I think we can all agree that teaching remotely last spring was challenging, to say the least. While some teachers are able to go back in person this fall, there are still a lot of teachers facing another semester of distance learning. If you are one of those teachers, I’ve got you covered! I have gathered the best distance learning tips from the most creative teachers around to get you through!
(I gathered these ideas from all the fantastic teachers in my Tickled Pink in Primary Facebook Group. If you are interested in connecting and collaborating, please join us!)
Organization Tips for Distance Learning
1. Organization It’s no surprise that the first thing people mentioned when it comes to being a successful distance learning teacher is organization. Whether it’s creating a designated workspace, picking 1 day for recording videos, or creating a list of big and little things you need to do everyday, our teachers know the importance of being organized in order to teach effectively.
2. Consistency The other remote teaching tip I heard over and over again was to be consistent. Consistency is important in the websites and applications that you use, but it’s also important to be consistent with the families. Send out regular weekly or bi-weekly communications to families so they know what to expect. Connect with them on a personal level, so they know they can count on you. The emotional needs of students during this time is paramount.
3. Flexibility One of our Facebook teachers reminded us that while it’s important to be consistent, we also need to be flexible. Families all have different schedules and not everyone is available at one time. There are also always technology glitches we need to work through and roll with. Things definitely aren’t going as planned these days!
4. Quiet Down Speaking of technology, one of my favorite distance learning tips (or the one that made me laugh the most?) was to make sure to tell parents ahead of time if their child’s Zoom call isn’t muted then everyone can hear them!! I can’t imagine some of the things teachers have heard during these class calls!
5. Start Small When it comes to the work you are giving kids, start with a small workload (especially for the younger students) and slowly increase it over time. It also helps to differentiate learning through distance learning and it made a big difference for the students.
Engagement Tips for Virtual Teaching
6. Engagement Keeping children engaged is one of the most difficult problems of distance learning. Making sure the lessons are interactive for your students is the key to your success in this area. Small groups, breakout groups and interactive questions are just a few ways to get students involved in the lesson.
7. Participation One of our Facebook teachers shared that she makes her lessons interactive by making sure every child gets to answer. While every child stays muted, they all get to show their responses by a thumbs up or down, or they hold up a sheet of paper that was sent to them via email. It was blank if they couldn’t write, but older students could write their answers on the paper to share. She said kids were engaged the whole time because they knew they were expected to be part of the lesson!
8. Interactive Several teachers mentioned making the calls interactive by having children go find things around their house. Then they could bring them back to share with the group. It works especially well when doing a lesson on something like shapes!
9. Movement As you know, movement has always been a huge part of my curriculum and it should continue to be with any virtual learning curriculum. Whether it’s chopping sounds out in phonics, doing the movements along with each letter sound using my Physical Phonics or using my entire Fluency and Fitness program, kids need to get up and move. Movement can not only help release energy and wake up the brain, it helps provide a multi-sensory approach to learning.
10. Get Silly Students will definitely pay attention if they see their teacher join their class call dressed in costume! A teacher shared with us that she joined her class wearing cat ears, funny hats, etc. and encouraged the kids to dress up too. Whatever it took to get kids to be engaged at home!
11. Incentives One of the biggest ways to get kids engaged and keep them motivated is to offer incentives. One Facebook teacher in our Tickled Pink in Primary Facebook Teaching Group shared how she had multiple parents reach out to her that their children were having a hard time staying motivated after several weeks of remote learning had gone by.
Parents felt that they didn’t have any incentives to offer their children since everything was closed. This teacher began to see the importance of helping motivate the kids to work hard as a service to the parents as well. The parents reported back if the students did their school work with minimal complaints. If so, the teacher offered a Fun Friday Zoom Meeting. This was another one of my favorite distance learning tips!
12. Fun Fridays Another teacher would make Friday Zoom Calls fun by having mystery guests like art teachers, music, and her dog would sometimes make an appearance! Other Fridays she would do a bingo game or a scavenger hunt, anything to end the week on a good note. The kids loved it and so did she!
Self Care Tips for Distance Learning
13. Self-Care I noticed a theme in the distance learning tips I gathered, and I think that shows its importance. The most important thing you can do while you are teaching remotely is take care of yourself.
14. Boundaries Self-care for teachers is more than just taking a bubble bath at the end of the day. (Although, that’s a great idea too!) Self-care for teachers means having boundaries from the job and giving yourself time to think about and do other things. One teacher reminded us that teachers can talk about school for days on end. It’s important to do something that’s not school related.
15. Breaks Several teachers mentioned having a schedule that incorporates breaks (even with alarms for those breaks!) as a way to take care of yourself. Use those breaks to do things that fill you up and refresh your soul.
It could be taking a walk alone in nature, a phone call with your bestie or my personal favorite, sitting down with a good book. Nothing feels more luxurious to me than grabbing a few minutes to find out what happens next in the latest best seller. (Want to see my favorites? Check out what’s on my list, Brittany’s Bookshelf)
16. Collaboration You know what the best self-care tip for teachers is, though? Collaboration. You don’t have to do everything on your own. Work with your grade level team to split the workload. Divide up the work by subject or by specialty. One teacher can make a pre-recorded video with a guided drawing lesson, another could make one for a math mini-lesson.
Even better? Split up the research duties when looking for quality curriculum and ideas for distance learning that other teachers have already tried. One teacher could go find ideas and activities for math, another for science etc. Remember there are amazing teachers out there that have already taught remotely and have shared their expertise with others.
I know it’s hard for teachers to do that sometimes because we love to create, but during a time of crisis like this, it’s one of the ways we can take care of ourselves. We can take some of the pressure and burden off of ourselves to do it all. Especially when so much of it has already been done and done well. I am sure you have heard it many times before, but I am going to remind you again: You don’t need to reinvent the wheel! Split up the work and then take that extra time to go enjoy that bubble bath!