The challenges faced with at-home learning during the COVID-19 pandemic are three-fold. They affect not only the students, but parents and also the teachers.
It’s important to understand what makes successful remote learning at the elementary school level. We should recognize how the teaching and learning methods at New Morning School in Plymouth, MI. is ideal for carrying on schooling during a pandemic — and other challenging times, too.
How parents can help their children stay focused during remote learning
Elementary teacher Hannah Diaz points out it’s important for parents to view this ‘new normal’ for learning through the eyes of their children.
“I think the most important part is listening to your child,” Diaz said. “This is a scary time for all of us, but for children who may not have a full grasp on the situation, this can be even more terrifying. Listen to your child, give some extra love. Encourage connection with teachers and other classmates but don’t make it stressful.
“Ten years from now, they will not remember the assignments they completed, but they will remember the relationships and connections that were nurtured even from long distance.”
Whether it is during the time of a pandemic or during traditional, in-school learning, an important element parents can provide is structure. New Morning School provides a flexible learning environment. So, the students are used to experiencing responsibility and structure.
COVID-19 has changed the learning environment, however. It’s not just about schools in the Detroit area or how schools in Michigan continue through the Coronavirus.
“Our hands are now tied, to some degree,” Diaz said. “We can’t sit down next to a child to motivate him or her to work. We can’t make sure that everyone is sitting in the circle and listening. We have provided avenues for the closest thing to that but we can’t make students do anything.
“I have found that students whose parents have worked with them to create a child-centered routine have felt confident and secure knowing what to do and they really enjoy the fact that they are also able to have choices, just like at school.”
Parents can help set a routine for at-home learning
“Now, more than ever, teachers and parents have to work together as a team and that is when it is most successful.”
There are elements of this that parents will need to oversee so that their children are able to learn successfully. Healthy amounts of encouragement and patience are big points to consider.
“Parents can help them come up with a plan and set a routine. Explain that this is new for all of us and that we are all learning as we go,” elementary teacher Christine Jansen said. “Patience, perspective, and flexibility is needed more than ever. Having the expectation that they should complete work given to them is important so that the student knows their work is valued.”
Parents should also consider the child’s new at-home learning arrangement as being similar to the challenges some parents face when they have to suddenly work from home. That includes helping students maintain lines of communication with the teachers.
“Some may need help getting on Zoom or participating in the Zoom calls,” Jansen said. “The teachers are facilitating work, and reviewing expectations. It is important the student sees that the parent and teachers are a team.
Diaz has noticed that some families even follow the same ‘plan’ format used at school, trying to match the at-home learning experience as closely as possible to the classroom environment.
“I have also observed that when students feel confident about what they are doing, they are able to be more independent,” she said. “Now, more than ever, teachers and parents have to work together as a team and that is when it is most successful.”
Can younger students learn from home?
Jansen sees the benefits of creating a flexible structure for learning at home.
And, it seems to be working pretty well.
“We provide assignments, videos, hands-on activities, and resources in multiple formats (workbooks, packets, websites, apps) for students to work on throughout the week and have daily open ended Zoom meetings which we have called our ‘office hours’ or ‘classroom tables,’ which allow students to connect with us, one another, and enrich their own learning,” she said. “We found that since we started this, students are more motivated to complete assignments because they see us and our enthusiasm for their hard work.
“They also love that they get to share their work with their peers”
Balancing both students at home and parents working from home
The flexibility established in the New Morning School learn-at-home model not only benefits the students, but the parents, as well.
“This has been helpful especially for parents who have varying work schedules and may not be able to help their child connect at a specific meeting time,” Jansen said. “By keeping it open ended, we allow students to join us when they need us or when they are available.
“As a result, we have had a connection with each participating student at least once a week, usually more, which is more connection than it would be if we were to focus on skill groups for a 30-minute session a week. Some join every day and others join each teacher once a week. Some join for five minutes just to connect and check-in, while others join for an entire hour or more.”
This flexibility allows students to work on their assignments by themselves, or to jump in and ask questions. They are also able to step away for whatever reasons, such as a distraction, and return at their own convenience.
“Students are not confined to skill groups, though they are free to work as a group if they so choose; instead, students are working with peers of all skills levels, scaffolding from each other just as we would in our multi-age elementary classroom,” Jansen said. “This has created an organic learning environment that, though virtual, is true to the New Morning philosophy of education. While we value excellent academics, our top priority is the whole child, which in this trying time is more relevant than ever before.”
Even in the lower elementary levels, students are progressing well.
“Playing games with them is a great way to keep them engaged,” Jansen said. “We love to play sight word Bingo or memory. They love to tell stories so we make sure that they have a lot of time to share their thoughts, ideas, and their pets. We have met a lot of dogs and cats over Zoom!
“Our parents have been a great team and have really stepped up to the plate to help us. Our younger scholars are becoming proficient at time management and becoming more and more comfortable with asking for help and using technology.”
Learn more about New Morning School, Plymouth
Curious about how a New Morning School education would benefit your children? We offer continuous enrollment from preschool through eighth grade and would love to answer any questions you have.
Please contact us at NMS@NewMorningSchool.com and we will respond as quickly as possible.