• Melissa Horowitz, LCSW

Remote Learning: How to Create an Effective Learning Space and Establish Academic Goals

As we continue to move into the new academic school year, we find ourselves facing a unique set of challenges due to the global pandemic. Schools have developed different options for learning this year, including in-person instruction, remote learning, or a hybrid model of the two. Many children and teens are struggling with how to complete their schoolwork and stay focused while learning remotely, while parents are struggling with how to support their child in feeling comfortable and confident learning in their home.


Here are some tips and tricks for how to create an effective remote learning space for your child:

  • Choose the location of the learning space based on your child’s preferences and strengths – Ask your child where they think they can learn best in the home. Perhaps they have a favorite learning space they utilized last school year during remote learning, or maybe they know that where they worked last year was not the best place for remote learning.

  • Consistency is key – Similarly to how your child would go to the same classroom and desk when they are at school, they can go to the same learning space when they are at home. When a specific space within the home is associated with learning, children realize that different areas serve different purposes. For example, a remote learning space is meant for academics, while a bed is meant for relaxation. Consistency also allows for the establishment of routine and structure, two concepts that are important for children.

  • Decrease distractions – Encourage your child to turn their electronic devices (that are not being used for school) on airplane mode or completely off during the duration of the school day. Children can also use sound machines or headphones to block out distracting noises from outside and within the home.

  • If there is more than one child participating in remote learning, try to separate their learning spaces by using books, folder dividers, or plants. Each child can also have their own designated bin or cubby for their academic work and supplies.

  • Form a space that comfortable and conducive for learning – A good chair, bright lighting, and a desk with a flat surface (best for completing writing exercises and holding a computer and books) are all physical elements of learning that will support your child in completing their academic work at their remote learning space. You can also create a cozy reading corner or fort filled with pillows and books – this special space can encourage independent reading and foster literacy skills.

  • Create a space where school supplies are easily accessible – When a computer, books, paper, pens, and markers are located at or nearby the remote learning space, your child will not have to continuously leave the space to obtain their needed materials.

  • Encourage brain breaks and movement – Physical activity is needed throughout the day. Create mason jars filled with brain break activities that are written on popsicle sticks, go on a scavenger hunt for rhyming words and science topics (or any topic related to what your child is learning!), or participate in jumping jack math facts!

  • Personalize the remote learning space – When at school, children typically have a name label on their desk that is written in a fun pattern, and they also have their own cubby or shelf space. Hang artwork, pictures, and decorations that support the creation of a cool, motivating, and encouraging learning space that is individualized.

Once an effective remote learning space is created, you can speak with your child about their thoughts and feelings regarding their academic experiences. It is important to maintain open communication within the family and to also create goals in relation to academic achievement. Here are some tips and tricks for how to engage your child in an open conversation about their thoughts and feelings pertaining to remote learning, and how to create and establish goals:

  • Collaborate when creating goals – Talk openly with your child about their own academic goals. When we engage children in the goal-setting process, they experience and feel a sense of autonomy and ownership; children then also see an increased value in achieving their academic goals. The goals discussed and created will be based on their strengths, academic needs, and age. Here are some age-specific examples for how to speak with your child about their goals:

  • Elementary school – Discuss and create short-term goals. Offer your child specific choices for what they would like to prioritize. For example, if your child needs to learn multiplication facts and five new vocabulary words by the end of the week, ask them which task they would like to focus on first.

  • Middle school – Focus on creating long-term goals and break those goals into smaller parts. For example, you can ask your child, “What should be accomplished by the end of the week? How can we set you up for success and make sure you will get there?”

  • High school – Create long- term goals and explore how your child will end up accomplishing those goals. For example, you can ask your child, “What units in math do you need to learn? What do you need to do to study effectively? How can I best support you?”

  • Set SMART goals – The goals created should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. SMART goals set your child up for success!

  • Utilize positive reinforcement when goals are achieved – Offer specific praise when your child accomplishes a goal, give them a token or sticker, or engage in an activity together such as playing a board game or reading a book. You can also create a reward system: each time your child completes a goal, they collect a token or item (cotton balls, pom-poms, coins, popsicle sticks; anything that is available!). When your child reaches a higher and pre-determined number of that item, they can obtain a larger reward. The most important thing to remember about positive reinforcement is that the reinforcement provided is meaningful to your child and encourages continuation of the desired behavior.

  • Take time to consistently reflect – Continue to ask your child what they like, do not like, what is helpful and what is unhelpful about their remote learning space and goals. You can also ask specific questions such as, “What was difficult about this assignment? What was easier about this assignment? What tools did you have and use that made you feel successful?”

  • Revise goals that are not achieved – Discuss what your child can do if they do not achieve their goals. Remember, remote learning is a new and challenging experience for many of us, so we can expect to hit some bumps along the way! Be open to making adjustments and try to remain flexible and patient!

If you or someone in your family is struggling with remote learning, you are not alone! We are continuing to provide psychotherapy services here at Liz Morrison Therapy via teletherapy – please do not hesitate to reach out for further support by calling 347-758-2985 or emailing Liz@LizMorrisonTherapy.com

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