The COVID-19 outbreak, which emerged in Wuhan, China and spread rapidly all over the world, has without a doubt affected the education sector as well as many other key sectors. As part of Turkey’s measures to combat the spread of the disease, all schools and universities across the country took everything online, switching to a virtual learning model starting March 23.
Consequently, children, more than anyone, have been facing difficulties in adapting to the alterations to our ways of life caused by the pandemic. The change of routine and staying at home all the time has also made it more difficult for some children to focus on a task and maintain their concentration, especially when it comes to online classes and schoolwork.
The Psychological Counseling Unit of Istanbul's Bilgi University recommends parents follow a three-step approach to help their children focus and concentrate
Dividing the focusing process into three parts – before the lesson, in-class listening and studying afterward – the counselors say it is essential that the children are in a quiet and calm environment without any disruptions. Creating a faux classroom and making sure the children have their pens and paper ready are also of great importance, as well as keeping mobile phones either on silent or completely turned off until after the lesson.
Pre-lesson research increases attention
According to the evaluations made in the online education model, experts found that it was especially important for children to be active during the lesson – active in the sense that they can visualize the information in their minds, produce questions and convey them to their instructor. Doing short preliminary research in the form of reading on the subject to be covered, either to learn new or refresh prior knowledge, ensures that children do not get bored while listening to the lesson. Children also need to take notes during class, in their own words.
If somehow they get distracted, parents should also encourage them to continue from where they left off and not let them say “I missed it anyway” and completely shut down.
Working in a comfortable environment
The first thing counselors recommend is that children set clear and achievable goals for the day. If parents notice that their children are really starting to disconnect and are daydreaming during study hours, then they could interrupt and coax them into doing some physical exercise for a mental break. Experts have underlined the importance of having a comfortable yet organized working and studying environment for children. They emphasized that their desks should not have any distractions that make it harder to stay focused and concentrate during lessons.
Some uninterrupted reading time
The newly coined phenomenon “coronaphobia” is affecting parents and their children deeply at home. Experts say it is important that parents try to keep their children from spending too much time on the internet, on their smartphones or watching TV, but that it is natural for there to be a rise in these hours compared to pre-pandemic times.
Professor Mesude Atay from the Department of Child Development of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Bilgi University suggests designated reading times and book reading activities to divide these uninterrupted hours online.
Stating that it can be very motivating for children to engage in storytelling, for example writing short films, acting them out with the family and sharing them with friends, Atay said: “They can even write a story or a chapter for a short novel every day. Parents working from a home office should also be working together, cooperating in all aspects. They should consider these days at home as a good opportunity to visit national and international art galleries, museums and libraries, most of which are available for free online.”