Bicycle Safety for the Summer Months, Part II

In part one, we discussed the importance of a properly-fitted helmet. The helmet is, of course, the most significant safety precaution when it comes to head injuries. However, there are additional dangers that bicycling poses besides head injuries. Below you will find further considerations and safety measures that will ensure your child’s summer of biking will not come to a screeching halt due to a spill or accident.

 

First things first. While babies may smile sweetly in the carrier while mom or dad pedals, parents should think twice before putting any child under 18 months on the back of a bike. The carriers and helmet do protect tiny riders’ heads and extremities, but the real issue is the lack of muscle strength that babies have before the age of two. Even in a carrier, sudden stops, accelerations, and turns can cause the baby’s head to jostle abruptly. Because the neck muscles are not strong enough yet, the head has a tendency to lob, sometimes severely during a bike ride. It’s best to wait until toddlers’ neck muscles are strong enough to withstand any jostling or abrupt motion.

 

Size matters

Parents may enjoy surprising their little one with a new, shiny bike with all the literal bells and whistles—who can resist that look of shock and awe? However, more important than the surprise factor is the need for children to test out the bike for proper size. For this reason, it’s important that your child do a “test ride” before taking the bike home. The best rule of thumb is that the child, while sitting on the bicycle seat, should be able to reach the ground without straining too much with their tippy toes. Especially for new riders, the ability to put their feet securely on the ground when stopping and to maintain balance means that the bike is the appropriate size.

 

Street smarts

Although we often see signs that encourage everyone to “share the road,” accidents happen every day. Therefore, to ensure safety and give parents peace of mind while kids bike, it is important that children take initiative to learn the rules of the road and how to best navigate safely.

  • Bikes should have plenty of reflectors; however, parents should encourage reflective or bright clothing, headlights on helmets, and any other items that make your child more visible on the road and/or sidewalk. It is important to note that visibility is not only compromised at nighttime. Weather, haze, and even glare from the sun can cause drivers’ views to be obstructed.
  • Remind children that wet pavement, even if it’s not currently raining, damp surfaces and puddles can cause brakes to be less effective and tires to skid. They should use extra caution when biking during or after any precipitation.
  • Even with the “share the road” signs, insist that children stop at intersections, regardless of a lack of traffic. They should also get into the habit of walking their bikes across crosswalks and looking both ways before crossing, even if they have a walk sign. It is important to talk about how drivers make mistakes on the road. Even if the light is red, children need to make sure that they are looking out for themselves in case a driver is distracted or reckless.
  • Sidewalks and bike paths are best options, but if your child is old enough to ride on the road, be sure that he knows that he must ride with traffic—not against it. They should always stay as far to the right side of the road as possible and alert drivers of any intent to turn by using the appropriate hand signals.
  • Finally, insist on a “no phone use” rule while riding. The phone, while beneficial to have in an emergency, could pose as a huge distraction to bikers. Remind your child that vigilance is the best safety measure when biking in order to keep the fun rolling!

Bicycle Safety for the Summer Months, Part I

School’s out for the summer, although it has felt like school has been out for much, much longer due to the Covid closings. Now the children have the complete freedom to enjoy the outdoors without the need for Zoom meetings, online check-ins, Google Classroom assignments, etc. Biking is a summertime favorite for many children and teens. And with more time on their hands, we are definitely seeing that more young bicyclists are enjoying time out in parks and racing through neighborhoods.

 

As fun and exhilarating as biking can be, it is the recreational activity that sends more children to the emergency room than any other sport or pastime. Because of these known dangers, it is important that kids are fully informed on bike safety and biking precautions before hitting the road. Below are important considerations for helmet use that will help children and teens remain safe during their biking adventures.

