As preschools and kindergartens are faced with the challenge of providing learning opportunities at a distance, families are called on to be more involved than ever before, particularly for little learners and children with learning challenges and disabilities.
The tips have been adapted from Dr. Linda Carlings article, that you can find from here. Dr. Linda Carling is an Associate Research Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. She specializes in learning engagement and design and is a parent of a child with a disability.
Here are the 10 tips to help children maintain focus and stay engaged during this time of distance learning:
- How much time should children spend online for learning?
There are some screen time considerations for children based on their age. As a teacher, you should provide some guideline for what is expected. For young children, interaction and play is the most valuable way of learning.
- What type of activities the children enjoy?
For example, do the children work better with synchronous activities where they respond to a live instructor, or in person sitting one-on-one with their parent, grandparent etc? What learning platforms seems to engage children more than others? The answers to these questions can be valuable for you and to your child’s family to help plan for learning experiences that work best.
Download Child's Individual Curriculum template to learn more about the child's interests and needs.
- Do children have possibilities to move throughout the day?
Children need to move their bodies frequently throughout the day. Reserve some time for exercise before you plan to start, and children are expected to focus on a distance learning task. Some children can focus on tasks better when standing, holding something in their hands or while sitting on a gym ball.
- Do children have a designated, peaceful workspace?
Where possible, it is good to reduce all visual and noisy distractions when children are doing activities. A designated workspace that is meant for concentrating and is comfortable will be helpful.
- Can children get support for learning at home?
If a child is frustrated — or alternately, if a child is very engaged in learning — it is a good idea to spend little time digging deeper into the topic with an adult. The supportive person can be the child's parent, grandparent, godparent or any adult who is willing to support the child's learning from time to time. Some learning activities are easier to move through than others. It’s also helpful to ask the families to share with the teacher what is working best for their child.
- Have you used an activity checklist?
Some children who really struggle with focusing, a basic visual checklist of tasks needed for a particular activity will be helpful. For example, if the child is asked to watch a yoga video, practise some yoga movements, and then come up + take a picture a yoga pose of their own, the checklist would have keywords for each of these required activities: watch, practice, picture. The child would check off each task with their parent as it is completed and receive some positive praise or another reward when finished.
- Do children have enough breaks and playtime during the day?
No teacher wants children to be frustrated with or miserable about learning. In fact, teachers spend loads of time trying to make lessons interesting, and to tailor instructions to provide the right level of challenge for all children. If something is too challenging, it’s okay to stop the activity and have a break. It’s also okay to slow down the pace, which means giving children time to think and process. It also means participating in segments of learning one at a time rather than trying to tackle a whole lesson in one sitting. Let children know they can finish another time or another day.
- Do you provide immediate positive feedback?
Each time a child completes distance learning instruction, provide immediate - positive feedback! Something as simple as putting a check mark, star, or sticker on the work assignment can go a long way in helping to motivate the child. And don’t forget to celebrate yourself, as you are playing such an important role to help children and grow! Discuss with families what type of rewards they would like to use. The reward could be something like: praise, sticker, child can choose a cartoon/movie; a treat such as cookie, child can choose a family activity, playtime with a special toy, picnic at a park etc.
- Are your teaching methods flexible?
Teachers should plan for a variety of learning experiences, online and off, and be able to support families by modifying or adapting activities to meet the needs of the children. Schooling from a distance is as new a territory for teachers as it is for families. Getting feedback from parents about what is working and where they need additional support is essential. With creative thinking and effort by teachers and families as partners, children will continue to build their knowledge and skills, but also build confidence and a love for learning.
- Are your digital tools up-to-date?
Use of new technology is a prerequisite to implement distance learning and to stay connected with the families. It is important that as a teacher you can provide a stable, safe and inspiring way of sharing information and communicating. A great advantage is if you can follow children’s learning simultaneously with the families. Using the same technology also in-class enables a flexible transition between in-class and distance learning. Read how Kindiedays can support learning both in-class and in distance!