During this time of uncertainly and unprecedented changes to our daily lives, it’s important for educators and families to support learners, and one another, in navigating the new educational landscape they’ve been faced with rather suddenly. Many stakeholders are feeling apprehensive and unprepared to meet the challenges of transitioning to remote learning with minimal time to prepare for this substantial life change. Below please find some tips for support to help make learning at home impactful and enjoyable for all!
RELATIONSHIPS: Relationships are the backbone of high-quality teaching. Therefore, continue nurturing established relationships with students during this monumental change to the normal learning environment and keep in mind that some students may be feeling isolated and disconnected from their teachers and peers. Some sample strategies include using students’ names more frequently during online group discussions to help them feel heard, use video chats to increase opportunities for face to face interactions, hold virtual office hours for checking in at planned times to see how students are doing learning at home or leave that time open for students and/or parents to contact you, provide support to those who seem to be struggling, and make learning experiences fun and engaging. Of course, that may be a very tall order, but will be worth the effort. Students already may be missing your voice, personality, your constant encouragement, especially since the transition was rather sudden. There wasn’t much, if any, time to prepare students (or yourselves) for working out the technological logistics and protocols necessary for successful online learning. Do the best you can to help keep your students remain calm and confident in their abilities to succeed in the new learning environment, even if your own confidence may be wavering a bit at the moment. You can do this!
CLIMATE: Establish a welcoming remote classroom climate, just as when prepping for the start of a new school year. Consider extending as many established routines as possible into the online learning environment, particularly the need to use respectful language during discussions. Without being able to read the facial expressions and body language of others as during in person interactions in school, we can rely only on our words to communicate unless video chat components, such as Google Meet are included. Learners may need guidance with developing online communion skills.
Provide very clear, simple instructions, preferably via video clips or a voice narrated PowerPoint slide or document.
Explain how feedback will be delivered and try to make your comments to students individualized and very specific using growth mindset language to convey your support by communicating how they can work to improve.
Check in with students often to see how they are experiencing the new online learning environment and encourage children to ask questions.
Make it fun! The technological logistics of working out the procedural pieces of managing virtual learning experiences need to be combined with effective teaching techniques. Carefully reflect on your instructional strategies and try to plan learning experiences that will promote student engagement, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and use of creativity.
Remember that, just as in your daily in person classroom teaching, not every student will learn concepts taught the same way remotely or even on the same day! Why not Infuse the arts into daily learning activities and/or assessments (students submitting videos of reader’s theater scripts and performances with their families of their favorite texts, role playing skits, songs, dances, debates, visual arts creations) to give all types of students different opportunities to demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills learned?
Consider keeping things simple at first as we all find our way during this time of transition and try to remember that remote learning provides a unique opportunity for emphasis on real life connections to prior knowledge and curricular concepts to be taught online. The following graphic depicts how some schools teach academic content by content area in comparison to the interdisciplinary nature of how children experience learning in their daily lives outside of school. New learning environments will require a shift in teaching strategies. If interested in implementing innovative instructional strategies to bring learning to life at home during this transition, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for ideas!
SELF-CARE: We know that you cannot pour from an empty glass, so try to make a conscious effort to nourish yourself the best that you can with good restorative sleep and beneficial nutritional choices, staying connected with family and friends, use of mindfulness techniques, and incorporating as much daily movement as you can manage. Focus on the positives and remember music and laughter are powerful healers during trying times…sing, dance, and smile to keep your spirits up!
Be kind to yourself! You are by no means expected to be an expert on remote learning techniques (yet!) so give yourself credit for embracing this sudden change, well into the established flow of the school year, a time at which beginning new routines can be more difficult, and celebrate each small victory. Focusing on what’s working and expanding on those factors will lead to even more successful online learning elements as you grow in your newly defined role. Reach out for support for guidance on things that don’t seem to be going well.
You may be realizing that virtual learning can take longer, at first, than when teaching in person, so be gentle with yourself if you are struggling as we tend to be our own worst critics. We’re all in this together and accept that there may be some speedbumps along the way. Mistakes help us grow!
Ask questions about anything you might feel unsure about in your new online learning environment through a conversation, a quick note, text, email, or phone call to someone you think will know how to help.
Make suggestions if you have ideas about how to make learning at home work best for you and more fun (working in your pajamas, choosing the books you’d like to read, suggesting topics you’re interested in learning more about, helping to create the breakfast/lunch menu/snack options, brainstorm fun free time activities).
