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Research School Network: Supporting your child with learning remotely Secondary chemistry teacher and EEF science specialist, Dr Niki Kaiser, on the challenges of supporting learning in lockdown.

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Supporting your child with learning remotely

Secondary chemistry teacher and EEF science specialist, Dr Niki Kaiser, on the challenges of supporting learning in lockdown.

by Research Schools Network
on the

I remember the first day of remote learning for my three primary-aged children in March last year. I felt shocked and unprepared, even though I’m a teacher.

My parent WhatsApp groups were full of messages from disorientated parents trying to help each other, sharing resources they’d found, and offering support to each other when things felt overwhelming. It was a confusing few weeks, as schools and parents fought to find their feet.

As we enter an extended period of remote learning for a second time, I have been reflecting on it from the viewpoint as a teacher, a colleague at the EEF supporting teachers, as well as that of a parent.

Regular routines

The EEF’s checklist to support daily home learning recognises the importance of consistent routines and I’ve found it really helpful to keep this in mind. 

At home, we have a small easel where we write a timetable’ (a list of what we’re doing that day), which includes things like snacks and going for a walk. I know other families, who prefer a looser approach, but we find this helps us to structure our time.

EEF supporting daily routines during school

The school support us to plan our days by releasing a weekly overview of the work they’ll set each day (putting it online at the same time every morning). They’ve shared some examples of daily routines with the children, reminding them that it’s still important to read and get outside for some fresh air, as well as completing their maths and spellings. 

The EEF’s Rapid Evidence Assessment of remote learning indicates that the contents of a lesson are more important than the medium used to deliver them. They suggest schools ensure the elements of effective teaching are present, including clear explanations, scaffolding and feedback, whether lessons are live or asynchronous, as exemplified in this planning framework.

I have seen how motivating it is for my children to have regular interactions with their own class teacher, and I wish their teachers could see how widely they smile each morning, as they watch their daily welcome video’, or when they get a voice-note or comment on their work. 

This regular feedback, as well as things like short mentions of upcoming birthdays for people in the class, remind them that their teacher is still there, and cares about their work, even if they’re not able to be with them in the classroom. 

These videos are all asynchronous, but we haven’t lost out on live contact’ with the school altogether. We have class conferences” via Google Meet, where children can talk to their classmates in small groups, and chat through the work they’re doing with their teacher. The teachers ring parents regularly, too.

Connecting remotely to the home

It’s important to acknowledge that none of this home learning would be accessible without devices and other support. Of course, children struggle to learn in any context if they don’t have access to food, quiet spaces and security. 

Schools can try their best to mitigate, when these are missing, but we know that differences in provision and support across the country are stark. Even when all these resources are accessible, the situation is still far from ideal. 

Ultimately, my children would much rather be in school. Sometimes they get confused, at other times they feel lost, and some days it’s a real challenge to keep them focussed on their school work. 

I try to remind them that it’s just as important to try doing something, even if they can’t finish it all, and offer little incentives to keep going, even if only for 10 minutes. Sometimes, I’ll read through a task with them, or try to scaffold the first bit of their answer. 

Through these tough times, these simple strategies can help us to support our children to fully engage, and in turn, get the most out of the time they have at home.

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