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Top Takeaways from DL 2.0

Miss Lori helps a 2nd grader with DL on our Studio Floor

At Study Studio, we have a number of students in grades Kindergarten through 5th.  Our vantage point is quite unique in that we can see how this process is going for kids in every grade and from different elementary schools and school districts.  Here’s what we’ve seen so far:

Distance Learning for K-1 is a different beast than it is for 2nd and 3rd Graders, which is a different beast than it is for 4th and 5th Graders.

Kindergarten – These littlest students need so much support.  It requires nearly 90% adult participation to navigate through the technology.  Grownups help them participate in the activities (e.g. cutting and gluing, drawing in different colors), find their materials, and stay engaged on a Zoom meeting.  We have found that Zoom meetings in small doses work better for these little ones and frequent breaks from the screen are helpful.  I hate to admit it, but the asynchronous learning style of Spring Distance Learning seems to work better for this age group. 

1st Grade – Similar to the Kindergarteners, the 1st graders require a lot of additional grownup help.  Even though they are “present” during a synchronous Zoom meeting, they might not be hearing the lesson and understanding what is asked of them.  It’s best to unplug the 1st graders’ headphones so you can keep tabs on their synchronous activities, and make sure they are moving along with the teacher’s pace. 

2nd Grade – Our 2nd graders need grownup assistance about 50% of the time.  To best support these students, we need to do frequent checks to keep them on task and ensure they are listening to their teachers.  While the 2nd graders can navigate technology better, they also zone out during long Zoom meetings.  They generally enjoy participating in class and talking to their teachers on the screen.  When their teachers put them in Breakout rooms, however, they easily forget what their teacher asked them to do. 

3rd Grade – 3rd graders are an interesting subset in the DL process.  Their teachers want and expect more independence from them.  They are at the cusp of getting there, and this would have been their year to learn how to be more independent.  This is hard to teach over Zoom. Grownups need to stay on top of class assignments, whether it’s getting done, and if it’s being turned in.  Accountability is key for the 3rd graders (and up). 

4th and 5th – These students are more capable with the technology and are being greatly served with the synchronous model.  The biggest challenge with this age group is maintaining organization with their paperwork and assignments and ensuring that they get their homework done once their distance learning day is over. 

Create your Social Pod carefully

Similar to teachers and administrators carefully crafting their classrooms to accommodate different personalities, creating a successful social pod requires the same thought and care.  Sure, it seems fun to have your child’s friends in the same pod.  However, it does not always translate to a successful distance learning social pod.  Create a balance!  Sometimes it is good for the goody two shoes girl in the class to shush  the boy next to her because he is being too loud.  And yeah, it is a good thing that the chatterbox helps to get the quiet kid out of his/her shell. 

Thank You Teachers and Administrators, but….

Thank you to the teachers and administrators who are giving this distance learning thing 110%.  But…if I may…respectfully…share some thoughts…

  1. If there are 350 students in a pull out class like Library or Music or Science, it would be helpful to manage the Zoom in a Webinar format.  The students spend most of those pullout classes looking for their friends on camera. 
  2. Classroom assignments for the youngest students are much more manageable when collated in one place – e.g. Class Work for Thursday, September 3 would be stapled together in a “daily packet”.  That way, the young student who does not have a grownup present can follow along.  Otherwise, that child is searching through Phonics packets, Math packets, Writers Workshops packets, in order to look for the Rhyming Worksheet that was buried elsewhere. 
  3. Breakout Rooms for K-2 are difficult.  We have found students left in breakout rooms often have no idea what they are supposed to be doing, or what they are supposed to be talking about. 
  4. Grass is always greener.  Asynchronous learning (like how things were in the Spring) might be a better formula for the Kindergarten and 1st grade students.  Grownups can check the boxes off the things they need to learn and can work at their own pace.  Or does it need to be an either/or? 

Bottom Line

If we can’t get back in the classroom, let’s adapt!  This is a brand new way of learning.  Let’s continue to roll with it.  But let’s also recognize how we can make it better!  TOGETHER!  If we evolve, we can make Distance Learning the best it can be for each and every student.