Talk about “glows” (things you’re proud of accomplishing while learning at home) and “grows” (things you’d like to work on) with your family each day or at the end of the week, perhaps during a meal, snack time, or bedtime. Consider using a journal to writing about how they made you feel to develop your writing skills.
Practice your literacy skills by writing a letter or email to your family members or friends to check in with them while they have to stay at home just like you do.
Schedule a video call to share some or all of a book you’ve been reading to practice your reading skills or simply to enjoy reading together. Or, read to a favorite pet, stuffed animal or toy and submit a video to your teacher!
With permission, visit www.scholastic.com/learnathome or khanacademy.com for help with topics you are learning about or for practice with things you are really interested in. You can also take some virtual field trips online with your family or friends, such as visiting the San Diego Zoo and watching the live Zoo Cams or exploring your favorite museum’s virtual exhibits.
Use the links your teachers may have provided for exercise ideas. Go Noodle Red Carpet Exercise.
Ask your family to help you search for free video storybooks to enjoy an online read aloud or to allow you to help with cooking at home to practice your math skills!
Customize your child’s workplace and involve them in the design of the learning space.
Gratitude bowl (fold up a note or tie it into a scroll and place in the gratitude bowl) every time someone in your home experiences something they are grateful for about learning at home. When it’s finally time to return to school, read through each one with your family to remind each other of the positives you’ve experienced through learning at home during this unique time. Some might be humorous!
Enjoy the extra time at home with children for bonding while school and extracurricular activities are paused and talk about important things that busy schedules don’t usually afford create time for. Be present!
Establish some remote learning procedures as children are very accustomed to adhering to those types of parameters at school, such as what to do when you have to attend to spontaneous work business from home while you’re in the middle of interacting with your child at home. Consider use of an enrichment or remediation activity bin or have a site such as starfall.com, sciencejournalforkids.org, khanacademy.org, or brainpop.com cued up on a tablet or laptop for children to work on while you handle the work task. The same could apply to guardians who already work at home or those managing a demanding household full time. Having a system in place for how to handle interruptions, as teachers normally need to do in their classrooms at school, can be helpful. Try to aim for a meaningful task that feels authentic to your child. Other ideas are having a signal (a stuffed animal mascot you hold up or a clapping signal to indicate it’s time for a brief independent task (having child write out ideas for lunch options on index cards for next week and the corresponding groceries that will be needed to prepare them or writing riddles to pose to the family at dinnertime, etc). Pleasure reading, enjoying a text for the pleasure of reading and not tied to an assignment, is a very meaningful activity for this purpose as well.
Check in regularly to ask your child for feedback on how things are going and ask for suggestions for changes if necessary. Work together with your child to ensure the best transition possible to make learning at home effective.
Leftbrainbuddha.com meditationdojo.com mindsetworks.com shambaylakids.com KidsYogaStories.com mindbodygreen.com pbskids.org kidsknowit.com scholastic.com/learnathome Littlefloweryoga.com sleepbeditations.com mamarooyoga.com shambalakids.com GoZen.com Khanacademy.com Scholastic.com/learn at home Yourtherapyressource.com
Enhancement of home-school partnerships and empowering learners to become more self-regulated and skilled in their own social and emotional learning can be positive outcomes of the sudden shift to remote learning due to the current global health crisis.
Students with special needs might benefit from more video interaction to help establish continuity of connection with educators during the transition and develop the structure necessary for the new remote learning scenarios. Maintaining the special education services learners been receiving throughout the year thus far in school from support personnel as per their individualized educational plan (IEP), remotely, is crucial.
Caring is central to shaping relationships that are meaningful, supportive, rewarding, and productive. I’ve always said that caring teachers are absolute rock stars and should be treated with the respect and admiration that our society affords to celebrities, especially compensation for the never-ending hard work they contribute toward educating the next generation! The current, sudden switch to remote learning is yet another example of how great teachers continually rise to the occasion in order to help learners thrive. It’s an absolute calling that, hopefully, many will now realize is not for the faint of heart and I thank my fellow educators for their extraordinary efforts!
Let’s take a leap of faith together to support one another through transitioning to remote learning in order to help children thrive during uncertain times!
Please contact me for guidance and practical strategies!
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