A Little Extra TLC: Tips to Support Students with Distance Learning
The transition from classrooms to at-home distance learning can be especially challenging for families of elementary-aged children. Those challenges are often compounded when parents/guardians are also working remotely while overseeing children’s studies. Now that students are universally facing the same challenge – distance learning – we've put together some helpful tips to help students find success while learning at home.
As you read these tips, think about how your children can help make decisions to promote independence and commitment in a developmentally appropriate way. As an educator – and as a parent to 9-year-old twins who are currently distance learning – I've seen these tips help many families, including my own!
It’s important to think carefully about everyone’s workspace. What are the work expectations/hours for each member of the family? Where will each person work? What areas in the house are available for workspaces?
Students are more used to work stations rather than working at traditional desks all day. Various options to consider include a quiet room with a desk/table for certain subject areas and to take assessments, a comfy reading nook, a room with a door that locks for private Zoom meetings, and a space outside to work while getting some fresh air.
Make sure the workspaces are organized with all necessary materials. Depending on the grade level, this may include notebooks, paper, school work, folders, bins, pencils, iPad, laptop, sticky notes, books, math manipulatives, to name a few. Have your children put their finished work in a bin or container so the work is ready to take pictures for uploading to teachers.
Structure and routine
Each morning, go through your school’s distance learning platform (PowerSchool, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) with your children and prioritize tasks. It’s helpful to look for virtual meeting/class times, work that needs to be finished before class meetings, and assignments that are due that day to help you prioritize together.
It’s best to start with any easy, fun assignments to get motivated for the day and then move on to more challenging assignments. Our brains are most focused before lunchtime. Your children may also want to begin with assignments that they want to get out of the way or are anxious about completing.
Chunking time is effective for children (and adults). A good rule of thumb is to work for 20-25 minutes and then take a five-minute break. You and your children can come up with a list of brain break ideas.
Sticky notes are useful for children to write down questions or just to put on unfinished work, especially if they have questions when you are busy working and can’t be interrupted. If your school provides a catch-up day, your child can write a note to complete certain assignments on that day.
It can be challenging for all of us to stay focused as we deal with the realities of many people trying to work at home. You may want to try using fidgets, listen to classical music, vary seating options, and use noise-canceling headphones or noise machines.
Do schedule time in your day for lunch and outside time for physical activity. Many teachers give suggested times but if not, you can make a personalized schedule that makes sense for your family. Our basic needs for enough sleep, a well-balanced diet and exercise are crucial for successful distance learning. Take care of yourself and your families!
Miriam Pardoll is associate director of The Learning Center at Shorecrest Preparatory School, a coed, nonsectarian independent school in St. Petersburg that educates a diverse community of students from 3-years-old through 12th grade. Learn more about Shorecrest and the TLC at www.shorecrest.org