Tips for Supporting Your Child During Remote Learning

Tips for Supporting Your Child During Remote Learning

As the first day of school approaches, I am reminded of a warning often associated with television commercials, shows, or movies. It is something like:

“WARNING: The stunts shown here are performed by professionals. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!” 

However, I am not thinking of television stunts, I am thinking of parents, not trained in classroom management techniques or pedagogy, worried about supervising remote instruction this school year.

Perhaps your child’s school will implement remote learning for the first few weeks of school; or, remote learning is part of a choice or emergency plan, should COVID-19 affect your child’s campus. Perhaps remote learning worked well for you and your child in the Spring and you are not at all hesitant to approach the new academic year. But maybe you and your child struggled and just managed to complete the year, with the hope of normal times this Fall, and you are now dreading to repeat the situation.

TIPS FOR PARENTS TO SUPPORT REMOTE LEARNING:

Parents and students should expect remote learning activities to look differently than they did in the Spring. Expect them to be more organized, more structured, and often delivered in real-time by the classroom teacher. This way, parents will be able to resume a helping, facilitative role for their children. Some school districts and schools are now sharing sample schedules and videos of expectations; some are adding video equipment to classrooms; and in some cases, a teacher will deliver face-to-face (f2f) instruction while also broadcasting to students who are learning from home. Still, your child may need support, supervision, and assistance.

You probably never intended to be a teacher and might be looking for help and strategies to ease remote learning in your home. A list of recommendations could ramble on for several pages and become unwieldy. Thus, my suggestions are general to meet the needs of your child and setting. I want to help you create a plan that is efficient and doable. I want to offer advice with usable, practical actions.

Establish Clear Expectations, Structures, and Routines.

Many students respond best when there is structure, routine, and predictability in their activities. If your child’s school or teacher sends a daily or weekly schedule, print and post it. If not, create one yourself. For children too young to tell time, include pictures to show what the clock looks like at an appointed time. Set up a workspace. It can be at the kitchen table, bedroom desk, or in the home office. Have basic school supplies handy. It might also be helpful to have your child dress for the academic activities of the day.

Along these same lines, set alarms and timers. Have your child wake up at an established time and complete a typical morning routine. Alarms might also be set for important transition points in the day such as lunch and independent practice time. Timers are essential tools in the classroom and students are familiar with timers set for transitions or time spent on a specific task. For instance, students might be assigned 15 minutes for silent reading or 5 minutes for journal writing. Your electronic device and home assistant (Google Home or Alexa) work well for this purpose. The younger children love giving instructions to Alexa.

Adjust Activities to Fit Ages and Attention Spans

The average attention span for detailed activities for the average adult is 20 minutes. After that time, some adjustments, should occur. Moreover, in a typical classroom, students rotate positions and activities about every 15-20 minutes. I want to emphasize that the adjustment might be minor – such as retrieving extra materials, shifting from one chair to another, or taking a one-minute brain break. Expect your child to need this! The younger children enjoy the short videos on Go Noodle, along with other resources found on YouTube.

Additionally, while I recommend a workspace, do not expect your child to sit in one spot for extended periods of time. Allow a move to a different seat, a balcony or patio for reading or writing time, or a reading nook or corner for independent practice. We all need a change of scenery and environment.

Another way to adjust activities is by using differing resources. With much instruction occurring via electronic devices, your students might enjoy reading from an actual print book. Rather than always using pencil and paper, encourage practice using dry erase markers on an erasable surface. Dry erase markers not only erase from dry erase whiteboards, but also wipe easily from laminate, plastic, shower board, ceramic tiles, and glass. Likewise, colored paper often brings attention to projects and colored overlays or reading strips help keep students focused. When possible, have colored copy paper or art paper available for use.

Again, use timers, songs, and countdowns to pace the transitions and rotations. Keep the day’s activities moving and focused.

Create a Goal/Reward System and Celebrate Short Term and Long-Term Goals

Students of all ages love stickers and stamps. Create charts, including goals, and track progress and completion; then, celebrate when a goal is met. Think of simple, readily available rewards. This could be a favorite snack, time with a beloved pet, a walk or bike ride, or favorite meal. Reward completion of assignments with a trip to the playground or watching a movie.

Setting and tracking attainment towards goals will help both you and your child see daily, weekly, and monthly accomplishments.

Communicate

Most important is to keep open lines of communication with your child and your child’s school and teacher. This is a time that will need a community approach to educating our children. Keep an eye on your child’s engagement with online learning, assignment completion, and assignment submission. Talk to him/her about learning needs, resources, and help needed. Check academic progress through online portals, electronic communications, and social media sites. The above recommendations work for most students in the classroom setting, they are not guaranteed answers; so, remain flexible and forgiving and change the parts of the system that are not working for your child. And, remember, your child’s teachers and school administrators are still there for you too. If you find yourself facing a hurdle that you are having difficulty solving, don’t hesitate to ask for their help and suggestions. They want the best for your child and your family.

We can do this with patience, perseverance, and teamwork. Happy Schooling and – DO TRY THIS AT HOME!

Vera M. Wehring, Ph.D.

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