Motivating Students to Learn During Breaks: 20+ Tips & Resources

Many believe that learning occurs incidentally. Children will naturally learn by interacting with the world around them even if educators are not in the picture. Sometimes, that is true but I have found that as a facilitator and guide I can help motivate my students to learn in more challenging ways. Let’s face it, many of our students will be watching TV, playing video games, updating their social networks or texting their friends this holiday. They won’t think about the learning potential of these technologies unless we help guide them. And yes, I feel that is important because if not then many will tend to be couch potatoes and not choose to explore the world around them. Let me suggest some activities that will help you as an educator show your students learning happens anytime, anywhere and can be very fun and active! By the way, these activities are always optional for my students but I find even if they aren’t graded they complete a majority of them.

Slide Presentation

These ideas are outlined in the presentation below but I will explain them a bit more in this post.
Motivating Students to Keep Learning During Breaks

Make the Learning Resemble Video Games

I watched this incredible presentation from Paul Maglione where he outlined things we can learn and adopt from video games. His presentation inspired these thoughts of how we can try to make learning in our classes resemble the learning in video games:

  • It’s social- Sometimes you need a little help from your friends and often in video games this will be with several on social forums sharing tips or cheats; many games also have virtual worlds players can be a part of
  • It’s a representation of the world teens and kids want to be immersed in because it integrates movement, visuals, multimedia, popular music, graphics and more
  • It is goal-oriented- Aim to reach the next level; each level is more challenging, but achievable; and the learner must complete tasks
  • It teaches learning is all around- characters must collect items that help with the journey and must search for these all around them
  • It is a great analogy of what happens when we learn something new in that the learner discovers a new world each time a new level is achieved
  • It focuses on positive stress- yes learning is difficult but most learners are willing to invest several hours to complete tasks they enjoy or reach an outcome they want
  • It shows that failure is part of the journey- learners try again till they reach goals and are not punished with grades, they are allowed to try again with no penalty except the time invested
  • It focuses on the journey- in a video game, every kid can be a hero as long as they keep trying but in schools we punish kids if they stay too long on any level

Tips for Integrating Games into the Curriculum

Ways to integrate games into the curriculum during the break include:

  • Add suggested games by theme and topic to a wiki, blog, or website like I have done in my wiki, English Story Time
  • You will notice many of the activities for the kids involve online games and games that can be played in a room or outside.
  • You will also notice I encourage parents to play these games with their children. Engage parents by listing free events in the community or directing them to free publications with free coupons. In San Antonio, for example, some of our museums are free every Tuesday and we have the SA Kids publication that lists all the library free craft days.
  • For kids, you can find several games at the Kindersite
  • For teens to adults, get them to practice problem solving ways to improve the world by playing Evoke

Tips for Getting Your Curriculum to Resemble Game-based Learning

Make it social

  • Set up a class blog, wiki, Facebook group, Ning, or Edmodo site. Features include private chatting; creating profiles; uploading files, videos, and more; commenting, polling and embedding

Set-up tasks in an advent calendar

  • For each day your students are off they can click the calendar to find a new task worth points.
  • Sharon Hartle includes a PowerPoint advent calendar here that you can edit and customize
  • Use this template to create a calendar in PowerPoint
  • This post by Kelly Tenkely will help you create one through Glogster or Wix
  • Mix up the tasks to include various activities like visiting museum, attending a play, snapping a picture outside, or using an online web tool
  • Provide a points system where they can cash in later to collect prizes
  • Tasks could look something like this:

Mission: Snap a photo of graffiti you think could be art and tell us through an audio recording why you think it is art versus just graffiti.
What You’ll Need: Fotobabble App or visit
Points Worth: 10
Bonus Points: Post a short reflection in your blog for 5 more points.

More Ideas

  • Set-up a scavenger hunt. Do this easily through the SCVNGR hunt app for Android and iPhone where students win prizes for going places, completing tasks and checking in
  • Organize a global project! Chances are another school around the world is not on break and this is a great time to sync a meeting with time zones
  • Host weekly meetings through Google Hangouts (only 10 videos), Skype, Second Life virtual field trips, or other platforms
  • Let the students organize their own chat topics and times. You can do this by having students set-up a calendar and organize their own chats. They may want to have a chat for those interested in discussing poetry, another for music, another for a book club, and so forth. Determine student leaders in your class to lead and manage the discussion.

Upcoming Webinar Friday!

If you want to learn more about these ideas then join me Fri., Dec. 23rd, at 4pm EST (New York Time), 3pm Austin, TX, 1pm LA, 7pm Brasilia, 9pm London, 10pm Paris, 11pm Athens/Istanbul, Sat 8am Sydney time, and Sat. 6am Tokyo time for a free presentation, Motivating Learners to Use English During the Breaks

Try one of these tasks and see which motivate your students to keep learning during the holidays!

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How do you inspire your students to keep learning away from school?