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Distance teaching in the 1st cycle of elementary school (part 1)

How to make the online class motivating, to keep the attention of the youngest students and to make learning more active and engaging? Catherine Lapointe, 2nd year teacher, presents her experience.

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By Catherine Lapointe, with the collaboration of Martine Rioux

Distance education is a challenge for everyone, but the task is all the more complex with the youngest. How to make the online class motivating, to keep students' attention and make learning more active and engaging? Two elementary school teachers shared their advice with us. First, here are those of Catherine Lapointe, teacher in 2e year at the Campanile school (CSS des Découvreurs).

“Despite all the tips we can put in place, nothing will replace face-to-face teaching. Online education is an emergency practice in a pandemic context. It is not ideal. It is not natural. It is not easy, neither for the teachers, nor for the pupils, nor for the parents. Student motivation weakens everywhere when the novelty effect disappears. You have to constantly reinvent yourself. I still enjoy seeing my students. I find them good and committed. Solidarity and positive ”, wishes to clarify Catherine. 

Maintaining the link = ESSENTIAL

  • Allow students to arrive 5 minutes ahead of time. They chat, they present to each other toys, growing seeds, etc. It is perfect for maintaining a sense of belonging. It's like the 5 minutes before the bell rings. This also allows you to start on time for optimize the time allocated for teaching, because we are within the minimum thresholds then we are far from 5 hours of classroom instruction.
  • Greeting students by greeting them one by one. “We have a new student this morning. Margot's cat! "" I love the frame behind you Jules. »« You seem asleep Milo. It's okay? " 
  • Export the class climate and laugh. Jokes are not incidental to demonstrate our pleasure in being with them and to offer authentic teaching. A colleague even dressed up as a banana, others added a thematic day or a false substitute (dressing up).

The online class

  • Share your screen to help students find their bearings. Post the date or a calendar with the material to be taken out 5 minutes before class time. Visual support remains essential, even if it requires more planning and time. 
  • Get the students moving spelling out the words of the week. Active version: Jumping word, boxing words, dancing rope. Quiet, non-noisy version (for telecommuting parents or simultaneous distance learning siblings): just type gently in their hand or trace the letters in the air. 
  • Facilitate speaking. With the little ones, the option of raising their hand with the hand button is not easy (they look for it, they forget to remove it). Provide a small card / tablet with a question mark that the students can physically show on the screen when they want to speak. A reversible green and red patch can also be used to answer a yes or no question or to vote.
  • Opt for positive reinforcement. Instead of repeating over and over "Turn off your microphones", say "Thank you guys who leave their microphone off". It's simple, but effective.
  • Correct in a picture! An effective way to correct the phrase of the day or a math problem is to have students bring their erasable boards up to the camera and make a screenshot. It is then possible to review the photo and make audio or written feedback to some students afterwards or to the whole group. 
  • Keep some "candy" moments. Observe every day a false animal egg in a jar of water which cracks over time (way of introducing the oviparas) and buds. A time to present their kitty, their little sister, their LEGO or their father in pajamas!
  • Do not give homework. It is unrealistic and unnecessary. 

Consistency is reassuring

  • Use the same tools than in the classroom. Eg. : the stopwatch to locate in time, quiet music while waiting for everyone to enter the room.
  • Keep certain rituals. A song, a riddle of the day, rebuses, a photo, a riddle. Ritual also in the structure of the course. 
  • Make reading a ritual. To keep young readers awake. To allow them to share emotions, to make connections. Reading sharing is essential to maintain interest in reading at home. For example, share a crush every Friday.

Autonomy above all

  • Give each other clear goals. The little ones need it, if they want to gain autonomy. Explain and submit each day a list of independent work that they can tick themselves. This makes it possible to see the commitment of each one. 
  • Add pictograms everywhere. The little ones need it to find their way around and become more independent.
  • Also bet on a free project where the student chooses what he wants to create / present. Think of simple projects that he can do on his own, without the help of the parents: a children's project, for the children, made by the children. You can't ask the parent to do more. Some are single parents, have several children, few digital tools. 
  • Leave the choice of how to communicate : register, write, take a photo. 

Off screens

  • Allow time to play outside in the schedule. Twice a day and offer challenges outdoor educational programs to reduce the time spent on screens: create a mathematical hopscotch, count the birds.
  • Balance work plan tasks so that it is not fair with a digital tool. Some have to share with their brothers / sisters.

Kindness in relationships

  • Keep one word in mind: INDULGENCE
    • Towards the students: they are not all entitled to the same teaching conditions, some have obsolete devices, others make their Meet through noise, others go to the emergency childcare service.
    • Towards parents: they have a lot of responsibilities, not always means, not really time, their worries, their anxieties. 
    • Towards us teachers: take care of yourself and write it on a post-it that we keep not far away to remember it! 
  • Differentiate from parents by learning to " read »families with kindness, to better support them and know how to refer vulnerable families to the right person (TES, psychologist, management, etc.). 

When I teach my 22 students, 22 to 44 parents listen to me and watch me. - Catherine Lapointe

  • Communicate formally and predictably with parents once a week to give them the schedule for the week and give them the pulse of the class, tell them not to give up, to do what they can, that I am there and that it is my role to help. 
  • Be present for ad hoc communications with parents who write every day via the various means of communication. But you have to know how to dose. Too much is like not enough. You have to know how to find your post-it : Take care of yourself!
  • Invite parents to share their observations, name the good moves and the irritants. They are the eyes of the teachers at home. Sometimes that can give you great ideas for simple adaptations that will be beneficial for everyone. This can be done, for example, using a fill-in form. 

As of this writing, Catherine told us: “I miss my students. I am tired of the rhythm of the different remote schedules (mine and that of my children). But I'm staying the course! ".

If you also have any tips to share to make distance learning more enjoyable and effective with the little ones, don't hesitate to share them with the École branchée team.

To read tomorrow: Advice from Myra Auvergnat-Ringuette, 4th year teacher at Externat St-Jean-Berchman.

Dimension (s) of digital competence related to this article
3- Exploit the potential of digital technology for learning

To see the Framework.

About the Author

Martine Rioux
Martine Rioux
After studying public communication, Martine worked as a journalist for various publications, before pursuing her career as an interactive communications consultant at La Capitale, a financial group, then at Québec Numérique, an organization she took over as general manager before making the jump. as political advisor in the office of the Minister for Digital Government Transformation. Today she is the online Editor-in-Chief and Special Projects Manager at l'École branchée. Her dream: that everyone has access to technology and can use it as a tool for learning and opening up to the world.

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