 

Helmets are a must

Medical research states that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injuries by 88%. Head injuries can happen anywhere, even if kids are going out for a quick trip up the sidewalk or around the driveway. Therefore, parents must consider this safety measure as non-negotiable—if kids are not wearing a helmet, they should not ride anywhere. Selecting a properly fitted helmet is just as important for biking safety. Follow the guidelines below to ensure that your child’s helmet fits properly:

  • The helmet should fit snugly to the child’s head. There should be little to no movement if the child shakes or turns his head. If the helmet rocks or slips forward, backward, or off to the side, it’s ill-fitting.
  • Choose the larger size if you find that your child is in between two sizes. However, before riding, place extra padding into the helmet so that the larger size fits snugly. Pads to match the model of the helmet are often available or may even come with the helmet. Follow the instructions for inserting the pads so that areas of the head are properly cushioned.
  • A helmet that is not buckled is relatively useless; during a fall, the helmet can easily fly off, rendering it ineffective. Be sure to remind your child that the helmet must always be buckled securely before riding. Instructions on sizing and securing the straps will be included with the helmet, but a proper rule of thumb is that the strap should look like the letter “V” under your child’s ear when properly buckled.
  • In the event of an accident, or if you see visible damage to any part of the helmet, it’s time to buy a new one. Even if the helmet looks fine after an accident, the foam or padding could be compromised by the impact. This means that it will not be fully effective in the event of another crash or spill.
  • Remember, even if your child isn’t the one steering the bike, he must wear a helmet when riding. Whether he’s the toddler in a carrier on the back or standing on pegs while his friend pedals, a head injury is just as possible.
  • This is not exactly a safety tip, but allowing your child to pick out her own helmet will help to ensure that she wears it. Some helmets come with stickers or other decor so that kids can personalize the helmet to their liking. Again, the helmet is only good to her when she’s wearing it.

Keeping it Campy at Home

A recent realization is coming down hard on many families right now as we move into the summer months—cancelled summer camps and other beloved outdoor activities. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many organizations have been forced to postpone or cancel their summer programs and events. Besides deposits, schedule changes, and other logistical obstacles, families are now left to improvise for children who have been left disappointed by these cancelled programs. Despite the fact that camps, at least in the traditional sense, won’t be happening this summer, families do not have to forego all of the activities and traditions. Below are ideas for bringing camp activities and traditions back with an at-home spin!

 

Ask for ideas

Before setting out to plan for summer camp at home, ask your kids about their favorite parts of camp. Which activities do they prefer? How do they typically spend the day? How much adult involvement do they expect? What props, supplies, or materials will they need for their activities? By asking these questions, parents can plan for activities that will truly engage children in a meaningful way. Answers to these questions will also help parents to get an idea of the vibe or type of camp that is most relevant. For instance, a soccer camp is going to be much different from a wilderness-style camp.

 

Provide a schedule

Creating structure will make the at-home camp experience feel more authentic. Since all camps, from sleepaway camps to sports-focused day camps, provide a level of structure and consistency, an outline of activities for the day or week will elevate the in-home camp experience. Parents can sketch out the week’s activities or a daily schedule on a white board or take it to the next step by printing a camp “brochure” for each camper.  Below is a sample idea for a daily camp schedule–with typical camp protocols included:

 

Time  Activity Dress
8:00-8:30

 

*Change into active wear after bfast & apply sunscreen

Breakfast in mess hall (kitchen) *Bunk must be made prior to meal Pajamas
9:00-10:30 Neighborhood scavenger hunt Sneakers; athletic clothes
10:30-11:30 Indoor/Outdoor game time

*Choice of frisbee, cornhole, boardgame, hopscotch/jump rope challenge

Sneakers; athletic clothes
11:30-12:30 Lunch in mess hall (kitchen)

*Must wash hands prior to meal; clean up dishes after meal

12:30-2:30

 

*Reapply sunscreen after quiet time

Quiet time activities

*Choice of craft, baking, screen time, reading, coloring, puzzle, movie

Comfy clothes
2:30-3:30 Water time

*Choice of water balloon toss, sprinkler time, slip n’ slide, pool or water table, squirt gun fight

Swimsuit; towel
3:30-4:00 Snack time Dry clothes
4:00-5:30 Backyard obstacle course Sneakers; athletic clothes
6:00-7:00 Family dinner in mess hall (kitchen) *Must wash hands prior to meal; rotating schedule of campers setting the table Apron for kitchen helper
7:00-7:30

*Apply bug spray

Stack firewood/gather kindling for campfire
7:30-9:00 Campfire s’mores; spooky stories; star gazing Sweatshirts (possibly)

 

Of course, activities and times will vary depending on camper preferences and family schedules, but this sample provides a simple outline for parents to structure their at-home camp. This will require a bit of preparation and planning, but once the plan is in place and materials are gathered, older children (7+ years) could ideally run the activities themselves.

