Updated: Jul 4, 2021
"When problems are analyzed and approached with the essential focus on the negative then the solutions will invariably be "reactions" rather than "actions." Na'im Akbar, Ph.D.
In unprecedented times we find unparalleled measures to cope. In education, online learning is one such way to adapt. This is not to say online learning is unknown, but it's an unwelcome change for many parents and their children.
If one were inclined to perform an online search of parents frustrated with online learning, one would find more than enough evidence of this frustration. In some cases, parents have assumed the role of teacher. Distance learning may please some parents who previously contemplated homeschooling or virtual schooling their children. For others, it's a chance they didn't imagine.
Inconsistent internet connection is one challenge. Other challenges include planning work around the children's educational needs. Teaching math concepts to children that seem dated, for example, adding from right to left versus left to right. A quick internet search will resolve your confusion about adding from right to left versus left to right.
Mommy, "I don't think that explanation is correct. Are you sure? This is how I should work this math problem?"
Distance learning doesn't have to result in a learning deficit for your children. It just means there is a need for greater attention to detail and reestablishment of a collaborative relationship with your children's teacher.
On the bright side, you don't have to plan these lessons. You just have to monitor the children. Ensure they are staying on task. Maintain some type of structure around their participation in distance learning, keep bedtime and wake up times consistent, and maintain similar break and lunchtimes.
Tip: Time management is critical to the success of a distance learner.
Below are four suggestions you may find useful for distance learning. You may adapt them to your specific need or make them age-appropriate for your children. These assessments may prove helpful given the teacher cannot observe the child's naturally occurring performance.
1. Minute Paper
There are several variations to this type of paper, and they can be tailored to your application. After each lesson, encourage your child to write a minute paper with the following prompts:
What did you learn from the lesson?
What was confusing about the lesson?
Were the examples used during the lesson helpful?
How helpful was the learning activity at the end?
As the name suggests, the paper should take a minute (or longer). Encourage the child to write complete sentences in their minute papers.
Sample Minute Paper
What was the most important thing you learned in class today? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What Question is unanswered? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What else would you like to learn about the topic?
This is another variation of the minute paper.
Write three things you learned from the lesson
Write two things you would like to know more about the lesson
One question you have about the lesson
Tip: Grades are important but don't emphasize them at the expense of concept mastery.
2. Muddiest Point
This is an opportunity for the child to inform you or the teacher what was challenging about the lesson.
This is a quick way to gauge what the child understands from the lesson.
You may also ask the child to inform you what would make the lesson less confusing; doing so encourages the child to provide feedback about the class.
Provides a snapshot of the child's confusion and misconception about the lesson.
Encourages the child to be an active participant in their learning.
Teach don't tell (teach me I will remember, tell me I'll forget)
Progress from simple to complex
Break lessons into parts vs. whole
Use age-appropriate examples
Do not skip steps (especially in math)
Be sure to properly pace the lessons to keep the child motivated, so the child can see how each part of the task connects.
Encourage the child to explain to you what they learn using examples of their own
Even if you think the child should already know how to perform a task, still demonstrate and treat it like a revision
Tip: Where possible, use a blackboard or whiteboard to demonstrate.
4. Create a Portfolio
The portfolio is a collection of the child's completed assignments.
Portfolios can become messy, so be selective about what goes inside.
This is a great way to organize the completed assignments and monitor progress.
Where possible, create a portfolio for each class.
Include learning activities, for example, homework, tests, and the practice activity at the end of each lesson.
If corrections are needed after the learning activity, make sure the child does the revisions.
Place the corrections with the original learning activity with the revised version in the portfolio.
This is an excellent way for the child to review for midterm or end of term exams
Tip: Should you get frustrated while teaching your child. Remember, shaming is not the same as a correction.
Be sure not to ask yes or no questions, as these types of questions do not tell you much about what the child understands. Where possible, encourage the child to email the minute paper or the muddiest point paper to their teacher. If the child isn't using email, you may forward the document via email to the teacher for review. It may be a good idea to use the minute paper and the muddiest point paper sparingly for those situations where it is obvious the child is struggling. Have a pleasant time supporting your future scholars.
Stay Naturally Curious
Brookhart, S. M. & Nitko, A. J. (2015). Educational assessment of students, (7th Ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.
Stead, D. (2005). A review of the one-minute paper. Active Learning in Higher Education, 6(2), 188-131. doi:10.1177/1469787405054237