How teachers can guide parents during online learning

'Teachers can give parents that extra push to think outside the box' about educational activities
By: | March 30, 2020
Teachers should share ideas for online learning activities parents can do with their kids while schools are closed during the coronavirus outbreak.Teachers should share ideas for online learning activities parents can do with their kids while schools are closed during the coronavirus outbreak.

Teachers can improve online learning online during coronavirus school closures by offering guidance to parents who are now playing a much bigger role in instruction.

For one, teachers can encourage parents to expand their concept of how and when students learn. Activities that don’t look like learning can actually be quite educational, says Laura K. Reynolds, dean of the School of Education, Human Performance, and Health at the University of South Carolina Upstate.

“That can be imaginary play, free play in the backyard, playing in a sink full of water or doodling and drawing,” Reynolds says. “When it looks like nothing is going on, students’ cognitive processes are engaged and there’s growing and learning happening.

“Teachers can give parents that extra push to think outside the box,” Reynolds adds.

As for teachers, they can also think outside of the box of traditional homework assignments to provide parents with more learning ideas.

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For instance, to teach fractions, parents can have students measure ingredients for cooking and baking. Parents of struggling readers should not hesitate to use illustrated books to work on literacy.

“We’ve created a very structured environment in which kids live and learn and we, as educators, need to help families create a new pseudo-structure at home,” Reynolds says.

Parents can also have students map their homes or yards, Reynolds says.

“Parents might sit and drill and drill and drill until there’s crying,” Reynolds says. “My shout out is to families is don’t do that. As educators, we have to show them some things to try if they get stuck—or to come back to it tomorrow. ”

Educators should also use all means at their disposal to maintain personal connections with students. If allowed, they can videoconference with individual students; if not, they can make phone calls or leave voicemails on parents’ phones just so students can hear their voices, Reynolds says.

Some teachers have even driven by students’ homes to wave as they go by, she adds.

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Educators can also help students remain connected with each other, as these interactions allow students to develop social-emotionally and discover their own identities.

“You could even go old school and set up pen pals, with postage included, and match kids up,” Reynolds says. “I’ve also told parents, do not shy away from letting kids make phone calls to friends, even if they’re 4 years old and the conversation sounds absurd.”

Finally, educators should encourage parents to rethink discipline in the stay-at-home environment, where tensions may be high as parents and children experience anxiety over the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders.

Parents can set parameters for their own work and for their students’ work, and set timers for when online learning is taking place. Parents should also consider not just putting kids in time outs or similar punishments.

“Families may think we as teachers have some magic that they don’t. We don’t, we just have experience managing behaviors with positive reinforcement,” Reynolds says. “The No. 1 thing for teachers and principals to think about is we want children and families engaged, though they may not be engaged in the usual ways.”

DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12. 

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