Whether you’re going back to school virtually or in person, making the most of each learning moment is always the goal. Engaging children requires you to make many plans and decisions based on your teaching knowledge. Ideally, you help children meet individual needs while still reaching goals. With strong relationships as a foundation, clear expectations and consistency will help children listen, participate, and learn. That said, building that foundation and keeping students engaged in virtual or hybrid settings can feel more challenging.
Here are some takeaways that we've heard from the last year that can help you adjust to the needs of each child in online settings, just as you would in person.
Break learning activities into small chunks and take frequent breaks.
Adapt expectations for seating and participation.
Teach children to use technical features, such as breakout rooms and muting.
Supportive learning routines and clear communication about the expectations for each session will create a predictable environment where children can thrive instead of wondering, wandering, or worrying.
Incorporate routines as you begin and end each session.
Use visual cues to help children focus on your clear learning goals and activities.
Teach children ways to ask for help and participate.
Using a variety of materials and methods in the virtual setting will help you engage children. Work toward a balance of predictability and novelty while regularly trying new facilitation strategies.
Encourage various ways of participating: speaking, gesturing, or drawing.
Include variety in learning (songs, chants, games).
Ensure all children have access to necessary materials.
Now that you’ve read some ways to maximize engagement in a virtual classroom, use this planning document to brainstorm how you will maximize engagement in your virtual classroom.
Live sessions with children are only part of providing virtual instruction. Some children and families may need additional support. Children may not be able to participate online because of barriers to accessing technology. Providing alternative ways for children to receive instruction, complete work, and connect with you will help ensure equitable opportunities for learning and assessment.
Make sure to communicate your expectations to adult caregivers. Letting them share information about their child can help you offer alternatives that meet individual needs. As always, working in collaboration with families supports children’s success.
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When I was a teacher, I can remember taking care to intentionally plan differentiated, or individualized, instruction. And, when I was teaching pre-K I added the same level of intentionality to which materials were available in interest areas, and how I approached transitions throughout the day.
While any level of intentionally, specifically in relation to planning, is important -- I missed a critical opportunity in being more intentional in my interactions with the children in my class.
There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
It's not uncommon for teachers in early education to need to strike a balance between following children's leads and sticking to the classroom schedule. We know that intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery, and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to grow. However, many times, as teachers begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
Teacher and coach, Colleen Schmit, will share how teachers can strike the balance between following the lesson plans and giving children freedom of choice and flexibility in the classroom.
We’re more than a month into the school year, and many educators and school leaders are feeling tired or burnt out already. That’s normal in any school year, as the newness of back-to-school wanes and the reality of a long year ahead kicks in. But, this year, that tiredness may feel like it has never felt before. Chalkbeat has reported that teacher vacancies are up in 18 of 20 large school districts, and it’s not surprising. Many are exhausted after a difficult year and a half (to put it mildly!). Many are also leaving the profession in droves to find work in competitive environments that provide a substantially larger salary.