Distance Education – Part 2: Teaching Very Young Learners Online

As a parent and a teacher of very young learners, I know that a lot of teachers are struggling with educating our young learners. Especially preschool teachers are looking for different ways to educate and guide our precious little ones. I’ve seen very good examples and I’ve seen room for improvement. I have struggled myself and made mistakes, but I’ve learned from them. Those lessons I want to pass on to others.

Know your age group

With preschoolers/KG and even 1st grade students , you have an age group that doesn’t tend to be known for their long attention span. They might also have some difficulties with impulse control. They also need guidance from a parent to control a tablet/computer or phone. In this age group the children develop their skills often in different learning lines. Keeping these things in mind when planning your distance learning plan.

Small groups

Since the attention span is short, you should make small groups so that each child can get to talk and get the attention it deserves. Yes this means you will have to teach some lessons several times, but it is worth it. Smaller groups also mean that you can teach lessons a bit more according to the individual needs of the children.

Parents

Since the assistance of parents is crucial in the kids participation to your lessons, I would strongly advice to include them in the planning. Ask them which moments are most suitable and form your groups according their planning. Try to keep their participation to a minimum. For example control the microphone of the children so the parents don’t need to sit next to them and tell them to be quiet. Inform them on time if they need material for a project or try to use material that most people have around the house since it isn’t always easy to go shopping during lockdown. Try to keep the communication simple and through 1 channel.

Easy access

Make it easy to access the distance learning program. Make sure you have fixed login credentials. Make a short manual which shows how to access. Use a program that is accessible through different platforms (cellphone, laptop, tablet). The young child will need help from a parent or even an older brother or sister to access so lets make it as easy as possible for them without putting their safety at risk of course. Do not use open meeting rooms without a password that everybody with a bit of IT knowledge can find and access. I’ve heard so many stories where a stranger all of the sudden turned up in an online class.

Be prepared

I can’t stress it enough know your technology. Do a trail run to see if the game you invented is suitable for the program you are using and the age group that you are teaching. Make sure you know how to mute microphones. Next to that have your material ready. Don’t let kids wait while you scroll through your files to find the one you want to show them. Inform the parents in advance so they have any needed material ready.

Activities

Keep your activities short and be prepared. Make sure you have your material ready. Young children don’t like to wait while you scroll through your PowerPoint to get to the point where you left of last time or until you open the document you need. When doing talking activities, let each child take turns and close the microphones of the others. Doing active exercises is a great idea but make sure the parents are prepared. If you ask the kids to go look for a red toy make sure that they have access to their toys. A simple message to the parents will prepare them. I prefer to do “circle time” so the standard starting of the day questions followed by a 1 minute story and questions or a small game. After that I explain what the assignment(s) of that day/ week is/are. I will make a list of games that can easily be played in

Assignments

The assignments should be done without the assistance of parents as much as possible. Keep in mind that parents often work from home in these difficult times and that they don’t have a lot of time left to guide their kids. Again make sure that the material is easily accessible or available in the most houses. I can’t repeat it enough prepare the parents. Warn them when you need material. Ask if they have access to a printer. If not offer to print it and have it ready for pick up at the school or give them a packet with material when you do a door to door visit of your students.

Silly/active assignments

Honestly I’ve heard a lot of complaints and a lot of compliments about silly or active assignments. These assignments are often activities that require filming or other participation from the parents. Some parents love them, others hate them. I would look at your students and parents, ask for their feedback and don’t make these assignments obligated if you don’t need them to evaluate the students. It is always a good idea to let the parents know why you give a certain assignment. If they are just for fun, then you let the parents know and tell them that you would love it if they would do the assignment with the child, but that it isn’t obligated.

House visits

Some of my colleagues have done very creative and fun alternative house visits. The options depend on the lock-down measures that are in place of course. You could meet in the park for some sport and games. In this case you could maybe even invite 2 or 3 students at the same time. You could also just meet at the door, deliver some material and play a little game with them. A window visit is the same principle only then the kids stay inside and you stay outside. Pick a game that guarantees social distancing, but that also helps you to evaluate the students gross motor skills. Take the time for these visits. Yes it requires a lot of planning but they will help you bound with your student.

I hope these tips are helpful for you. Don’t forget to leave your comments below.