Assistant Head, Sedbergh Prep School
Seven Tips for Remote Learning in Lockdown
By Nick Goligher, Assistant Head
During this period of remote learning away from the classroom, schools and teachers are working furiously to utilise and adapt their experience from 2020 to embrace the now known challenges this presents. Below are some of my personal top tips for parents, guardians and pupils, taken from my own experience as a teacher (and a parent), on approaching remote teaching and learning during lockdown.
1 Establish a daily timetable
Children are being asked to learn in an environment which they would normally associate with their downtime. It is important therefore to set up a routine that includes encouraging children to get up, dressed and eating breakfast by a time that allows them to be ready for the start of the school day. Use the timetable or schedule that the school have sent to help children stay on top of their learning, although there is always flexibility in support of a family’s home situation. Just chat to the teacher about what works for your individual set up.
Routine is important to have, particularly when we feel our normal control of a situation has been removed, and helps children to feel safe. Printing the school timetable out for children to have close at hand really helps them to understand what they are expected to be doing, and when, and can also help to shape the parent’s day to day routine too. Setting an alarm for lunchtime and making sure everyone gets off their devices and takes some time away from the screens to eat is incredibly beneficial for adults as well as children.
2 Monitor screen time
In this vein, building in regular time away from screens across the whole day is definitely something that should feature throughout the day and is important in helping to maintain the concentration of children (and adults) of all ages.
Remote learning in itself results in more time being spent on devices and in front of screens, without the regular breaks that naturally happen throughout a school day. These would normally feature within a child’s remote learning timetable – perhaps 10 minute transition times between lessons – or will be advised by the teachers. And the younger the child the less time they can sit and learn so frequent breaks are so important for their productivity.
It is also healthy to turn off a device at the end of the school day. The Head of Information at the mental health charity, Mind, recently was quoted as saying “At the end of the working day, turn off your computer and any other devices so you’re not tempted to check work emails and try to take your mind off work by doing something else.” This advice is just as relevant for children remote learning as it is for those of us working from home.
3 Set up a dedicated learning space.
If possible, it is helpful if a child can have a dedicated, distraction-free, learning space that they can use each day. This will help them get into the right headspace for when they are in their virtual classrooms. This can be at the end of a dining room, on a table in the living room, anywhere that can be their personal space, with a chair at the right height for the child and their device. Best practice for internet safety is that the learning device being used is in a public space in the home.
If it is difficult for children to be given an allocated space for this, Young Minds recommends that families “create a schedule where you agree as a family who can spend time in a certain room or space at a given time.” And let your child’s teacher know if finding a dedicated space is difficult and if there are only certain times that this is available to the pupil. The more the teacher understands a family’s individual circumstances, the more they can support your child’s learning.
4 Feedback to the teachers
Teachers are there to help and if there is something your child does not understand or needs support with, encourage them (or you) to contact their teacher in the first instance. Your school should let you know the official way of doing this, either by email or their preferred online system such as Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams. Teachers want to make sure their pupils fully understand what they are learning, and time spent on consolidation is time well spent. It is also incredibly helpful for teachers to receive feedback on your child’s progress and development during this time – what are they finding challenging, what are they finding easy – so that they can support children both in the current learning environment and when we all return to our classrooms. Again, do this through the official channels as advised by the school and in a transparent and professional way; remember the teachers are doing their very best in a strange working environment too!
5 Get outside
In these days of short daylight hours, it is even more important to get outside (following your nation’s guidelines) whenever possible. This not only helps with keeping Vitamin D levels topped up, but it also helps to lift your mood, makes you feel more energised and offers a myriad of benefits to our mental and physical health. Take a walk, set up an outdoor exercise circuit, eat your lunch in the garden, (wrapped up warm of course), stand outside and try to identify the birds that you can see and hear, find some puddles to jump in, whatever appeals to you and your family. As the Norwegians say ‘Ut på tur, aldri sur’ (directly translated as ‘Out on hike, never in a bad mood’). Or in other words, no one ever regrets going outside, even in the worst winter weather.
6 Make connections to home
Finding learning moments within the home environment can be fun and engages children outside their timetabled lessons. There are maths, literacy and science skills involved in many day-to-day tasks, so get the children involved and you might even find they can lend a helping hand along the way. This could include cooking (can be linked to English, maths and science), household chores (science, STEM plus essential life skills), gardening (science, maths and to inspire creativity in dance, art and English) or even learning something new together, like counting to ten in a different language. Our nine year old has learned to make a cup of tea during the current lock down (with supervision when pouring the boiling water) and enjoys using her new found skill extensively during the day, much to my delight.
For this I am going to hand over to Mr Will Newman, our Headmaster, who has already said this better than I could in a recent letter to parents.
“We know that remote learning at times can feel pressured; sometimes bandwidth lets us down, we feel that we haven’t completed as much as we should, that we are less IT-savvy than others. Please do not let this worry you or your children. The first priority is their wellbeing and happiness, and a half-finished worksheet is far less important than this.”
We’ve got this; together we will come through this with kindness, consideration and communication. See you on the other side!