DISTANCE LEARNING TIPS
The guidance below can help us all make the best of new and sometimes unfamiliar distance learning environments. It can help you be ready for some of the more practical aspects of learning from home.
1. Establish routines and expectations
It is important to develop good habits from the start. Create a flexible routine and talk about how it’s working over time. Chunk your days into predictable segments. Help students get up, get dressed and ready to learn at a reasonable time. Everybody make your bed! Keep normal bedtime routines, including normal rules for digital devices. Adjust schedules to meet everyone’s needs but don’t default to staying up late and sleeping in.
2. Choose a good place to learn
Your family’s regular learning space for occasional homework might not work for extended periods. Set up a physical location that’s dedicated to school-focused activities. Make sure it is quiet, free from distractions and has a good internet connection. Make sure an adult monitors online learning at all time. Set a desk and chair in an area where the child will associate this as "Ready to Learn" versus being in the bed, on the couch or other areas of the home that the child will not associate as a learning environment.
3. Stay in touch
Teachers will mainly be communicating regularly through our online platforms and virtual learning environments. Make sure everyone knows how to find the help they need to be successful. Stay in contact with your students teachers, school counselor, school administrator or school social worker if you need help, have questions or concerns.
4. Help students ‘own’ their learning
No one expects parents to be full-time teachers or to be educational and content matter experts. Provide support and encouragement, and expect your children to do their part. Struggling is allowed and encouraged! Don’t help too much. Becoming independent takes lots of practice. At Sanders, your child usually engages with other students and any number of adults hundreds of times each day. Many of these social interactions will continue from a distance, but they will be different. You cannot replace them all, and that’s OK.
5. Begin and end the day by checking-in
In the morning, you might ask:
• How will you spend your time?
• What resources do you need?
• What can I do to help?
At the end of the day you might ask:
• How far did you get in your learning tasks today?
• What did you discover? What was hard?
• What could we do to make tomorrow better?
These brief grounding conversations matter. Checking in students to process instructions they received from their teachers, helps them organize themselves and set priorities. Not all students thrive in distance learning; some struggle with too much independence or lack of structure. These check-in routines can help avoid later challenges and disappointments. They help students develop self-management and executive functioning that are essential skills for life. Parents are good life coaches.
6. Establish times for quiet and reflection
For families with children of different ages, and parents who may also be unexpectedly working from home more often, it’s good to build in some time for peace and quiet. Siblings may need to work in different rooms to avoid distraction. Many families will need to negotiate access to devices, priorities for wi-fi bandwidth and schedules throughout the day. Noise-cancelling headphones are an idea. And one day a week is already planned for independent, low-stress learning. Reading is fundamental.
7. Encourage physical activity and exercise
Living and working at home, we will all need some room to let off steam. Moving (independently and together as a family) is vital to health, wellbeing, and readiness for learning. It’s a great opportunity to practice exercising ‘alone together’ with digital workouts and online instructors. You may want to think about how your children can pitch in more around the house with chores or other responsibilities. Now’s a good time to think about increasing personal responsibility and pitching in.
8. Manage stress and make the most of an unusual situation
We are going through a time of major upheaval to our normal routines and ways of life, and there’s a great deal of anxiety in the world right now. Emotions may be running high, and children may be worried or fearful. Parents may be stressed as well and children are often keenly aware of trouble. Children benefit when they get age-appropriate factual information and ongoing reassurance from trusted adults. We have put in place layers of support for students, so please don’t hesitate to contact your child’s teacher, social worker, administrator or school counselor if you need assistance or advice. In these circumstances, it’s often possible to reframe challenges as opportunities: for spending time together, discovering new ideas and interests, investing energy and attention in activities that often get pushed aside by everyday tasks and responsibilities.
9. Monitor time on-screen and online
Distance learning does not mean staring at computer screens seven and half hours every day. Teachers will aim to build in variety, but it will require some trial and error before everyone finds balance between online and close-space offline learning experiences. Work together to find ways to prevent ‘down time’ from becoming just more ‘screen time’.
10. Connect safely with friends, and be kind
The initial excitement of school being closed will fade quickly when students start missing their friends, classmates, and teachers. Help your children maintain contact with friends through social media and other online technologies and phone calls. However, monitor your child’s social media use. Remind your child to be polite, respectful and appropriate in their communications, and to follow school guidelines in their interactions with others. Also, remind your child to make use of their Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills to better aid in positive interactions. Report unkindness and other problems to our Sander's staff so that everyone maintains healthy relationships and positive interactions.