Educators agree that virtual instruction is not optimal in any grade, but especially in the early years. Grades kindergarten through second grade lay the foundation for future academic success. Yet, as of early December 2020, 63% of US students in grades K-2 received some of their schooling virtually this school year. Their teachers are under pressure to help them develop strong academic habits.
Challenges with Remote Instruction Particular to Primary Students
Children in primary grades lack experience with basic school tasks. Every assignment requires step-by-step direct instruction and constant feedback. Delivering this level of detailed guidance virtually takes more time to plan and implement. Children’s inexperience with technology also often means that teachers need to allocate extra time for troubleshooting technological issues.
Young children have short attention spans and easily get distracted. In a typical classroom, a teacher quickly identifies and redirects when a child gets off task. In a remote environment, keeping children focused on their work often requires help from older family members. Adults in the house also need to remind young students to do their work off-line because children under the age of eight rarely have time management skills.
Young children also have not yet developed effective coping methods for stress. Yet, they feel the stress from changes in their lives and because they pick up on adults’ tension. Many youngsters struggled to make sense of it all. Powerless and frustrated, a lot of young children struggle to regulate their biorhythms and behavior. Instilling academic responsibility is a monumental task in the best of times. When the whole world feels disrupted, the task is incredibly arduous.
Success Despite the Odds
Even in the face of these obstacles, teachers are helping students learn to do their work during virtual instruction. Children as young as five come to class, participate, do their work, and learn. To accomplish this impressive feat, teachers and families work together. Teachers are adjusting these six time-tested methods for teaching work habits to fit remote and hybrid models:
- Communicating with Families
Teachers of primary students repeatedly emphasize that families are pivotal in cultivating successful learning habits. Teaming up with guardians is doubly vital during remote learning because they remind children to get work done and log in to remote class meetings. However, even the most dedicated parents don’t always know how to best support their child. Communicating frequently and clearly is perhaps the most important action a primary teacher does. Luckily, technology makes communicating easier than ever. If you are interested in streamlining communication, read An Educators Guide to Great Communication with Families.
- Building Relationships
Young children like pleasing their teacher, and this motivates them to finish assignments. Research backs up the incredible importance of teacher-student relationships. An article in Education Week says:
A Review of Educational Research analysis of 46 studies found that strong teacher-student relationships were associated in both the short- and long-term with improvements on practically every measure schools care about: higher student academic engagement, attendance, grades, fewer disruptive behaviors and suspensions, and lower school dropout rates.
However, teachers trying to build a relationship over a computer screen requires added bonding activities and creativity. Virtual home visits are a favorite technique to get to know more about students’ interests. Get more ideas about building relationships in the article, Applying Progressive Teaching Practices to the Post Pandemic Era.
- Providing Emotional Support
Emotional stress inhibits students’ ability to reason and do schoolwork. To overcome that barrier, teachers help their young students learn to cope with big emotions. Daily emotional check-ins and teaching students self-calming methods help students focus academically. For more details read, Three Steps to Emotionally Support Students to Promote Academic Success.
Transitioning back into the classroom will again create stress for some students. Refer to the Help Students Returning to the Classroom Navigate their Emotions for some tips.
- Encouraging Ownership and Engagement
Students in primary grades rarely care about their grades. They care about learning and having fun. To motivate them during remote instruction, teachers encourage students to take ownership of their progress. Computer-based learning apps work well virtually. The apps also give immediate feedback and micro-rewards that students like.
Teachers also use EdTech to create social, fun, and engaging lessons. Even the youngest students have learned to use EdTech to learn and interact with their friends. For more ideas about engagement and ownership read, How to Embrace the New Frontier of Engaging Students Virtually.
- Setting Routines and Expectations
Predictable routines help children make sense of their lives and feel more in control. The more they can rely on the stability of virtual school patterns, the better. Reliable routines and guidelines help students show up and find a rhythm. Students attending school remotely may need different rules than those in person. Different expectations can be especially confusing to young students in a hybrid situation. Setting up clear behavioral standards helps students feel confident about what they are supposed to do. For a sample set of norms, refer to How to Set Expectations for Virtual Class Meetings.
Students know when to show up for class when teachers keep the schedules consistent for small group and whole group meetings. If parents or students forget what or when they were supposed to do something, they can refer to visual schedules and assignments posted on the LMS.
- Providing Mental and Physical Breaks
Students learn more when they are calm and enjoying themselves. Many K-2 teachers begin lessons with silly songs, yoga, and other activities that make students move or laugh. These light-hearted breaks become even more important when students experience “Zoom fatigue.” Once a teacher is ready for calmness, reading aloud is perfect because students relax while listening. The read-aloud also exposes emerging readers to new vocabulary, stories, and ideas. The article Ideas for Reading Aloud in Multiple Environments describes some helpful tips for modifying a read-aloud for remote and hybrid learners.
Developing Academic Responsibility is a Team Effort
Teachers and families are cooperating to make remote learning enjoyable for many young children. As a result, they are establishing strong work habits that will serve them well for the rest of their school career.
At Harris Education Solutions, we provide solutions that help support educators during remote and face-to-face learning.