This is the third article in this series, so if you haven’t read the other two about what blended learning is and what it looks like in the classroom, you may want to scan that before continuing.
Blended learning in the classroom and blended learning remotely can look very similar, which is why we’re advocating its use. Because we don’t know how many students will have to be absent due to health fragility, how often schools may have to temporarily close due to health concerns, or how many students will be able to attend class at once, blended learning is the best alternative that can meet all of the needs of all of the students.
Whereas before, blended learning wasn’t as widely used because teachers didn’t have the time or resources to record lessons, give assignments online for young students, or have adults at home that could help assist with the “teaching” portion of lessons, those things have all changed to some degree.
What we have to do now is give our students access to us and the information, make a portable or digital way to have them practice using the information, and a similar way to assess their understanding.
For early childhood, we’ll need to be able to rely either on tangible objects in the class, or things that can be found anywhere (think small rocks, sticks, leaves, dry beans, dry pasta, etc…). Some children have access at home to things like play dough, and manipulatives, and more toys and tools than they do in the classroom. Others have nothing, perhaps not even a home, so nature will be our best suggestion for those in our classes who may need that support.
Every blended lesson done remotely can be similar to what you would use in the blended learning classroom (preferably, the same exact lesson). The differences will be the response portion.
If you have your students view a video of you presenting the lesson, then meet with them whole-group, small group, or one-on-one to discuss what they’ve learned, answer their questions, and do an activity, you will be saving yourself a lot of time and trouble. Whether you do the discussion and activity in person or in a group chat setting won’t matter.
You should always build in activities that can be done without any interaction from you, though. You can choose not to use those activities if you’d rather have a discussion or participate as a group/one-on-one, but creating that tool will be useful when students are absent and need to catch up on something they’ve missed, or even if you’re gone for the day and there is a sub in your classroom.
So, instruction via video, a standard activity for students to complete independently, and a way to assess their understanding need to be the things included in every lesson.
Always plan as if you won’t be present with your students as they learn. Then if you are, you are able to do intervention or step in to deepen their understanding.
Demonstrations, Modeling, and Explanations
A vital key to making blended learning work will be your demonstrations, modeling of the tasks they will be doing, and your explanations of directions and rules. You want to demonstrate what you are going to be asking them to do in the activity.
Here’s some good news on that - remember way back in the time before when we would give long, detailed instructions and immediately after, someone would say, “What do we do?” Yeah… that’s going to be a lot easier.
They just have to hit rewind and watch you give the instructions again.
You may never want to go back to the traditional instruction-giving again!
Model how to do the activity and assessment pieces separately. Use the same materials to explain that the students are using.
Ways to Turn in Work
With remote learning, you never have to touch a piece of paper your students have used if you don’t want to. You can have students do activities and assessments online via games, learning websites, and online curriculum.
Or you can have them take a picture of their work and turn it in. Even in the classroom, students can take pictures of their work to send to you and then throw the actual work away.
There are many, many resources that are all online now. There’s a whole section on Teachers Pay Teachers now for assignments and lessons and activities - everything - that can be used with each LMS (Learning Management System, ie: Google, Seesaw, etc…). You can easily have students practice a skill until they get it right, making it impossible for them to move on without mastery.
Making Access Easier
One of the things that stand in the way of success for some students learning remotely is that they can’t even get on to the website they need to be using.
We recommend taking pictures of the website, giving each child a hardcopy of their username and password for each site you are using, and making logging on as kid-friendly as possible.
Whenever you can, if you are registering names, start with the most basic things like two letters (ie: initials) and passcodes that are the same two letters and one number.
Whenever you can, make instructions for each site they need to access in a pictorial explanation for the very young or for special needs children. Think “social stories”, which special education uses a lot. For those of you unfamiliar, there is a social story for literally every situation in every possible location imaginable. The whole “story” is like a rebus - filled with decodable words and pictures or symbols.
To “learn” a social story, the teacher and/or parent will lead the child in practicing the “reading” (reciting the verbal words that go with each picture) the story again and again until the student is able to do it on their own.
There’s no reason this same concept can’t be used to teach children how to log-on to their accounts and access their lessons and activities.
The Truth about Adjusting to Remote Blended Learning
Will it take a few weeks? Yes. At least weeks. Maybe even longer.
Will mom and dad have to put in some work to make it happen? Yes.
Will it be more work for you in the beginning until you and they all get used to it? Absolutely. But in the end, they will learn, just as they always have. They will grow, and they will be much more advanced in technological areas because of it.
Just remember to make copies of EVERYTHING you send home - don’t delete it until the end of the year. Yes, some of our parents and students will lose the fancy ring filled with cards containing usernames and passwords the minute they receive it. Yes, you will have to send new hard copies multiple times.
Plan ahead for all of that. Think, “How many ways can my students and their families mess this up?” and then just go ahead and be prepared. Eventually, we will move past those moments, although some things in education will never change.
You may not be able to make things like that any different, but you can grow and change your response to them, so be prepared.