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May 1, 2020

Senioritis in the Online Classroom

Senioritis is tough to combat in the best of years. Students are looking forward to celebrations like prom and graduation, and their thoughts are more likely to jump to college and post-graduation plans than their final assignments for the year.

But this year is tougher than ever. COVID-19 has interrupted many seniors’ plans, leaving them disappointed and less motivated than ever to finish their high school careers strong. Compounding the problem is the fact that many teachers are still figuring out online learning and don’t have their usual tools at their fingertips to help their students through this tough time.

In this article, we’ll discuss common issues of senioritis and how to keep your students on track in an online setting.

Signs of Senioritis

Whether you’re teaching in a traditional classroom or via videoconferencing, the symptoms of senioritis are the same. Here are some behaviors to look out for:

  • Restlessness:Seniors’ minds are full of thoughts of the future, and understandably so. Beginning college or a new job requires a great deal of preparation, and it can be tempting for students to get caught up thinking about what’s next and not be able to focus on their schoolwork.
  • Boredom: Seniors have been in school for 13 years, and even with the best teachers, the same old subjects can start to feel dry, particularly when the promise of new experiences is on the horizon.
  • Lack of motivation: Especially once they’ve received college acceptance letters, some seniors feel uninspired to complete their coursework. The usual rewards of earning an A or contributing to a class discussion may not feel as motivating, as students mistakenly believe their work in high school is finished.

Maintaining Seniors’ Focus in the Online Classroom

Although your seniors likely spend a great deal of their free time online, distance learning is a new experience for them, just as it is for you. Like most of us, seniors are probably feeling stir crazy and having trouble focusing, so lecturing on a webcam is likely not going to hold their attention for long. Here are some instructional strategies you can use to help keep them engaged online:

  • Shorten lectures and focus on discussion-based learning. It’s hard to keep students engaged when they’re sitting in front of a computer screen. Distractions abound, both digital and otherwise. That’s why it’s important to get them involved at every opportunity. Now is the time to dust off Socratic questions and inquiry-based projects instead of counting on students to listen for long periods of time.
  • Call your students. With social distancing protocols, everyone is feeling a little disconnected. This is especially true for teachers and their students, as you don’t have your usual touchpoints of greeting students at the door, walking around the classroom, and easily taking students’ individual questions. That’s why it’s worth your time to call or videoconference students one-on-one to give them time to ask questions, share any difficulties, and just be reminded that you’re available. Plus, it’s a good opportunity to curb students’ distractions and keep them alert throughout the day since they know you could call anytime.
  • Use discussion forums. Meeting and talking in real time have many benefits, but discussion forums have a place in the online classroom as well. Discussion forums allow students to slow down, digest information, and synthesize what they’ve been learning into meaningful, original discussion. Plus, writing forum posts helps students flex their writing and rhetorical muscles, both of which they’ll need regardless of what they choose for a college major or career.
  • Use videos. Videos can be a great tool in the fight to keep students’ attention. Due to their multimedia nature, videos can be more immediately appealing and engaging for students than, say, reading assignments. Consider assigning students to watch films or educational videos, and then follow up with questions and guided discussions on the topics.
  • Continue giving assessments. Although students may cringe at the thought of taking a summative assessment, doing so will force them to review and engage with material for better retention. Formative assessments are also more important than ever now that you can’t easily watch students’ faces to see if they’re understanding. Many online platforms have built-in survey software to help you poll students to see if they’re comprehending the topic at hand. For example, if you’re using Microsoft Teams to meet as a class, you can use Microsoft Forms to easily integrate check-for-understanding quizzes.

Keeping an Eye on College

Most of your seniors are college bound, but the pandemic has upended the typical college selection and admission process. Many colleges are closed, leaving prospective students unable to visit campuses, classrooms, and dorms to get prepared and make their final decisions.

To help high schoolers in this difficult time, several colleges have created virtual campus tours and COVID-19 guides to help them get to know their future schools.

Cappex has compiled links to colleges’ virtual tours and answers to common questions like whether they’re hosting in-person or online events. Make sure to share this link with your students and their parents.

Tools for Curbing Senioritis in the Online Classroom

In addition to the strategies above, here are some apps and online tools you can use to help your students stay focused, organized, and successful through the end of the year:

  • Focus Booster: Working from home can present many challenges, one of which is staying focused and self-motivated. Focus Booster is an app that can help students break work down into manageable chunks of time, understand how they’re using their time, and become more productive.
  • Microsoft Teams: Part of Office 365, Microsoft Teams offers a robust suite of features for the classroom, including chat, activity logs, file-sharing, and other tools. Whether you use Teams, Zoom, or another meeting platform, it is invaluable to allow students to see your face and talk in real time.
  • Immersive Reader: Immersive Reader is another Microsoft tool that helps students by reading messages and posts aloud, among other features. As with videos, Immersive Reader creates a multimedia experience that will help students stay focused on assignments.
  • Google Classroom: Google Classroom is an interface tool that allows you to create individual or group assignments for students, as well as give grades and feedback in real time. Google Classrooms can be a great time-saver for differentiating assignments and organizing your students’ grades and work online.

More Tools for Engaging Students Online

COVID-19 has upended all of our lives. High school seniors already struggle with the end of the school year, and teachers are having a more challenging time than ever trying to help them curb senioritis through distance education. However, if you use some of these tips, you’ll be able to keep them on track to finish the year strong and enter the next phase of their lives on the right foot.


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