Hidden Sparks spent the summer months studying the impact that virtual learning has had on students and how teachers can rise to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Hidden Sparks’ Social Emotional Learning Coach Lily Howard Scott, MS, has developed these tips for the transition back to virtual learning:
- #AloneTogether- create space for students to connect – Learning remotely can leave children feeling disheartened and disconnected from each other and their schoolwork and jumping right back into the standard curriculum can alienate them further. Therefore, Hidden Sparks suggests building in time for students to reflect on the transition to remote learning, to share their questions and to connect with one another.
- Keep things fun –When learning remotely, a disengaged student can simply walk away from their computer. Whenever possible, weave in games, such as a virtual scavenger hunt: “Take 30 seconds and bring something back to your computer that sparks joy. Go!” These scavenger hunts can be connected to the academic curriculum—a math teacher, for instance, might ask students to grab any object that can be split into thirds, such as a piece of paper or a cookie. It’s very important to create more interactive learning opportunities for students.
- Get kids moving –For younger students, create hand signals (I agree, silent cheer, and mind-blown, to name a few) that allow children to participate physically even if they aren’t speaking. Also consider asking kids to stand behind their computers and participate in silly one-minute movement breaks a few times each day.
- Create a remote learning classroom charter – Ask children how they want their new remote classroom to feel (not deadly-boring? Fun, even? Respectful?) and record their answers. Then, as a group, develop a list of agreements or rules that will help cultivate such an environment. Many of the agreements will be online-learning specific, related to the use of the chat-box, muting/unmuting, and the like. This charter will enable both you and your students to anticipate remote learning management issues before they occur.
- Remember how difficult virtual school can be on families, and be flexible –It’s frustrating to pour your heart into a lesson and receive partially completed work (if any at all) from some students. But remember that your Zoom portal into a student’s home only reveals a sliver of their quarantine reality. Siblings may need to share devices, an internet connection may be unstable, and parents may be struggling to balance work commitments with ensuring that young children sign on to meetings on time. Before you reprimand students, try to learn more about their particular circumstances and then consider how you might differentiate or support them accordingly.