Another option is to share the schedule with other families in the neighborhood so that each house can get in on the fun. This also allows parents to divvy up the work, kind of like a progressive dinner, but with camp activities. An important consideration if hosting for the neighborhood—TRIPLE CHECK with parents about any allergies, food restrictions, medications needed (epi-pen), or health concerns that might impact a camper’s participation in outdoor/physical activities.

Zoom Fatigue Part II

Thanks to quarantining and social distancing, we now have a new term to describe the effects of continuous online interaction. Zoom fatigue, as we discussed in part I of this series, is a very real condition, despite its silly name. With nearly 100% of teaching and learning now occurring primarily on online platforms, such as Zoom, the fatigue associated with these digital conferencing tools has become an important consideration for children, parents, and educators alike.

 

How to combat Zoom fatigue

  • If possible, limit Zoom meetings to 1-2 per day. If parents are finding that their children are attending Zoom meetings consistently throughout the day, it’s time to step in. As a guideline, teachers have been instructed to provide 1-2 hours of “live instruction,” aka Zoom meetings consisting of instructional content, per week. This means that I personally am “live teaching” for two, 30-minute sessions per week. If teachers follow this expectation, students will be spending more time with hands-on, experiential learning as suggested, and less time honed in on a screen or video chat.
  • Parents who notice that Zoom meetings are occurring back-to-back or for prolonged periods of time should reach out directly to teachers and copy administration if necessary.
  • Parents can also suggest that their child only spend as much time as necessary in the Zoom meeting to gain clarity, ask questions, and receive feedback.
  • Similarly, teachers should set the expectation that Zoom participation, while strongly encouraged, is not required for the entire session. This means that students should feel comfortable signing in and logging out as they please.
  • A good suggestion for teachers to make every so often during a Zoom meeting is to remind students that, if they don’t have any questions about the assignment or content being discussed, they shouldn’t feel as though they have to stay in the Zoom meeting. Keeping things fluid allows students to advocate for their needs, while ensuring that time on digital platforms is minimized when possible.
  • To spur engagement during Zoom instruction, teachers should suggest that students take free-flowing, unstructured notes while the teacher is reviewing material or answering questions. These notes, in the form of free writing, have several benefits:
    • Note-taking ensures that students are actively listening and grasping important concepts.
    • Note-taking also helps solidify important information into memory.
    • Students are able to hold themselves accountable with their notes; if the page is bare, they know that they weren’t paying attention.
    • Jotting down rough thoughts or questions during an instructional session allows students to keep track of questions that they want to ask or concepts that require more clarity.

Teachers and tutors can also encourage engagement by enlisting an old classroom technique—random calling. Just as we would in the classroom, teachers can reach out for student comments and responses throughout the session to keep students on their toes and to check for understanding. Teachers should be sure to provide wait time for student answers and then open the question up to the group if a student falls silent. The point of random calling is to get and hold students’ attention, not to embarrass anyone or put them on the spot with a tricky question.

Zoom Fatigue

Distance learning is now the norm, at least for the remainder of this school year and for summer school. Now that many students, teachers, and communities have somewhat adapted to this “new normal,” we find ourselves engaging with screens and virtual platforms much more than we would have ever anticipated. Cue the new symptom or side effect of our post-pandemic circumstances—Zoom fatigue.

 

How is this real?

While it may sound melodramatic, this new form of lethargy can be scientifically explained. Zoom fatigue, as experts are calling it, happens when our day-to-day communications, whether they be for work, learning, or leisure, exist primarily in front of a screen and/or camera. These extended conversations and engagements on screen may seem like a passive form of communication. However, video chats, no matter what the purpose, involve much more than simply sitting in front of the screen.

 

What causes the fatigue?

