There’s a world of difference between dropping off a child first thing in the morning to a bustling and vibrant classroom versus ensuring the day’s Zoom links and access codes are ready to go.
The shift to distance learning due to coronavirus has been a massive change for kids, parents, and teachers alike. And while we’re eight weeks into this major change at the Rashi School, where I teach first grade, there’s been a lot of trial and error during the process.
I’m still finding ways to make learning by Zoom more enjoyable for everyone. Here are some of my top tips on how to make Zoom education more fun and productive. Even if the end of the school year is just around the corner, these are super-easy to instate — and, for better or worse, they may apply come September, as well.
1. DO set up an efficient work space.
Helping children establish an area at home where they can do their best work is important. In the classroom, it is the teachers’ responsibility to create spaces for children to learn and grow. Now, due to the rise of online learning, parents must help recreate these environments at home. Studies repeatedly show that students maintain focus and achieve greater learning when they have a defined and dedicated space.
2. DON’T use the video feature as a chance to be silly.
There is always a time and place to have fun and allow your children to play around — but discourage them from making funny faces or turning off their video during school time. Communicate that expectations for behavior and learning remain the same, regardless of whether they are in the school building or online. Be open, clear, and honest with your child. This goes a long way!
3. DO help your child practice with your school’s online platforms.
Using the mute button, sharing the screen, using video and chat boxes were once a foreign concept to many 6- and 7-year-olds; but as we know, kids are quick learners of technology. Providing opportunities for practice early on in the process can help make meetings run much more smoothly.
4. DON’T bring a pet to class!
While we love meeting each others’ animals, they can be a distraction, especially for young children. Show-and-tell is a great time for your child to introduce pets and other fun items from home.
5. DO stick to a daily schedule and routine.
On campus, teachers are the ones to say when it is time to move on to the next activity, to ensure the students get to a specialist punctually, and to make sure each student has the right amount of time to complete an assignment. Though this may look different online, a schedule with times written out for activities is incredibly important. The visual cues of moving from room to room disappear, so having a replacement cue will keep your child on track.
6. DON’T come to class in your PJs.
Being at home and sitting in front of the screen does make you want to wear comfy clothes, but sleepwear connotes naptime, bedtime, or downtime. Getting your children dressed and ready for school as though they are headed to campus helps set the mood and environment for learning.
7. DO give kids breaks!
It can be challenging sitting at a desk in front of a screen for hours on end, especially for young children. Be sure to plan time for your child to get up, move around, eat a snack, or enjoy some fresh air. They will be more focused and in tune with lessons after having essential time away from the screen. Timers or breaks on the schedule to indicate chatting or social times with friends can be helpful in moving children away from chatting in the text box during schoolwork time to a minimum.
8. DON’T use the chat box or chat feature during lessons.
Teachers will invite students to add a comment when the time is right! Rather than writing messages to friends that the entire class can see, encourage your children to have virtual playdates, FaceTime calls, or phone calls during break times.
9. DO stress the importance of being on time.
It is not always easy to get kids going in the morning, given they don’t have to travel far for school. Reviewing the schedule for the next day at the end of the day, or first thing in the morning, is a way to help ensure your children will be on time for lessons. Additionally, creating an art project around the schedule (coloring in times when kids are online, adding pictures or graphics, or personalizing the schedule) brings children into taking responsibility for their learning. Independence and responsibility are important goals, whether taught in the actual classroom or remotely.
10. DON’T Zoom in bed.
Encourage your children to find a place in the house where they can do their best learning… that typically is not in bed. Creating an environment with your child so they are part of the process helps them feel ownership and excitement about a new way of learning.
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