This is a strange time for educators. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Not sure where to start? I’ve been thinking a lot about how this situation is actually it’s very similar to the beginning of the school year. So it seems appropriate to operate similarly. The focus right now should be designing your online classroom systems and setting up routines and procedures for kids and families. Here are our best tips for getting your distance learning classroom organized.
Give Yourself Time to Learn
Similar to the way you would set up a classroom in August before the school year starts, think about setting up your online class the same way. What materials are you going to use? Which activities will you use for each subject area? How will your weekly schedule be structured? It’s okay to give families some easy to manage tasks while you take the time to figure out all your systems. The more confident you feel in the systems and tools you will be using, the better it will be for everyone. This is a whole new skill set that you are learning, so give yourself some time to feel comfortable with it.
While you are learning about different online tools, try using Lalilo’s Distance Learning Lesson Plans for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade. These plans are organized and structured for families to execute independently. Using them could buy you some time to figure out a long term plan.
Choose a Few Programs That Fit Your Needs
There are so many tools available for distance learning now, it might feel exhausting to try to figure out what is best. I suggest keeping it as simple as possible. Limiting the number of tools you are using will help streamline your distance learning process. Look into a few and choose the ones that best meet your needs. I suggest making a checklist of all the features you need. As you learn about different tools, see how they align with your checklist. Choose a few platforms that you feel comfortable with and learn as much as you can about them. Most companies are offering webinars and training to help you get started with their products. Also, there are endless blog articles, youtube videos, online tutorials, and more to discover.
Talk to your colleagues and collaborate as you usually do. Perhaps your team can decide on the resources you will use together. Everyone can choose one program or platform to become an expert on. As the team learns about new tools, you can train and support each other in implementing them.
Make a Weekly Distance Learning Plan
Just like you normally would, create a weekly schedule and lesson plans for yourself. Then make one for parents and students. Plan out the activities you want students to work on and create a schedule and checklist for the week. Make sure to include instructions for parents as well. Make it clear what tasks students can do independently and when parents will need to provide support.
Try making a quick video on a platform like Loom and explain the weekly schedule and assignments. Families and students can refer to it during the week as they work. Try to create a structured routine for each day and/or week. This will help parents and students understand and execute activities. It might also help them feel more successful and accelerate their independence with distance learning, just as it does in the classroom.
Whole Group Lessons
You’ll probably want to have a mix of whole group, small group, and even individual lessons and check-ins. Schedule 1-2 whole group meetings on a platform like Zoom or Google Hangouts so that you can maintain a bit of your normal classroom culture. This would be a good time to do a morning meeting or a social-emotional learning lesson. Give students a chance to share and check in about how they are feeling and what they have been doing at home.
For whole group academic lessons, you might consider creating videos or using premade lessons from sites like Kahn Academy, or Great Minds. Add the whole group lessons to the students’ weekly schedule with an independent assignment for students to complete. Don’t pressure yourself to get through the same volume of lessons you typically would in the classroom. If it’s ok with your school leadership, it might be good to stick to 2-3 lessons per week for each subject. As you review students’ work, use this formative data to plan small group lessons for the following week as you normally would.
Small-Group Lessons and Individual Check-Ins
Depending on the size of your class, this could be very tricky to schedule. Take it easy on yourself and limit the length of these meetings to something that seems manageable. Try to check in with each student individually and in a group once a week. Make sure to give the schedule to families ahead of time so that they can help their students access the meeting platform you are using.
In small groups, you can do guided reading or a quick math practice. You can also use small group time to frontload instructions, skills or vocabulary for an upcoming lesson, or revise work from a previous lesson. Use individual time to provide feedback on assignments and let students ask questions. This could also be a good opportunity to do some informal assessments like a running record or a phonics assessment if needed.
Distance Learning Resources
Here are some more resources for distance learning that can help you get started!
9 Websites With Distance Learning Resources for Every Subject – We have compiled a list of 9 great websites with free content that can help you cover every subject.
Distance Learning With Lalilo – Here are all our tips and tutorials for using Lalilo for Distance Learning.
Lalilo’s Distance Learning Webinar – Learn how to use Lalilo for Distance learning plus live Q&A.
Guide To Loom for Educators – Learn how to make easy screen share videos for students and families
Zoom Tips and Tricks for Teachers – Learn the ins and outs of this video meeting platform
Google Classroom Tutorials – Here you will find all the tutorials that google has created to help you get started.