Believe it or not, the “face time” can become exhausting. Consider this: In normal social settings and conversations, we do not maintain 100% front-facing, continuous eye contact. As social beings, even when attending a lecture or work conference, we have a tendency to glance around, examine the surroundings, check in and out of the speaker’s presence, whisper to our neighbor for clarification, take notes, etc. We are actively engaged and listening attentively, even when our gaze is elsewhere.

 

However, with Zoom and other video conferencing platforms, the camera holds our gaze captive. Participants, with a desire to appear 100% engaged, overcompensate while on camera. Am I sitting up straight? Was that a joke? Should I be laughing? Can people see my half-eaten lunch? Are my kids screaming in the background? 

 

Furthermore, since we are able to see ourselves during these calls, we become acutely aware of where we are looking, how we are looking, and how others are seeing us. It becomes a very inorganic way of communicating that consumes us with this idea that we are broadcasting ourselves in some sense. It is no different for students, either.

 

In addition to the overwhelming sense of engagement that kids might feel compelled to present, Zoom fatigue is also caused by the multi-tasking nature that the platform affords. While semi-focusing on the teacher’s explanation or instructions, students are likely scrolling through email, responding to texts, chatting in the Zoom chat, eating a snack, and/or listening to the television in the background. This level of stimuli makes it nearly impossible for kids to be active listeners. They may be sitting in the camera frame, but their minds are elsewhere. This is especially the case when Zoom meetings run long or when students sit through multiple Zoom calls throughout the day.

Because of the tendency for students and teachers to experience Zoom fatigue while attempting instruction and learning, its use requires a bit of strategizing in order to ensure full engagement. So what are we to do? Check out part II, where we will discuss strategies for warding off Zoom fatigue. We will also provide instructors and tutors with tips for checking for and maintaining engagement throughout classes and tutoring sessions.

Self-care for Children

There has been a great deal of talk about the importance of self-care. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a great deal of stress, worry, and unease for all of us. What we don’t hear enough about, however, is how crucial self-care can be for children’s well-being. During this time that adults need to preserve their own mental health and well-being, they must also tend to their children who require the same, if not more, self-care. Like general hygiene routines, children must be instructed on how to take care of themselves—this includes emotional care, too!

 

Youngsters may initially find it difficult to actually place their feelings into a category. This is especially true in the heat of the moment. Instead of clearly articulating their feelings, kids may just lash out, cry, or shut down. When this happens, parents typically scurry to diffuse the situation quickly—rightfully so—rather than attempting an in-depth conversation about recognizing feelings before they erupt. Yet there are proactive measures that can be taken. To ease future emotional moments, try the following:

 

  • Parents can help little ones recognize and verbalize their feelings by explaining the difference between a situation that might make one angry versus scared or upset.
  • Use scenarios that relate to your child’s age and interests and speak about these experiences hypothetically. Use the word “pretend” as your term to signify each scenario as strictly practice for identifying future feelings/emotions.
  • For children that have specific social needs, visuals are helpful when teaching and discussing abstract concepts such as frustration, loneliness, etc. Consider using cartoons or emojis to help children visualize and conceptualize scenarios with particular emotions and facial expressions.
  • Parents can also encourage kids to clarify the level of emotion that they are experiencing with a rating scale of some sort. For instance, a “1” would indicate a mild level of joy, anger, sorrow, etc., while a “5” would signify an extreme level of feelings.
  • As kids get older, parents can encourage more advanced forms of expression, such as journaling, drawing, painting, photography, meditating, etc.
  • For many kids, expressing and expelling pent up emotions comes with physical activities. When children are struggling with stress, frustration, anger, etc., parents can prompt activities such as jogging, roller blading, juggling a soccer ball, kickboxing, dancing, golf, and any other sport or physical activity to release energy, center one’s focus, and mediate aggression.

 

In addition to recognizing emotional triggers, part of self-care involves removal from situations that could be emotionally toxic. Like all social-emotional skills, this comes with practice. For children, it can be especially difficult to speak up and advocate for themselves when they need a break or a breather, but this can be greatly beneficial for mental health and well-being.

