Grades 10-12: Tips for Supporting Learning at Home

How to help your teenagers get the most out of remote education

uring the coronavirus crisis, parents have suddenly been thrust into the role of managing the education of their children. What exactly this looks like will depend on your child’s age as well as their individual learning profile. Still, there are a few guidelines and principles that can be helpful for any parent supporting a grade 10-12 learner at home.

How do students in grades 10-12 learn?

High school is a critical period for adolescents to develop the necessary skills for whatever paths they choose in their transitions to adulthood. They learn to become independent thinkers as they apply knowledge from the classroom to real-life scenarios. They continue to build on their primary education across subjects by learning how to:

  • Read and think critically
  • Write research papers
  • Give oral presentations
  • Communicate in foreign languages
  • Understand that problems can be solved in multiple ways

Adolescents are exposed to more in-depth topics across a variety of disciplines. Their foundational skills of reading and writing are heavily emphasized in all content areas. They are expected to read and comprehend material independently while comparing and contrasting different themes. Writing tasks rely less on summarizing the information and more on generating and organizing personal thoughts to present an informed opinion.

As they tackle new material, adolescents often benefit from chunking information into smaller pieces and working at a flexible pace to gain mastery. Access to a variety of resources —including visual and/or audio files, charts, graphs and hard copies of material — will increase engagement.

Lastly, adolescents require opportunities for social-emotional learning. They take pride in achieving independence and maintaining their social relationships. During this period of social distancing, it will be crucial to provide as many opportunities as possible to help teens feel connected to their friends.

How should parents work with teachers of students in grades 10-12?

It will be important for both parents and high school students to be in contact with teachers, guidance counselors and other school staff. Use this opportunity to teach your adolescent how to advocate for their needs, especially as they advance to college or work. Some topics you and your high schooler may discuss with the teacher and relevant staff include:

  • How to access online resources and materials for class
  • Potential changes to remaining coursework, assignments and exams
  • How grades will be calculated or adjusted
  • Opportunities for remote tutoring or individual support
  • Feedback specific to the student’s work and level of engagement
  • Status of final exams, college entrance exams, AP exams or Regents exams
  • Information about scholarships for college
  • Status of previously scheduled events

How can parents best support students in grades 10-12?

While teenagers crave independence, parents can still offer their support and guidance in a number of ways:

  • Stick to a schedule. Establish a daily routine with them to emphasize that schoolwork remains a priority. Set clear expectations for when schoolwork is to be completed and when preferred activities will become available. For example, you and your child might agree that they can play video games after 5 pm if all daily assignments are finished by then.
  • Set up an effective workspace. Help your adolescent set up the materials they need for remote learning. This includes the proper technology, such as a laptop or tablet, as well as a quiet, distraction-free part of the home. Headphones can be useful to minimize external noise. Help them determine how they will be keeping track of assignments, due dates and exams, such as in a planner or electronic calendar.
  • Support executive functioning. Discuss with your adolescent what your level of engagement will be throughout the remote learning period. Your student may need reminders to start assignments, complete work on time, break larger tasks down into smaller parts or develop efficient study skills. Stress that the practical skills teens are learning in school now (planning ahead, meeting deadlines) will help them succeed in college and the work world.
  • Set clear boundaries. When it comes to homework, offer support and guidance, answer questions, help explain instructions and review final work as needed. But resist the urge to provide adolescents with the correct answers or complete assignments on their behalf. What is most beneficial to teens is teaching and modeling organizational and problem-solving skills to facilitate a level of independence. Above all, offer encouragement as they, too, are adapting to this novel and unique environment.
  • Build independence. When you can, provide your teenager with just enough support that they can master the task at hand. Then, reduce support gradually. If your teen wants you to stop reminding them about doing their work, agree that you will not provide any reminders as long as they show you that they completed their work each day. If they can manage this for a while, gradually decrease the number of days you check their work. If you find yourself being expected to heavily edit essays or assignments, let your teen know that you will proofread, but that you will only mark the sentences that they need to review. After they begin proofreading more carefully on their own, you can move on to providing general comments only.

What’s the best schedule for students in grades 10-12?

First off, know that there’s no right answer here — it’s important to be realistic about what you and your family can manage right now, and that likely won’t be sticking to a full schedule every day. Work with your adolescent to create a realistic schedule for getting work done in specific, though somewhat flexible, time frames. Consider potential factors that may interfere with efficiently completing work (for instance, sharing a laptop with a sibling) and identify alternative solutions. Some teachers may have live lessons in which students will have to log onto a computer at specific times. Others may post videos or other materials for students to work on at their own pace. It is recommended that students spend approximately 30 minutes per class doing work each day. Schedules should also allot time for daily lunch, exercise and other breaks as needed.

It’s also important for teens to have regular periods of time in which they can virtually socialize with their peers. These virtual hangouts can be incorporated into their schedules (maybe at lunch time, for instance) to ensure that they get plenty of time to connect with friends and classmates.

Lastly, providing a consistent and nurturing environment is important for teenage development. This includes fostering healthy habits for sleep, nutrition, exercise, and self-care. Teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. It is also recommended that teens get about 30 minutes of exercise 3 to 5 days per week while eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein.

What are some ways to address challenges with students in grades 10-12?

Right now, even adolescents who are typically on top of their work may be struggling to manage their academic demands without the usual support of their teachers and their regular schedules. As a result, your teen may appear more irritable and less motivated, but this may be because they are feeling overwhelmed or demoralized. It is typical for adolescents to resist adult guidance, but in this situation they may need more support from you. Here are some are ways that you can support your teen during these challenging times:

  • Take a cooperative stance. Your adolescent will be more likely to accept guidance if you approach them in a way that promotes open communication and negotiation. Allow them to make choices about how they will fulfill their responsibilities and offer them advice on how they can succeed. This does not mean that you have to relinquish your authority as a parent, but allowing them to be involved in the decision-making process communicates respect for their ideas and need for autonomy.
  • Observe their strengths. While your adolescent may be struggling in some areas, the current circumstances may also bring out strengths that you didn’t know they had. For instance, they could be excelling with the technological aspects of remote learning, or they may be independently creating new organizational systems for themselves. Take every opportunity to let them know that you notice these strengths and that you appreciate their efforts, however big or small.
  • Take their concerns seriously. Remember that what may seem trivial to you could mean the world to your teen. They may be anxious about maintaining friendships or worrying about their future. Don’t downplay the importance of these concerns to make your teen feel better. Instead, take time to hear out their concerns and give validating statements such as, “I know you are anxious about losing your friends, and I understand how much that is weighing on you.”
  • Recalibrate your expectations. It is important to be realistic about how much your child can accomplish while learning remotely. Don’t assume that if your teen is not doing something that they used to do well it’s because they don’t want to. You may see that your teen has difficulty getting started or organizing their work, but this may be because they are missing the structure and cues that they relied on in the classroom. Sit with them and learn about what’s not going well and what they are having trouble with. Aim to give just enough support for them to be successful and guide them to generate their own solutions to problems.
  • Recognize and avoid recurring arguments. While you can expect some conflict with your teen, try to avoid recurring arguments about the same problem. Arguing about the same thing signals that you are expecting your teen to do something that is too difficult for them or that they are strongly opposed to doing. If the task is too difficult for them, work with your teen to break the task down to more manageable sub-tasks. When a teen is simply averse to doing something that is not difficult for them, involve them in a conversation about how they may overcome their discomfort, and reward them when you see that they are taking small actions towards the task, like sitting down at their desk to start their homework.