As we continue to move through the pandemic, we know one thing’s for certain: Remote learning (or some version of it) is here to stay.
Whether you’ve always been a virtual teacher or are still remote because of district mandates, you’ve worked hard to develop a solid online curriculum for your students. But even if you create the best interactive activities or online assessments, sometimes students haven’t made choices to position themselves for academic success.
While we don’t have a magic wand, we do have five tips to help students navigate remote learning and four recommendations for you to support students along the way.
5 Ways Students Can Be Successful During Remote Learning
1. Set Up a Space Just For Schoolwork
Have you ever worked or read from bed? Yes, it’s comfy, but the space definitely doesn’t set you up for success. A lot of people say working from the bed or couch actually puts them back to sleep!
Just because we recommend having a firm and supportive seat doesn’t mean you need your own office space. We understand that you can’t always control your surroundings, but also acknowledge that, by now, you should have a space set up just for schoolwork.
- Work at a table or desk. You shouldn’t be balancing your computer or worksheets on your lap.
- Keep your space clean! A cluttered space can lead to a cluttered mind.
- Have a variety of writing utensils and paper (post-its, note pads) to jot down reminders or notes.
- Use headphones, especially if others are home, too. This will cut out a lot of background noise for those on the other side of the call.
- Attempt to remove distractions. When it’s time to focus, turn off the television, close out of YouTube, and put your phone on the other side of the room.
Tip: Change out of your pajamas and develop a morning routine to set your day up for success. You’ll be more alert and ready to focus if you arrive at your work space awake, in clean clothes, and with a full stomach from breakfast.
2. Know How to Access Help
We hate to admit it, but technology issues go hand-in-hand with remote learning. While these situations are expected, teachers want to be notified. Learn protocols for when you can’t access resources or you’re having computer issues. If it’s a school-issued device, how do you put in a technology help ticket? If links are broken, is there another way to access the material? Being proactive signals to your teacher that you are a responsible, trustworthy student.
Remember that having technology issues doesn’t exempt you from an assignment. Your teacher may give you an alternative activity, but you’ll still have to do the work. Waiting to tell your teacher about technology problems will not only look irresponsible, but will also force you to double up on work to catch up.
Tip: Keep your teacher’s email address and a classmate’s contact information nearby on an index card for easy access. You’d hate to have it saved online and your internet go out!
3. Take Screen Breaks
Did you know that, according to The Canadian 24 Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, 90% of students exceed recommended screen time? Yikes!
Being in front of a monitor all day can lead to restlessness, stress, and reduced productivity. Incorporate screen breaks throughout your day to combat these effects and re-energize your brain.
Remember that a screen break isn’t just stepping away from your online class; it also means no television or phone for a bit!
Tip: If your parent or sibling is also home, schedule a ten minute walk at lunch. Being outside has benefits of its own. The outdoors, combined with socialization and movement, is a winning combination!
4. Study Sessions with Classmates
Just because you’re sitting alone in a room doesn’t mean you’re learning alone. If your teacher doesn’t set up virtual work time, we encourage you to host remote study or homework sessions to not only help you learn, but to also foster friendships with your classmates.
While you may interact with a lot of friends via social media, nothing beats face-to-face communication. There are a lot of benefits to conversing in person or on-screen, including reading nonverbal cues and more participation in conversations.
But remember– there’s a fine line with helping each other with homework and copying!
Tip: Teaching someone else is a great way to study! Explaining the content will solidify what you know. If you stumble through something or are confused, that’s a signal that you need to revisit that concept and keep studying.
5. Keep Your Documents Organized
Have you ever completed work but then can’t find it on your computer? You need an organization system!
There are a lot of different ways to organize documents, but most students find that creating online folders for each class, and then each unit, helps them find work quickly and easily. It may take awhile to set up a file system, but it will be worth it. Then the hardest part is being diligent about sticking to your system.
Make sure you are also naming your files appropriately. If you’re submitting work to your teacher and they don’t have a standard, add your name to the file as well as on the document. Additionally, your file names should be specific so there aren’t any mistakes when submitting.
For example, don’t name all of your English papers “English paper.” Some examples for term paper document names are:
- Smith, Jane Senior Term Paper
- Smith, Jane Titanic Term Paper
- Titanic Term Paper 5-11-21
- The Sinking Ship: Why Titanic’s Accident Could Have Been Prevented
Do you see how the student’s specificity (name, date, paper, and title) ensured she was uploading the right document?
Tip: Color code your folders! This will help you save time; instead of searching through your folders for “Algebra II,” you’ll find the red folder and navigate!
4 Ways Educators Can Support Remote-Learning Students
1. Partner with Families
Like rules, behaviors, and academics, executive functioning skills need to be taught, practiced, and reinforced. Developing a positive teacher-family relationship will not only make the adults’ lives easier, but more importantly, the child’s.
Tip: Set time on your calendar to write weekly or monthly newsletters to families. Build in the routine of not only making contact with individual families when you’re worried about a student, but also when that student is doing well. Families who are used to only receiving bad news will love being contacted for something positive!
2. Schedule Push-In Counselor Lessons
Another way to support students is to schedule push-in lessons from wrap-around services, like a school counselor. Counselors can help deliver supplemental lessons to be proactive or to address any social, emotional, or academic gaps. Tier I lessons can also help counselors identify students who need Tier II or III support in those areas.
Not only does bringing in additional educators add variety to students’ online learning, it also introduces another trusted adult in their lives. Teachers go to great lengths to develop positive relationships with each and every child. Sometimes, though, kids don’t see their teacher as a confidant. This could be for a variety of reasons: lack of connection, a fear of disappointing, or seeing the teacher as an authoritative figure, to name a few. Scheduling counselor lessons will not only help students academically grow, but also add another person in their corner.
Tip: Invite counselors to talk about a specific topic if your class is struggling. If not, they may choose from an ASCA Standard that, while proactive, may not address issues you’re currently seeing.
3. Give Off-Screen Assignments
By now, we know that Zoom fatigue is real. By giving students tasks that require them to leave the screen, you’ll help give their eyes a rest, change the scenery, and extend learning.
Off-screen assignments also models that it’s important to take care of our minds and bodies. Explaining to students the benefits of stepping away from the monitor will hopefully encourage them to continue the practice on their own time.
Some examples of activities include mindfulness, nature walks, journaling or drawing, interviewing family members, and scavenger hunts.
Tip: Keep in mind that all students won’t have access to the same resources, so offering a few choices is your best bet.
4. Model Organization and Set Expectations For It
Start your year, quarter, or unit strong by sharing your screen and walking students through how to find and access materials. Explain your reasoning for your organizational tactics:
- “Your assignments will always be in the homework folder so they are easy to find.”
- “Your homework assignments will always be in that unit’s folder so you can easily access the other course materials for help.”
Additionally, set expectations for how documents should be named and require that for your submissions:
- “Your paper must be titled ‘Last Name First Name Term Paper.’ If I received 100 documents titled ‘Term Paper,’ I won’t know whose is whose and won’t be able to organize them!’
Many students will need additional help setting up folders to organize their own files. Showing a few options will help kids find the best approach for them.
Tip: Do you remember when teachers collected binders for grades? It can be a pain to grade, but it helps students practice being responsible and organized. If parents or students question the need for organization expectations, remind them of the soft-skills being developed!
As educators, you know that good habits are formed through explicit teaching, practice, and feedback. It’s sometimes hard to see organizing materials or managing time as something kids need to practice, but these are soft skills with which many students struggle. By giving them opportunities to grow in these areas, you will be setting them up for success, now and in the future.