Developing Your Junior High Student’s Proficiency and Competence with Remote Instruction
By Kathy Peters, Head of Junior High School, Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy
As our students have shifted to online learning, it is readily apparent that many of the same skills needed for success in a “live” classroom are also needed in a virtual classroom. However, virtual instruction targets a narrow skillset that must be fostered immediately for any amount of successful learning to occur. Critical skills that parents should monitor are:
Navigation: Students should already be adept with our online platform, onCampus, and should know how to find directions, assignments, assessments, and teacher feedback. Further, they ought to be able to message their teachers and respond to messages from their teachers.
Parents Can: Sit with your child and gauge how well they are interacting with the content. Encourage your student to participate in live sessions, or watch recorded teacher videos that explain how and where to find needed information. Encourage them to reach out to their teachers, and help to format messages if needed.
Organization: A day on our "real” campus is primarily organized by the teacher and the bell schedule. Junior high students in particular can respond and relax within this predictable structure and routine. Virtual learning with parents, siblings, pets and other distractions added to the mix provides no such safety net, and usually results in frustration and missed deadlines.
Parents Can: Create and print copies of a daily schedule, remembering that 20-30 minutes of focused activity on one subject works best at this age. Physical activity and movement are also important when the day is spent in front of a screen. Put live teacher sessions and office hours into the schedule so your child knows when to attend, and when to get help. Leave blank spaces so your child can write down what is due or needs to be done for each class on that day.
Reading Comprehension: Classroom teachers spend much of the day speaking, modeling and demonstrating. Students also gain knowledge by listening to and interacting with their peers. Although this is replicable to some degree with live sessions in remote learning, students who learn auditorily and experientially may need some interventions.
Parents Can: Teach your child to read directions aloud, underlining or listing the verbs (e.g. print, read, write, create, etc.); this will tell your child what he/she needs to do. Make a to-do list or take notes about what needs to be accomplished, using the verbs.
Time Management: Our screens are full of built in distractions — social media, games, videos — and the junior high brain is wired to respond to them, rather than focus on the task at hand. One quick peek at a text or five minutes playing a game can quickly deteriorate into an hour of lost learning time.
Parents Can:Set up a centrally located “work zone” in your house. If you are working from home also, try to work in this same space. Have all needed supplies in the space, and have everyone leave the space to relax, eat, go outside, or check fun apps, games or social media. We are training the brain to work in one space, and relax/play in a different space. When planning out the day's work schedule, build a few of those breaks into the day, and have your child estimate how long it will take to complete each task on the paper. Do a quick check in at lunch to see if he/she is on track to finish up on time.
It may take some time initially to get this all up and running, but be patient and persevere. You will see your child become competent and confident – important skills that will transfer to many life situations on the road ahead.
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