Perhaps some teachers and parents are concerned what might happen if we have to move to online learning again this fall – will children be able to sit at the computer for more than 5 minutes? If an outbreak of COVID-19 happens again, we want to be prepared on how we can engage our students. As a Mandarin immersion teacher of 2-year old preschool students, I saw how it is possible to engage my students in online learning. All it takes is a positive attitude and mastering some new skills. Here are 7 tips I learned as a teacher this past spring and summer.
1. Establish good communication with parents – remote learning has deepened the connection between parents and the teacher. Parents sitting alongside students now have a much deeper understanding of the immersion process, what children are learning, and how they can support the learning. The increased knowledge helps parents become part of the learning which also helps in motivating a young child. This is one of the most important success factors.
2. Help children become comfortable with technology – Establish a positive attitude towards learning how to use the device. Even as early as age 4, children can be trained to use Zoom and log into a google classroom. Teachers should work with parents to show the child one new function each day.
3. Consistent routine – Young children learn best when they can predict what is coming next. When they are in a routine they know, they feel that they have mastered the content. They feel safe, leading to higher participation, more learning and more engagement.
4. Read facial expressions – because the student is not physically present, facial cues are important to understanding what the child is feeling. It is possible to provide social-emotional support remotely.
5. Provide different media – You’ll want to have different media such as movies, cartoons, songs, demonstration of activities, or story time with animation to keep children interested. Also, you’ll want to provide families a choice on how to access the learnings and class materials. I save my zoom lessons and upload them so parents can review the lessons together with the child at a later time. Children learn in different ways and providing different media helps ensure you can reach them.
6. Integrate use of hands on materials in lessons – just because learning is mainly conducted through a computer doesn’t mean we have to eliminate hands on projects. After all, young children learn best by exploring and experiencing. A successful zoom meeting is to blend all elements that young children interesting and find a suitable pace for your class.
7. Develop home support materials – providing materials to support language input for an immersion program is critical, especially during times of reduced face to face interaction. Some materials I created and send to my students include the recording of vocabulary flashcards with audio, recordings of stories being read aloud, songs and rhymes and recordings of activities that children can do with their parents at home. The nice aspect of recordings is that children enjoy repetition and learn best when reviewing the material multiple times.
It is worth trying to engage very young children in online learning. Children benefit social emotionally by connecting to adults outside of the home when they can’t be with their classmates, and they build confidence in the mastery that comes from control over new technology skills. Finally, by working together with parents, teachers help to develop the opportunity for parents to foster a closer relationship with their children being an integral part of their learning experience.
By Lucy Hao, Master Teacher, HudsonWay Immersion School