How can teachers enrich the learning experience of the youngest students in the virtual classroom? How can they achieve the learning goals when teaching kids remotely where face-to-face interaction is replaced by a webcam, a microphone, and the online whiteboard? What is the role of the parents and caregivers in the online learning experience of the youngest students and how can teachers keep everyone engaged in the process?
The short answer to these questions is: focus on fun, interactive activities and on building a sense of community in the classroom. What are some strategies and tools (such as the online whiteboard and the breakout rooms, for example) that can help you create the most engaging lessons for the little ones, as well as for everyone else who participates?
- Less is more
Bite-size lessons is the winning strategy when teaching young kids. The attention span of the youngest students is quite short. Keep the sessions short and sweet by planning the important part of the material for the first part of the lesson. Fill the rest of the time with activities such as games, drawing, challenges, etc. that students can easily do together on the online whiteboard.
In order to be effective, the length of the lessons should be around 30 min. or less. Shorter learning sessions are also more engaging for the parents and caregivers because they can fit these more easily into their schedules and give their full attention to the child during that time.
- Diverse content
When your goal is to inject more fun and exciting activities into the virtual classroom, the sky is the limit. Use the online whiteboard for educational games such as Hangman, Pictionary, simple quizzes, and much more. Kids love expressing themselves in various ways – through sharing stories, drawing, and singing, to name a few. Incorporate activities that are exciting for them, such as drawing a story, writing funny sentences related to the content of the lesson, etc.
Be sure to include various media in the content to explain the material from the lesson in different ways. For example, if you are teaching about bees, you can use images, draw pictures, add videos, and even sing a theme song with the kids. The more interesting and exciting the content is, the more engaged the students will be.
- Physical activities
It is still possible to incorporate physical activities in the lesson when teaching remotely. Physical exercises and challenges truly entertain the youngest kids and make them more inclined to pay attention to the teacher. Examples of these activities include: to bring their favorite toy to class, to find objects of a certain color, to show off a favorite piece of clothing, etc. These types of exercises are great for creating small breaks that will make the transition to another learning part of the lesson. Singing songs, taking short stretching breaks, and dancing are awesome physical activities that the whole class can enjoy together even when learning remotely. The online whiteboard is a great tool to use for drawing pictures on a certain topic that is related to the lesson, as well as for doing crosswords and playing games during the entertaining parts of the lesson.
- Include the families and caregivers in the lessons
Online lessons can be easier for the little ones when a family member or a caregiver is also present during the learning sessions. In many cases, the parents help the younger students stay focused by decreasing the distractions and troubleshooting should technical issues arise.
Teachers can make the most out of the situation by including exercises where the family members also play a role. For instance, you can create a game where one student describes the profession of their family member and the classmates write their guesses on the online whiteboard. The same game can be played Hangman-style with the name of the family member. Encourage everyone to participate in the physical activities like dancing and singing to create the most fun and relaxing atmosphere in the virtual classroom.
- Feedback from the parents and caregivers
The best way to keep parents and caregivers engaged in the learning process is to have regular meetings with them and ask for feedback. Be open to providing advice and help when needed for homework and follow-up activities for the students. Share ideas for future lessons and ask the parents for opinions and comments. Organize brainstorming sessions on the online whiteboard for whoever wants to participate to add even more enjoyable and enriching activities for the little ones.
Last but not least, find ways to surprise your students with something fun that they love, like a new song, their favorite stories, new games, riddles, etc.