#FeetUpFriday: Online Learning Strategies for Kids

No, it’s not Friday, but right now everything is such chaos, I figured you’d forgive me.

By now, you’ve all seen the news. You’ve been enjoying this nice, early and unexpected “April Break.” You’ve been trying to hold up your end of social distancing. But now, now we have to prepare to get back into the swing of things. School, but from home. Sounds impossible, right?

“Online Learning” is a term that frightens educators. Most days, we’re trying to figure out how to get students to disconnect from technology. Now, we’re being asked to put it right back in their hands.

This is not going to be easy on anyone, especially teachers, and especially students. My school has asked that we complete 10 days of online lesson plans on Google Classroom so that we can institute “distance learning” circumstances for the next two weeks. We are painfully aware that this is no substitute for being in the classroom. These lessons can’t possibly encompass our curriculum, but they are substitutes to keep kids in a learning mindset. They are the best we can do, for now. It will be tough for students to adjust, however, there are a few strategies that can certainly help make the (foreseeable) future a little bit easier.

Set a Routine

All the best teachers know that our students thrive off routines. We use them daily in the classroom, so setting a routine at home will be critical during this time. There are tons of “home schooling” plans circulating the internet providing suggestions, like the one posted here. Getting students used to a pattern of online learning daily will make them more willing to participate.

Set a Goal and a Reward

Staying goal oriented is important for students, especially when they’re in a setting that is different from the normal classroom. Furthermore, setting a reward when that goal is reached can strongly benefit learning. In the classroom, we use checklists with many students. When they get all their checks, they get a reward. Also, keep in mind that students have about 30-45 minutes in them before they lose steam and really should switch activities.

Most students, even sometimes up to high school level, haven’t developed intrinsic motivation quite yet. Rewards like movement breaks and snacks help students re-set their focus. I would, however, try to avoid “technology breaks.” It’s my experience that as soon as a student’s focus shifts to tech, you’ve lost them.

Set a Designated Work Space

Create a calm, organized work space where your child can sit and focus. Try to limit sound and distraction as much as possible. I’ve found that quiet, classical music can help stimulate students’ minds and relax them. Provide supplies (if you can) and making sure children are sitting on something that keeps them upright. If you have a yoga ball or a cushion, even better! Just make sure they are sitting so their body can help their mind be attentive.

Don’t Forget PE Class

Let’s face it- it’s the favorite subject. Physical activity is critical and fresh air, even more so. Don’t forget to get your child outside, interacting with their environment. There’s so much that can be learned outside the classroom/home. Curiosity is one of the best educators.

Check in With Yourself and Your Fellow Teachers

Educators get lunch breaks. We get planning periods. We get opportunities to trudge across the hall, throw ourselves on our co-workers floors (not literally- ew) and vent about all the things we’ve had to put up with that day. We reach out and we check in and we take a few minutes to ourselves. We go to the bathroom when we need to!

Teachers are not superheroes, we’re human beings. Sure, we have a special set of “powers” that got us where we are but really, it comes down to attention, dedication, and love. Love for our students and the work we’re doing. It is now your job to find that love, for your child, for their future, and to set your purpose.

When your child pushes, be ready to push back. After the 300th question of the day, take a deep breath, and tell them to stop messing around and start focusing on their work. They’ll probably hate you. They’ll probably wine and complain. You’ll probably want to pull your hair out. But, at the end of your “school day” they’ll smile at you. They’ll tell you a story or a joke and you’ll laugh together. They’ll make-up for everything they did that day that nearly pushed you over the edge. You’ll go to bed tired and you’ll wake up the next day, ready to do it all over again. Why? Because now, you’re the teacher, and that’s what teachers do.

I am a 5th grade science teacher with a certification in all subjects, grades 1-6 as well as 7th and 8th grade English. If you have any questions, need any tips, or advice, please do not hesitate to reach out!

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