 

Therefore, in addition to recognizing one’s feelings, parents will want to encourage children to speak up when they are reaching the emotional threshold. Strategies could include:

 

  • Asking teachers or other adults for a “brain break” when frustration hits. This could be as simple as taking a short walk in the hallway or getting a sip of water to cool down.
  • Creating a hand signal or code word for children who are hesitant to voice their feelings. When kids say this word or give the specific signal, parents know then that he/she needs a moment to himself.
  • Explaining to children that everyone, no matter how social or friendly they are, needs a break from the crowd sometimes. Make them feel comfortable taking that time for themselves to calm down, collect their thoughts, or just be alone for a moment.
  • Similarly, in times of stress, children can find comfort in positive self-talk. But again, this is a learned practice—parents will want to model positive self-talk to demonstrate how it works. If a child is feeling anxious about a competition or test, practice soothing self-talk strategies to boost confidence and lower anxiety. Silent mantras such as, “You will do your best!” “You worked really hard for this!” “Everyone is already proud of your accomplishments!” go a long way when pepping children up.

The Juggling Act: Executive Functioning Help

One of the more common stressors that parents and students are experiencing with the new distance learning initiatives involves organization. Since students are no longer getting daily, face-to-face instruction, and academic and behavioral supports are likely inconsistent, many executive functioning skills that students would typically acquire and practice in school have been left by the wayside. To add insult to injury, at-home learning, as we’ve begun to realize, requires a great deal of time management, organization, flexibility, task initiation, prioritizing, and self-monitoring on behalf of the student. It is as though we have suddenly removed the training wheels and encouraged students to try mountain biking!

With rotating schedules, office hours, Zoom meetings, email check-ins, daily assignments, and weekly tasks for each subject area, not to mention that these are posted to various online platforms, it is no wonder that parents and students are feeling the stress of juggling so many components. There are strategies, however, that parents and children can begin to employ to help ease the stress and flex their executive functioning muscles!

 

  • Write out a clear, color-coded weekly schedule and post it where all members of the household can view it. Below is a sample for what an elementary or middle school weekly schedule might look like:

 

Monday/Wed AM
  • Review all course announcements, posts, updates (15 mins)
  • Write due dates for each subject area in agenda book (10 mins)
  • Daily reading assignment (20 mins)
PM
  • Zoom/office hours for English & Math (50 mins)
  • Independent work time (60 mins)
  • Review HW and email questions to yourself to ask during next office hours (30 mins)
Tuesday/Thurs AM
  • Check email (10 mins)
  • Daily reading assignment (20 mins)
  • Independent work time (60 mins; use agenda to prioritize)
PM
  • Zoom/office hours for Science & History (50 mins)
  • Check agenda for upcoming HW/tasks (10 mins)
  • Independent work time (30 mins)
  • Art, music, language, leisure activity (30 mins)

 

Friday AM
  • Review completed work; submit anything due (15 mins)
  • Daily reading assignment (20 mins)
  • Check email (10 mins)
PM
  • Zoom with study buddy (30 mins)
  • Independent work time (60 mins)
  • Organize materials for next week (20 mins)

 

  • To help with the initial creation of the schedule, parents should reach out to teachers about the approximate time that their child should be working on the course content per day. Of course, this will vary from time to time; however, the key to building a routine is to set the expectations and stick to them. This includes expected timelines for working during the day.
  • If parents believe that their child is spending too much time in front of a screen or is struggling to complete work in a reasonable amount of time, they should reach out to the content teacher.
  • Another important detail that parents and students will find helpful is to jot down where each course will be posting their updates and materials. Since some teachers are using Canvas or MyMCPS, while others are using Google Classroom or Padlet, simply finding the work can become a task in itself. To stay sane, keep a running post-it note inside the child’s agenda book or on the back of the weekly schedule. On the post-it should be each teacher’s name, course, preferred platform for instruction, and email address.
  • In addition to the post-it cheat sheet for finding materials, parents can help ease transition times between activities by bookmarking crucial websites with their kids.
  • To help with time management and prioritizing work, at the start of each week parents should encourage children to consider which tasks will be most difficult and/or time consuming. This allows students to begin to see how prior planning can help alleviate unnecessary stress from procrastination or task-avoidance.
  • By writing tasks and due dates in an agenda book, students are enacting executive functioning skills on several different levels. First, the act of writing out each assignment helps to solidify the information into one’s working memory. Secondly, the visual schedule of due dates helps students anticipate priorities and plan appropriately. Finally, when finished with a task, students should check off or cross out the completed assignment. This becomes a satisfying method for self-monitoring one’s progress throughout the week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motivation During Distance Learning

