Distance and hybrid learning

3 ways teachers (and parents) can support learning at home

No one was quite prepared for the way the COVID-19 pandemic would disrupt the school year, so it’s normal right now to be asking yourself – how can I set my students up to be successful while learning from home?

First of all, it’s important to understand that distance learning can absolutely facilitate academic success. In fact, a meta-study from the Department of Education concluded: “Students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.”

That said, students may not achieve the same positive effects if they’re distracted, confused, or cut off from needed learning resources, so it’s important to approach distance learning in a strategic way. Here are a few tips teachers can implement, or share with their students’ caregivers, for making the most of this situation:

1. Stick to a schedule.

When it comes to the day’s schedule, it’s not a good idea to “wing it.” It’s all too easy for a morning activity to bleed into the afternoon, and by the end of the week, your students haven’t accomplished all (or any) of their original goals.

It’s a great idea to help your students stay on track by setting a clear schedule and daily routine. Keep in mind, you do not need to fill all eight hours with schoolwork. In fact, young homeschooled students typically spend an average of only two to three hours on academic lessons. For high school students, learning time should fall in the six- to seven-hour range.

Your schedule may include:

  • Learning time. Block in enough academic study time to cover students’ lessons, based on their grade level.
  • Quiet time. Especially if your children are younger, you may find you need to block in an hour of quiet time for your own benefit as much as the students’. During this time, younger kids can nap while older ones read, write, or draw. Whatever activity they choose during this time should be done without using screens.
  • Recess. Children of all ages need physical activity to recharge, so build in an hour or so of free time in the day and encourage your students to entertain themselves by talking a walk, riding a bike, or even doing indoor physical activities like jumping jacks, push-ups, or even dancing.
  • Flex time. Things don’t always go according to plan, so build in an hour of flex time for students to continue their lessons, start on their homework, work on a social emotional lesson (see #3), or engage in a genius hour or STEAM project. Parents can consider joining a STEAM subscription service like KiwiCo or Creation Crate, but there are also many STEAM projects parents and kids can do using household objects. Check out our STEM Pinterest board for inspiration.
  • Homework time. We recommend building in a study hall hour to give students time for independent work, including completing assignments and asking questions.
2. Leverage technology to bring the classroom to kids.

Teachers can facilitate better distance learning by hosting class virtually for “e-learning,” or setting up “office hours” for students to ask questions. Typical remote learning solutions include:

  • A video conferencing platform, such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Microsoft Teams. If your district uses Clever, you currently have free access to premium Zoom video conferencing. Take a look at the Lenovo Distance Collaboration and Learning Toolkit to learn about other free options.
  • A remote or cloud-based classroom management solution, such as LanSchool Air, through which students and teachers can message each other, teachers can push websites to all students to make sure everyone is on the same page, and teachers can view students’ screens to check progress.

To help make distance learning easier, we’re offering complimentary licenses of LanSchool Air through July 1, 2020.

3. Don’t neglect social emotional lessons.

One of the most important things you can do for students right now is to continue supporting them emotionally, especially as social isolation continues over the coming weeks. If possible, it’s a great idea to have a daily wrap-up meeting with students to talk about how they’re feeling.

Here are a few ways to encourage social emotional growth during isolation:

  • Facilitate daily journaling of students’ thoughts and feelings. Students may or may not want to discuss their emotions, but it’s important they’re acknowledging them (even if just to themselves). For younger students that are still learning to write, you can encourage reflection by asking them to draw a picture of something that happened during the day.
  • Ask students to make a list of 10 things they can do to help someone in their family. Ideally, they’ll take the next step and fulfill some of those items.
  • Have students write a kind note to someone in their family or to another student.

Bonus Tip: Turn togetherness into learning opportunities.

Encourage your students’ parents to view these weeks together at home as an experience they will all remember for the rest of their lives – they should do what they need to in order to care of themselves, but also enjoy their time as a family. Parents who homeschool full time often report working lessons into their everyday activities wherever they can. This may mean:

  • Using baking as an opportunity to work on fractions and other math skills.
  • Asking students to write a report on the movie they just watched.
  • Drawing a rough map of their neighborhood as they go for a walk.

Your job as an educator may look different right now, but as you know, it’s never been more important to stay connected to your students. We’d love to hear from you — how are you keeping students motivated, on track, mentally healthy, and inspired as you teach remotely? Share your ideas with us on Twitter by tagging @LanSchool.

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