By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
Many schools are moving to remote learning as we work towards healing our world of Coronavirus.
But e-learning is not a new concept; schools have been using elements of remote learning long before the pandemic hit. And once the pandemic is over, e-learning is most certainly going to stick around.
If you’re the parent of an elementary-aged student (grades K-5), then you might be responsible for a good portion of their e-learning experience – at least in the early stages. The tips I outline below are meant to help you support your child as he or she learns to navigate e-learning and all it entails.
To begin, e-learning provides the opportunity for two types of education:
- First, there’s the academic piece – the content they learn that aligns with the Common Core. Your child will get this type of education by doing what their teacher asks of them.
- Second, the executive function piece – the “how to do school” piece, the SchoolHabits piece (if I could be so cheeky). Your child can get this type of education, which I argue is essential, through a little encouragement and planning from you. Many of the tips below will help your child develop these critical executive function skills at the same time they will make e-learning a little easier.
8 e-learning tips for parents of elementary students
1. Ask your kids to explain to you what they are learning.
Elementary-aged students are accustomed to group work and partner work. Very few activities in the primary grades are independent except for assessments. When a child is learning remotely, they lose the opportunity to engage with their peers in a way that helps them process new material.
When your child has finished an online activity, ask them to explain it to you. If they have difficulty explaining it, then they most likely do not understand it fully.
2. Create an inspiring and motivating work space.
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to accommodate two separate spaces – one for work and one for play – then definitely do that. If you only have one space, then make sure you do something visual to clearly mark the shift from play to work.
For example, maybe when the desk lamp is on it’s time for school work; when the desk lamp is off it’s okay to use the computer for leisure activities. Kids need a visual cue to transition from one mode to another.
If you’re setting up your child’s study space, use the tips I outline here, depending on their learning style:
- Study spaces for visual learners
- Study spaces for auditory learners
- Study spaces for kinesthetic learners
3. Give breaks with physical activities and no screens.
Much of your child’s remote learning experience will be behind a computer screen. Because of that, when it’s time for a break (in between tasks), encourage your child to get up from the computer and do something without a screen. It’s not a true break if your child moves to the couch to scroll through their phone between school tasks. Bottom line: no screens.
4. Print everything you can.
Your child’s teacher is going to assign readings, articles, worksheets, pdfs, etc. She is also going to post content in the form of images, charts, diagrams and other visuals. Print out absolutely everything for your child that can be printed.
For example, if your child needs to complete a math worksheet online, print out the worksheet, do the work on the actual paper, and then scan the paper back to the teacher. Sure, it might take an extra step but your child will reap the benefits.
5. Encourage your child to make checklists of what they need to do.
The simple act of writing out a checklist of upcoming assignments is an executive function skill. This is a skill that needs to be developed early on, and now is the time to start.
Even if your child has one assignment and argues that she or he doesn’t need to write it down, make them write it down. They can use a notebook, a sticky note, basic paper – whatever. Just get them in the habit of writing out all their tasks for the day.
6. Store usernames and passwords next to the computer.
If your child is learning remotely, there will be a bazillions websites and apps they’ll need to access regularly – and this means there will be a bazillion usernames and passwords. Don’t take chances. Write it all down on a sticky note and slap it on the wall next to their study station.
If you simply Google “Password Keeper Template” like I did, then you can find a zillion different kinds to print for free. Or make your own.
7. Give them some choice.
Let your child have some control over their e-learning schedule. How much control you give them might depend on their grade level, but regardless, they will adjust better to the remote learning experience if they feel in control of it.
If your child has math, English and Spanish work to complete by the end of the day, help them prioritize (executive functions!) and let them choose the order they do the assignments. More control equals less resistance.
8. Encourage teacher communication.
You will have questions throughout this process, and so will your child. Encourage him or her to write down all questions that arise as s/he is working, and then send the teacher one email with all the questions. Here’s how to write an email to a teacher.
Encouraging your child to ask their teacher for help via not only helps clarify difficult concepts, but it also teaches self-advocacy, which is one of the most critical skills an elementary-aged child could learn.
Remote learning might be a new experience for your child – and it might be a new experience for you, too. Be kind to each of you as you navigate the newness of e-learning.
These were 8 e-learning tips for parents. If you have an older child in middle school or beyond, they might find these advanced e-learning tips helpful.