Tried & True Tips for Distance Learning

It's been five weeks since we've been quarantined and it has taken me this long to even try to organize my thoughts (& life!) Well, still working on the life part. . . How are you all doing? Despite teaching 30+ years, I feel like a brand-new teacher again, attempting to get a handle on "distance learning", "remote learning", whatever you want to call it: learning without physically being with my students!
Here are 5 quick tips that have helped me:
It's okay if your at-home classroom doesn't look like those amazing IG teachers' classroom set-ups. It's okay if you don't know all the latest technology.  It's okay if you're not able to cover all the material you would have covered, if you were still in school. Your family, personal life, and mental well-being come FIRST.  Two of my three daughters live with us, plus my elderly parents, so there are 6 of us here. Together. All the time. I've taken over the dining room during the day with my books, laptop, chart paper, resources. My husband took down the artwork and put up a whiteboard for me. I have to make sure during Zoom meetings, that my laptop camera is not angled at all the boxes and books stacked in the corner. And every evening, I clear the dining room table of all my stuff so we can have dinner together. It's not ideal but we're making it work.  Give yourself grace. We're all doing the best we can.

 Since we are all at home, it's too easy to fall into summer mode; staying in our pajamas, not showering. But I felt like a slug and had a hard time concentrating. So now I get up & put on clothes and start my day with a devotional then yoga. If you haven't discovered Yoga with Adriene yet, you need to check her out! She has yoga practices of varying lengths and difficulty, plus she's real and funny! THEN I'm ready to tackle school. Currently, I have live 1-hour Zoom sessions with my class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  We begin with Morning Meeting and greeting each other, just like we would at school. There's always a topic to share from reading their latest poem to sharing their STEAM challenge product or just checking in with how everyone is feeling. Next we do our math warm-up then usually a read aloud. On Tuesdays we have a live yoga Zoom session with our yoga teacher (parent). Thursdays is computer lab. This week I'm also starting small groups once a week for writing or math mini-lessons and we decided Fridays will be review game day via Kahoot. I've also started having guest teachers: last week we had a live art class, this week a guest author will be teaching writer's workshop, and a couple more parents have volunteered to teach a at-home cooking class and an art class. Utilize your parents and friends! Keeping a schedule has made it much easier for me to plan, as well as my kids can anticipate when we'll be together. Parent feedback has been very positive!
 Sharing a STEAM challenge: make an instrument.

 Again, since we are all at home, it's tempting to work all day and all night (especially since everything seems to be taking me forever!!) Anyone else have this issue? Planning, videotaping, recording, and creating lessons is taking so long that I can easily be working and working and working, plus answering parent emails, replying to student comments in Google Classroom around the clock. But I've been setting a timer for 30-45 minutes so that I get up to stretch or take a walk or hula hoop; LOL. I have to force myself to stop working and read a non-school-related book or do something fun like scrapbook.
 I'm constantly amazed at the innovation and wealth of information of my fellow educators. We were told on Friday, March 13th that we would not be returning to school, and by Monday, March 16th, we started teaching from home! Yet in that short span of time, my email inboxes and IG feed were BURSTING with amazing ideas and free resources. There were so many choices that I froze, not knowing which to use and how to best implement. So I took a deep breath and first started with the online platforms my kids were already used to using in class: Flipgrid, Padlet, and Kidblog. I've slowly learned how to record lessons and film myself. (More details in a post next week!)
Lastly, don't be afraid to ask for help!! I've bugged my techie friends constantly and they are always so patient and willing to stop and explain AGAIN. And there are SO many fabulous teachers on social media who have great tutorials!! I've learned so much from them! 

Best of luck to you! Share any tips you have to make distance learning more manageable!

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  1. Those are some good tips. It was hard to go from classroom teaching to online learning in three days but our teachers are doing it! Teachers are amazing.

  2. I am so proud of the teachers in the United States. They are distance learning with their students, but are still connecting with them in so many new ways.

    1. I'm so amazed and impressed at how quickly teachers rallied! And I know parents have a much better understanding of what we do :) But you retired at a good time!

  3. These were very helpful tips for distance learning. Thanks for sharing them.