As this unusual school year comes to an end, we are hopeful that the “COVID-Curve” is flat enough for schools to safely open in the fall. Remote education from physical and social distances has been a huge challenge for teachers, students, and parents. School districts and teachers didn’t have much time to prepare for virtual learning, and students and parents had little time to adjust to new routines.
Routines are crucial to keep students learning at home (and parents working from home) on task and productive. Pediatrician Corinn Cross shares some ideas for establishing an effective daily schedule:
• Wake up, get dressed and have breakfast at the normal time.
• Decide where everyone can do their work most effectively and without distractions.
• List the times for learning, exercise and breaks.
• For younger children, 20 minutes of class assignments followed by 10 minutes of physical activity might work well.
• Older children and teens may be able to focus on assignments for longer stretches, taking breaks between subjects.
• Include your hours as well, so your children know when the work day is done.
• Schedule time for nutritious lunches and snacks. Many schools are providing take-home school meal packages for students who need them.
• Don’t forget afternoon breaks as well!
• Have dinner together as a family and discuss the day.
• Enjoy more family time in the evenings, playing, reading, watching a movie or exercising together.
• Stick with normal bedtime routines as much as possible during the week to make sure everyone gets enough sleep.
Annie Dankelson asked education expert Lauren Trakhman, Ph.D. and colleagues at the University of Maryland for tools to keep students engaged in “quarantine classrooms at home:
• Keep a schedule: Although the flexible daily timeline might seem nice, adding some structure can help with productivity. “Even just reading for two hours to fill up the day makes it easier to digest,” Trakhman said.
• Stay connected: Isolation can lead to loneliness, but videoconferencing tools like Zoom […] and Google Hangouts can foster empathy during these uncertain times. “What we need to be doing is physical distancing, not social distancing,” Byrne said.
• Encourage handwritten notetaking: With extended time typing and staring at a screen, the muscle memory involved in writing the old-fashioned way can improve comprehension, Trakhman said. “You can still support that (online) learning by having them jot down notes or do a math problem on a whiteboard.”
• Add comprehension checks: When using online resources like the ones listed below, a good way to ensure kids are retaining information is to check in every so often with a quick quiz or brainstorming session. “When I read an article online, it’s so easy to mindlessly scroll through it,” Trakhman said. “I don’t want my students in that situation.”
• Remember deadlines: “Deadlines become incredibly important because you don’t have face-to-face reminders,” Byrne said. Create a system or use online reminders to help kids complete assignments on time.
Parents might feel their kids have fallen behind from being physically out of school for almost three months. Now that the school year is officially closing, it’s important that the learning does not stop over the long summer break. Scholastic has tips on avoiding summer learning loss, also known as the “summer slide”:
1. Six books to summer success: Research shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing. When choosing the six, be sure that they are just right — not too hard and not too easy. Take advantage of your local library. Ask for help selecting books that match your child’s age, interests, and abilities. Libraries often run summer reading programs that motivate kids to read, so find out what’s available in your area. Also check our book lists for recommendations.
2. Read something every day: Encourage your child to take advantage of every opportunity to read. Find them throughout the day:
• Morning: The newspaper — even if it is just the comics or today’s weather.
• Daytime: Schedules, TV guides, magazines, online resources, etc. For example, if your daughter likes the food channel, help her look for a recipe on the network’s Web site — then cook it together for more reading practice.
• Evening: End the day by having your child read to you from the book he is currently reading (one of the six books, above). Have him rehearse a paragraph, page, or chapter before reading to you. Rereading will help him be more fluent — able to read at an appropriate speed, correctly, and with nice expression.
3. Keep reading aloud: Reading aloud benefits all children and teens, especially those who struggle. One benefit is that you can read books your child can’t, so she will build listening comprehension skills with grade-level and above books. This will increase her knowledge and expand her experience with text, so that she will do better when she reads on her own.