Staying motivated during distance learning is no small feat. At this point, students all over the country are tasked with adapting to a new normal when it comes to their education. Gone are the days when students have the constant support and guidance of their teachers—for now, at least. The face-to-face instruction has dwindled, as has feedback in real time and the opportunities to collaborate with peers in the classroom setting to which students have grown accustomed. To throw an even bigger wrench into the mix, many schools are utilizing a pass/fail grading policy for the remainder of the school year. Some students, primarily those in elementary school, are not receiving any grades for the work that they complete during the fourth quarter.

 

For many students, grades are the reason that they show up to learn; grades reflect their abilities, knowledge, skills, and academic development. Without the specific evaluative piece, what is the motivation for putting forth their best effort? How can students be motivated when there is no distinction between an A and a C? If there is no difference between earning 100% and 70%, who is going to strive for excellence?

 

But fear not, we’ve got some ideas to establish motivation during these most unmotivating times!

 

  • One way to motivate students without using percentages, grade point averages, and grading scales is to change the goal of classroom teaching and learning. Instead of placing emphasis on scores and mastery of a skill, teachers can shift the narrative to encourage students to focus on exploration, curiosity, creativity, and ingenuity. If we educators design virtual learning activities that promote open-ended conversations, creative problem-solving, and tasks that translate academic skills into real-world applications, students begin to see the value in what they’re learning, not just the score that they receive at the end of the unit. Essentially, we have to provide student choice so that kids engage in the learning for the sake of learning, as opposed to the eventual grade. When the grade is removed as the “end goal,” students begin to see themselves as continuous learners. They begin to recognize what truly interests them and how they best approach problems and utilize certain skills. Gradeless learning means that students can focus more on how they learn.
  • With pass/fail grading, teachers and parents should solidify the message to students that, instead of focusing on grades and accumulating points, this time will be spent providing specific feedback and assisting students with clarifications and revisions, whether that be in algebra, history, English, etc. Since teachers now have a simpler means of grading, they can spend more time helping students to analyze and improve upon their errors or missteps. Feedback-focused scoring provides the best guidance for students to improve and removes the stress of the grade by placing the emphasis on improvement and growth, thus increasing the motivation to do better next time.
  • Show students how, by removing specific grades, they become more active learners. Their role becomes much more present and less passive because they are no longer just the recipient of the grade. By adopting this mindset, students become intrinsically motivated, as opposed to being motivated by the extrinsic focus placed on the grade.
  • Motivate students by comparing the brain to a muscle. Muscles are only strengthened by exercising them. Similarly, the brain needs to be challenged regularly to ensure that neural pathways are created and strengthened. Think of learning as a workout so that students see how skipping the “gym” only sets them back further in their learning.
  • Parents can help to challenge kids by asking them to assign their own quantitative score once their teacher has determined if they’ve passed or failed a certain task. Using a teacher-derived rubric, students can take the role of assessing their own work based on the specific criteria laid out. Grading their own work provides them the opportunity to take an objective look at what they have submitted—again, this is about growth and improvement for next time.

Following Directions

Since distance learning and online instruction has rapidly become the new normal for students all over the map, navigating this new forum has presented both teachers and students with learning curves. Through just the first few weeks of digital/virtual instruction, I personally have recognized an increased need for concise, explicit, and thorough directions on assignments. What I initially thought were clear instructions have often been met with various questions.

 

It sounds obvious—of course students need to be provided with specific directions on any given task. However, we teachers have been relying on face-to-face explanations, visual models and examples, and chunked verbal guidance without ever realizing what it would be like to take all of those supports away. Well, now we know. Even with video platforms like Zoom, Screencastify, etc., the ability to fully instruct, explain, and clarify is somewhat muddled. As beneficial as these tools can be for distance learning, these platforms simply do not provide the same level of guidance that face-to-face classroom instruction provides.

