Back to school time is here, and I wanted to share some tips for jump starting a year of success with distance learning. Each state, city and even district has a different plan for back to school. It’s really a hot mess that I’m not getting into right now. Keep in mind, I am not a teacher blogger, I’m a blogger that teaches so I’m giving you real rap raw tips here. Ok?
My school has decided to do virtual learning for at least the first semester. I have mixed feelings because the only reason I enjoyed distance learning at the end of last year was because I knew my students well. This year will be much different since I have all new second graders. However, I am still looking forward to a great year. My tenth year in the classroom and it will be all virtual! Whew Lawd y’all.
So, about these tips. I actually have 6 tips. 3 tips for teachers getting ready to plan virtual lessons and 3 tips for parents of babies getting ready to begin a whole new school year at home. Hopefully you find a useful tip and I even have a little freebie built into this post.
Let’s start with my people…the teachers.
Teacher Tips for Distance Learning
Decorate your Teaching Space
Many of us were thrown into virtual teaching last year and didn’t have time to prepare. Teachers are quite literally the most creative on the planet. We found a way of out nowhere to transition from seeing our students at school to turning our offices, living and dining rooms into classroom spaces. I mean, most of us have “school things” at home anyway so we stay ready but it’s time to step it up! First, we need to create inviting spaces that remind our students of being in the classroom. I got lucky because I already have a dedicated teaching space in my office because of my ESL teaching side hustles.
I love it! All I need to do is make a Ms. Stroy sign because Teacher Denay is for my Chinese students. I teach second grade so the decorations I have work well.
The back drop comes from Amazon. I got the streamer banner and letters for Hello from the Target dollar section. Used my printer and laminator to print off my emoji alphabet, crayons, and apples, all of which were found on Teachers Pay Teachers. Had some ribbon and a sheet pan from dollar tree on hand to use as a magnetic letter board. This has many word work uses!
Pro tip: make sure you get some bomb lighting and a good laptop stand.
Why? Above all, both help your students to see you better. The laptop stand will put your computer at eye level. This is great if you decide to read a book on camera, or demonstrate how to make something or show them how to pronounce or break down words. Also, it’s good for your back and posture. If you teach multiple classes like I do you make be sitting for a few hours which can impact your posture. The laptop stand along with a good quality, comfy chair are important.
Next, good lighting is vital too. How are they going to see your book? Demonstration? Drawings? You cannot rely on just household lamps. Natural light is great too, but in the event you don’t have good natural lighting there are some great affordable ring lights you can find.
Here’s my virtual teaching essentials guide. Check out the links to these tools. I have all of these in my space and they are used daily! I couldn’t do any type of teaching either ESL or second grade without them.
Dress Up Like You Would for School
O.k. confession! I wasn’t always doing this when distance learning began. Well, I would wear my school color’s cardigan, but sometimes I didn’t really make my face super presentable. This year I want to make it a point to show up my most fabulous self. Now, no one said a face full of makeup or anything, but at least my good brows and maybe a little lippie. I’m also going to step up my collection of teacher tees so I have a variety to wear in class. The expectation for my students is to show up like they would for class, so I intend to do the same. Even for my pre-recorded videos.
There are so many wonderful tools out there for virtual learning! We have a duty to engage our students even while distance learning. Make them want to show up!
- Dress up and act like the characters in your books
- Get this karaoke mic and sing your sight words, continents, or drafting their writing
- Incorporate some great resources to make your teaching a little easier like Epic, Quizzizz, Nearpod, or ReadWorks.
- If your school is a G Suite School, have fun with Google Slides, Drawing, Docs, and Sites
Bonus tip: Join the Bitmoji craze! I have a basic room but I am also adding a reading, writing and grammar room. Get into it y’all.
Now on to my mommas and daddies.
Parent Tips for Distance Learning
Digital Knowledge Checklist
Based on virtual learning last year, one complaint I heard just in my school was the students didn’t know how to do some of the tasks. The homeschool memes are all over Facebook and Instagram. But listen to me, get yourself a checklist of skills your child needs to have before having to do classes virtually. It’s the simplest things we know how to do that they may not be as skilled in and of course you’ll find yourself running to the computer to help every five seconds. I get it!
Take some time, and use this checklist to see what your baby can and can’t do. This will be especially useful if your baby is in K, 1, and 2. They should know how to operate a mouse, and keyboard. If your child’s teacher is using Zoom how to mute and unmute, use the chat, raise their hand, and maybe even share their screen.
I’ve created a checklist with some basics included and room to add others. Print it and start working to ensure your baby can do all of these independently before they go to class. You will save them and yourself a lot of frustration.
Just like for the teachers, the children should come to class dressed as they would for school. My school requires blazers usually but for home we are asking for polos. Why is this important? It’s all about mindset.
If they come in pajamas they won’t take it seriously, and like it’s school. It is still school, just a different delivery method. If they have on pajama bottoms, cool that’s y’all business but at least a school polo or nice shirt. Look the part and they will show up ready for success in distance learning.
Assist, Don’t Do it For Them
O.k. now this one is definitely backed with a little frustration from a teacher’s perspective. Let me tell y’all a secret about teachers. We know when y’all do it for them. I do not expect my 7 year old second graders to write full dissertation sentences. Some of the virtual assignments I got last year had me like…
We know y’all. We know! Instead of doing it for them, assist. Firstly I should say, I know in your sweet parent heart you think you are helping, but you really aren’t. Assist means help, not do it for them. For instance, you can help with the spelling of words, drawing out ideas, asking probing questions and clarifying directions.
Y’all went to school already, you aren’t supposed to do the work, your baby should be! Assist! The only thing you should for them is troubleshoot. If they exit the zoom on accident, help! If they are having trouble inserting an image into their Google slide, help!
Don’t you dare create a 20 page Google slide with citations for a second grader!
They learn the most from mistakes and not knowing. If you really need help, reach out to your child’s teacher if you know they may need more guidance on completing the assignment. Assist and facilitate. Much of what is frustrating you as a parent is that you want to do it for them, and keep them from struggling. A little productive struggle is good. It teaches perseverance and they will feel accomplished.
To sum it up, don’t do their work for them, assist them in accessing their work!
We Can Do This!
Certainly, we can do this! Mindset will be everything. If we are frustrated by this experience, so will our children. As teachers and parents we need to set up environments optimal for success for distance learning. I hope these jump start tips helped, gave you idea or found a tool that you can use. Drop more tips or comments for getting a distance learning year off to a great start.
Happy back to school! We’ve got this!0