More than 30 million children in the United States attended school online in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the upper respiratory illness that has impacted every corner of the globe. With schools potentially closed through the end of the school year, if not longer, most teachers are rapidly shifting to online classrooms. Educators and parents are suddenly finding themselves navigating waters that are uncharted for most of us.
Teachers who are transitioning online for the first time may not feel as confident as they did in the classroom. It’s okay; there are many ways to prepare yourself—and better prepare your class—for this adventure in online learning.
The Right Mindset
Whether you’re transitioning an in-person class to an online environment or comforting your students during a global crisis, any major shift requires everyone to have more compassion and patience with themselves — and each other. Before you begin teaching online, shift your mindset to be more flexible and forgiving of yourself and others. Prepare to make mistakes—and know for sure that your students will. Mistakes are valuable opportunities to learn. After all, this experience is new for everyone. Whether you’re a parent, a student, a teacher, or any combination, we’re all in this together.
Also keep in mind that your class will provide your students with some much-needed structure, even if you offer it online. As a teacher, you’ll probably need some structure, too. Remember to keep things as simple as possible. If you find that you need some assistance with time management, look into a time management app for your smartphone or tablet to help you stay on track.
Create Daily Structure
Be sure to create routine and structure for your students, regardless of their location. You may need to modify your regular schedule to accommodate kids who are facing technological issues, having difficulty staying on task, are frequently ill, or are lacking caregiver involvement. Don’t be afraid to experience some trial and error. Finding what doesn’t work will help you determine the most efficient, effective structure for your students.
Make Tough Subjects More Fun
Gamification creates interest and boosts memory by turning activities, lessons and subjects into a fun game. Whether you’re teaching online or in person, you can educate and entertain your students with engaging classes that help them overcome the forgetting curve.
As you move your classroom to the internet, consider online resources like Boddle and Boreal Tales. Additionally, tools like Classcraft help you keep your students engaged, especially with tricky subjects, by taking advantage of online games, role playing, storytelling, video, and group activities. Teachers can use each of these gamified tools to track student progress, announce pop quizzes and team competitions, grade assignments, and provide students with feedback. By turning subjects like math or science into a game, teachers can use the interactive nature of online learning to their advantage. Kids can compete with their old scores — or with their classmates — to achieve their personal best.
Create Printable Worksheets
For students who need to work on some assignments with paper and pencil, free learning workbooks are an easy way for teachers to share resources with parents and caregivers. Worksheets help support a child’s educational experiences. Keep in mind that some families may not be able to print out the worksheets, so a digital version on Google Docs or Microsoft Word might be more helpful. Students who only have tablets, rather than laptop or desktop computers, can still install the Google and Microsoft apps, and you can do your best to give them access to additional learning opportunities if they need them.
Keep Talking About Foreign Language
With students working in isolation, practicing their foreign language conversation skills might be challenging. Language arts and foreign language teachers can use online games and platforms to give their students opportunities to practice their conversational Spanish, French, German, Italian, English and other languages. While some students may have someone at home they can practice with, many won’t, so having an online tool that gets them talking is an important aspect of at-home learning.
While the COVID-19 crisis may be challenging the way we educate, online learning can provide many solutions and opportunities. This time of digital discovery can be exactly what teachers need to learn new tools for incorporating technology effectively into their classrooms. While parents are playing larger role in their children’s education from home, teachers can utilize the latest technologies and tools to create a whole new learning environment online.