Teaching very young learners online

It is hard to believe that one year on we are still in the midst of yet another lockdown. Even though, our primary aged kidz are back at school on a day to day basis, after school activities are still on hold, or where possible online. As humans were are amazingly resilient and more than ever this global pandemic has show us this. Everyday more services, resources and activities are becoming available virtually. From recent conversations with teachers I have become aware that more and more teachers are getting involved with online teaching and for many of them this is still a new experience. As with any news experience there are positives and negatives, potential pitfalls one needs to navigate, and as they say forewarned is forearmed. One of the areas of expansion has been in classes for very young learners. This age group, under 6 years, are incredible adaptable and have grown up with screens as a way of life, they have an innate understand of how to use devices and many aspects of technology. Teaching very young learners online can be very productive and so much fun, both for you, as teacher, and the students. However, it can very quickly descent into chaos. So, here are a few tips that can help to keep the experience positive for all involved. 

  • Keep it short – try to keep classes to a maximum of 30 mins. After 30mins you will notice that the children start to disengage; they get distracted, start playing with the resources (pencils, markers) infront of them, stand up and move away from screen, start complaining about being tired or bored. This age group has a short attention span, so with regards to time less is more. 
  • Be prepared – make sure that you have all the materials you are planning to use open on your screen so you can move from page to page quickly. Have everything (worksheets, games, images) prepared beforehand and make them as interactive as possible. e.g.
    • PowerPoints with animation are great as you can ask the kidz a question and then when they have answered the answer pops up on the screen e.g. Guessing which animal you are describing and then the image of the animals appears so they know they have guessed correctly. 
  • Preparing materials – use PowerPoint presentations / images as a platform for the kidz to engage, speak –  they can ask questions or making statements about pictures. Use bright colours and images, lots of visual materials. 
  • Be patient and put the time in – Preparation can be time consuming, and often takes longer than preparing classroom materials but the time spent is genuinely worth it for seemless classes that the kidz will love. 
  • Online resources – there are many very useful resources available for online lessons, and many of these resources have a free or trial option available. Others require a subscription but often this is economical and genuinely worth it for the convenience they provide.
    • Bookwidgets (https://www.bookwidgets.com) is great for making matching games and pair games, which can be linked to Google classroom and ipads. 
    • Genially (https://www.genial.ly) is an amazing site for creating interactive images and presentations. 
    • Boom cards (https://wow.boomlearning.com/ ) is another site for interactive games, again these can be integrated with teaching platforms such as Goolge classroom, and Seesaw. 
    • Canvas (https://www.canva.com/ ) is great for creating images for use in class and/or adverstising classes.  
  • Help students be prepared – Suggest to parents that the kidz have whatever they will need for the lesson ready and available before the lesson starts e.g. paper, markers, printed out worksheets.
    • REMEMBER! Everyone is busy at the moment, most busier than before the pandemic, so, try to give parents as much notice as possible, at least 24hrs, to print things off worksheets, etc. Also, keep printed materials to a minimum. Ask yourself “Do the kids really need a printed worksheet for this?” “Is this something they could do online?” You are not only taking the pressure of parents, you are also helping the environment and also equally as important keeping things under your control. There is nothing like a missing worksheet due to a broken printer, missed email, lack of time, to turn a class upside down and upset a smallie who doesn’t have what they need to take part in the class. A child who is sad or feels left out is much harder to console virtually than in a face to face classroom.  
  • Short and sweet – remember very young learners have a short attention span, they get distracted quickly and easily if they are waiting too long for their turn and/or getting bored. Keep activities short and engaging. Lots of little games, activities works really well with very young learners.  
  • Props – A puppet or other type of furry toy ‘friend’ can be really helpful to engage very young learners, as well as to combate any shyness, or nerves they may have.
  • Have fun! –  Kids are great and they engage brilliantly online when they are having fun, and when they see you are having fun.  The key, as with all teaching, is in the preparation. The more prep you do before the class, the more can relax in the class and focus on the kidz, but also the more able you are to deal with unexpected situations or with things that don’t go your way. 


Rules for online classes


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