 

Now that teachers have begun to anticipate the various (numerous!) questions that students pose while distance learning ramps up, we can certainly recognize the importance of modifying our way of providing written directions.

 

  • For tasks that are going to require multiple steps, teachers need to present students with each individual step separately. This also means that each step will likely require its own set of directions. For example, an English teacher chunking a five-paragraph essay for students should provide specific instructions and requirements for each paragraph, separately.
  • This could mean creating a unit checklist; drafting a week-by-week calendar with steps labeled for certain days; or creating a sample of each separate paragraph with each sentence highlighted to demonstrate key components.
  • Introducing an assignment in steps also allows students to ask more specific questions when necessary. Instead of receiving a bunch of emails saying, “I’m confused about the essay,” students can specify exactly which step they need clarification on.
  • This level of micromanaging an assignment might seem excessive, especially for older students. However, providing step-by-step instructions while chunking a multi-step task will be crucial for student success during distance learning. This is especially true for students with different learning needs or executive functioning deficits.
  • It would also be helpful for teachers to include suggested time management tips for assignments as well. A top complaint that parents are voicing is the amount of time their children are spending trying to decipher their assignments.
  • Teachers should consider including the amount of time that each task should take in the instructions. That way, students who may plan on taking an hour to complete a 20-minute assignment can adjust their workload appropriately.
  • Use specific language in the directions that you would like students to use in their assignment. For instance, directions for analyzing a videotaped science lab should include content-specific language that students need to know as part of the unit. For example, teachers should bold or italicize the terms hypothesis or variable so that students key in on important aspects of the task.
  • Add specificity to your standard rubrics. What teachers thought was a clear rubric is likely lacking since we are unable to verbally explain grading as we typically would in class. If the history essay rubric requires “mastery in voice and structure,” teachers should clarify what that should look like.
  • For instance, the rubric might need to include guiding questions for each category. Do you maintain present tense throughout? Do you introduce your body paragraphs with sound claim statements? Do you utilize unit vocabulary throughout?
  • This level of specified directions may seem tedious at first, compared to our normal way of orally explaining tasks in the classroom. However, front loading assignments with ultra-clear directives will allow your students to not only comprehend the task, but also regain a sense of confidence in this new method of teaching and learning.

Making Remote Education Work for Students with Special Education Needs

It is increasingly remarkable to think that just a few weeks ago, students and teachers were still in class, working towards end-of-quarter goals. So much has changed as Covid-19 has spread across the nation, shuttering schools indefinitely and leading students, parents, teachers and administrators to ask: What do we do now?

 

Learning never stops—it just changes course.

Many students were sent home with assignments to complete and deadlines to meet. Others are accessing online materials and connecting remotely with instructors. In some places, students are even taking a short break from the standard curriculum to explore educational videos, podcasts, interactive games and virtual museum tours.

 

The remote education opportunities are seemingly endless—that is, until special learning needs are added to the mix. Then navigating this “new normal” can seem downright impossible.

Although federal law mandates that school systems provide equal access to education for students with learning disabilities, no one seems to know what that means in our current situation. Across the nation, school districts are grappling with how to provide remote education to as many of the seven million impacted students as possible, without defying the law and potentially losing critical funding. Yet, with mere weeks to prepare, how can schools possibly replicate the services of diverse therapists—occupational, learning, behavioral, speech, physical and vision—as well as adaptive specialists and aides? It is not feasible.

 

Learning Essentials is here to help.

With our team of certified, advanced-degreed tutors, Learning Essentials is the premier special education tutoring company in the DC Metro area. We “get” these students and their diverse needs. We have the education and experience to assist students with learning disabilities and differences during this massive transition. Our learning strategies and multi-sensory methods are proven, and our team is equipped to offer fully online support for all learners.

 

As administrators, teachers, and parents struggle to create and implement in-home supports for special needs students, Learning Essentials is ready to step in with solutions. We can suggest modifications to learning content, accommodations for optimal learning environments, and techniques that can guide parents and support students in accessing the curriculum in these unprecedented circumstances.

 

Ready for help? Contact Learning Essentials today for a free consultation. Let us set the best course to keep special needs students on the path to learning.