
- Break every item due into small chunks that you spread out throughout the week.
- For example, if you see that your daughter’s science fair project is due on Friday, you may have her break the project into small tasks that she can work on nightly to avoid last-minute chaos.
Sundays evenings are among the most requested times for our one-to-one tutoring and executive function coaching sessions because they help students set the tone for the upcoming week.
3. Keep things visual
One thing parents often tell me is they’ve become the parents they never wanted to be: nags. They say they feel like they have to give their child seventeen reminders before he actually does anything. It doesn’t feel good.
If you find yourself slipping into the nagging role try implementing verbal reminders. This can be done by just placing sticky notes or checklists in your student’s study area or by the front door, where they are sure to see them.
For example, if your student is frequently forgetting his homework at home, put a note next to his desk that says “homework in the homework folder.” Students always respond more positively to visual reminders than verbal ones.
4. Keep routines consistent and communication open
Students aren’t the only ones who lose steam as the school year comes to a close. Many times, parents themselves report checking out and not being as involved in their child’s academics. By the end of the year, many parents have loosened routines and decreased structure.
The routines that were set up at the beginning of the year, things like designated homework time or using a launching pad by the front door, have gone by the wayside. If you notice this happening, find one thing that worked well at the beginning of the school year. Try to focus on getting that one thing back in place. Consistent routines, all school year long, are really the biggest key to continual success.
5. Incorporate exercise and play into your afternoon routine
Every kid is a little different, but most students need about a half-hour break after school before they get started on their homework. This is enough time for kids to grab a snack and relax a bit.
A lot of kids are tempted to hit the couch and zone out playing a video game during this time. There’s nothing wrong with a 30-minute video game session, but this might not be the best time for it.
Instead, try to encourage some outdoor free play. The spring is a great time of year to enjoy the fresh air and some outdoor movement. Exercise is beneficial for most kids and can help prevent student spring fever.
A study published in the National Library of Medicine found that aerobic exercise for just 20-minutes before homework or learning can have the same positive impact on focus as a stimulant medication designed to treat ADHD.
Help to finish the school year strong
The fourth quarter is tough on students, teachers, and parents. There is so much to get done in such a short amount of time and with summer right around the corner, it’s easy to lose focus and steam. But by implementing just a few of the tips above, we promise you will see a real boost in motivation and in turn your child’s fourth-quarter grades.
If your child’s motivation is low and their grades are slipping, we can help them finish the school year strong and start the next school year with confidence. Click below to schedule a chat to learn how our one-to-one virtual tutors and executive function coaches can help motivate your child and prevent student spring fever with a personalized learning plan and accountability.