Covid-19 has had a big impact on the education world. The pandemic has caused schools, kindergartens and even universities across the world to shut down.
While older children may find it a little easier to adapt to online learning simply because they have a better understanding of computers, teaching kindergarten online can be quite a challenge for teachers as well as parents.
There are pros and cons to online learning for preschool children. Disadvantages include the extra screen time, less social interaction with their peers and technology issues.
Benefits of online kindergarten classes include preschoolers getting to stay home and stay safe from the coronavirus. There is also potential for increased child and parent participation in the learning process as well as for immersive learning through shared videos, video/audio storytelling and even via learning apps designed specially for preschoolers.
Nonetheless, teaching kindergarten online during Covid-19 times is not a walk in the park. Teachers definitely have their work cut out for them, in addition to their own challenges at home. Parents who have switched to working from home may struggle juggling home, work and children.
Here are some strategies for teachers and parents to make learning during this pandemic as effective as possible.
Why is teaching kindergarten online so hard?
The main reason teaching kindergarten online is difficult is because preschoolers are not built for online classes. Children learn through play, exploration and movement. In fact, most children are active from birth and studies show that exploration in play and learning activities is key to social and cultural formation.
Online classes require preschoolers to sit and stare at a screen, which is the direct opposite to effective preschool learning.
Nonetheless, online kindergarten is one of the only available options for young children during the pandemic.
While virtual learning misses out on socio-emotional development like understanding how to share and work in groups, it is one of the ways to ensure that children continue learning while staying safe at home.
With the right strategies, virtual classes for preschoolers can be made to be as effective as possible.
Online teaching strategies for kindergarten during Covid-19
Preschoolers can be a fun bunch but teaching them via virtual classes can be quite a challenge, especially during the Covid-19 times as there are many factors that come into play.
Here are several strategies to make online lessons for kindergarten students more enjoyable and less stressful for teachers and parents alike.
1. Access to digital devices and technology
One of the biggest challenges in online lessons for kindergarten is the fact that not every family is able to afford one computer/laptop per person. Added to this is the fact that many parents are also working from home.
This may result in several people competing for the one or two gadgets at home. Besides this, internet connectivity may also be an issue in certain areas.
One of the ways to overcome this is for teachers to record their lessons. Providing the opportunity for preschool students to watch a recording may help greatly for those who do not have enough devices at home.
This also gives parents the time flexibility to watch the lessons later with their child if needed. For example, if mom or dad has an important meeting during lesson time and needs the computer, the playback ensures that the child is still able to watch the lesson at a later time.
2. Practice using technology
The saying ‘practice makes perfect’ definitely applies when it comes to running online classes. Teachers should be sure of how to use the apps or technology tools for their lessons.
This will ensure that lessons are not disrupted due to the teachers’ lack of exposure to the teaching app or technology that is being used.
3. Communication between teachers, school staff and parents
Good communication between teachers and parents can work wonders. Parents need to know how to log on to apps as well as the changes in schedule, if there are any. Messages can be communicated clearly via email or an online chat. There is also a need for parents to be able to reach out to teachers and school staff during these trying times if need be.
4. Make a plan!
Just like in a regular classroom setting, having a plan for online classes can be a huge help for teachers. One of the things to remember when you plan an online class for preschoolers is that they probably will not be able to sit in front of the computer for a long time.
Also remember that they will need their parents’ help with technology.
5. Offline options
Once you have a plan, you will be able to incorporate offline school activities into your lesson. Providing the activities to parents beforehand can also be a great help as it enables them some time to work it out into their schedule.
6. Have a daily timetable
A timetable for when to log on for classes will help establish a routine for your preschoolers. A full half day in front of a screen can be way too much for a preschooler. As such, you will need to make some adjustments from your regular school schedule.
Try splitting one school day over two days and break learning into smaller chunks. You could also have one day of online classes and offline activities the next. Again, it is important to allow families some time flexibility as parents and other siblings may need to share devices.
7. Engage children during online classes
It’s important to ensure that you are engaging your preschoolers during online classes. Keep learning as fun as possible with action songs, story telling, fun activities and videos. You can even try some online maths and literacy games.
Be clear and succinct when teaching and avoid dragging on.
Activities provided should be manageable and achievable. Worksheets that are too hard at this point in time will frustrate both children and their parents.
Tips for parents dealing with kindergarten virtual learning
Online learning for preschoolers during the pandemic is challenging for parents as well.
Imagine your 4 year old having to sit though half an hour at the computer. Whether they like it or not, parents do need to monitor their children when they are studying from home.
Here are some online learning tips for parents with young children.
1. Have a ‘learning space’
Prepare a comfortable space for your child to work. Having a quiet space away from distractions will do wonders for your preschooler’s focus and concentration. Ideally, the study space should be separate from where they play or watch tv.
2. Limit screen time and devices
It may be tempting to give in to your preschooler’s demands to watch tv or play games to keep them occupied especially if you’re working from home. However, extended screen time can have negative effects on children.
As such, it would be wise to make it a point to limit tablets, cell phones and other devices until they’ve finished their schoolwork. Additionally, you can have a dedicated device just for school to maximize learning.
3. Monitor your child during lessons
Observe your child and monitor their interest levels. Are they engaged in the lessons? Or are they having a hard time following what is going on?
You can encourage your preschooler by asking questions about what they learnt. Most children 3 to 6 years old do need someone to guide them or sit beside them during online lessons.
A simple way to do this if you’re also working from home is to sit beside them and do your work, while they do theirs. Your child will observe that you are working, and may just follow your lead and do their ‘work’ too.
4. Take breaks
Ensure that your child has plenty of breaks in between away from the screen. Encourage them to get up for some fresh air, play outside (if possible) or have a snack so that they’re not staring at the screen for too long.
Allowing your preschooler to take breaks will also help him to burn off some energy and in turn focus better when needed.
5. Plan your day
Having a structure for your day will help you and your child relieve some stress. Come up with a weekly schedule together and encourage your child to follow it to the best of their ability. Reinforce boundaries and reward healthy behaviors.
6. Encourage learning through other activities
Although it’s hard to juggle work, home and kids, encourage your child to do activities that are non-screen related. Request from your child’s school activities that he or she would usually do when attending in-person school to do at home.
7. Support your child as much as possible
Preschoolers need the extra help when it comes to online learning. They may not know how to use the computer and may not understand what their teacher is saying. Supporting them by being together with them during lesson time helps them to stay on track.
8. It’s not a holiday
Staying at home might seem like a holiday, but remind your child that they’re not actually off from school.
9. You are not alone
Remember that other families with young children are also facing similar situations. Cut yourself some slack and allow yourself some time to breathe during this uncertain time. Ask for help if you need to.
Check in with other parents and ask for ideas. Reach out to parents who might need help as well. Creating a parent group on one of your preferred chat networks is also a good idea.
10. Remember to have fun
Preschoolers do not have long attention spans and need time away from their lessons. Allow them to have some fun and move around if they need to. In fact, in the midst of online classes and working from home, why not take the opportunity to spend quality time with your little one?
Helping preschoolers deal with virtual learning stress
There are many stressors that are hindering children from learning during this pandemic. Teachers might not be adequately trained to conduct online classes. Parents may be struggling to put food on the table.
Young children might feel afraid and overwhelmed with having to deal with the sudden switch to online classes.
As such here are some ways in which parents and teachers can help kindergarteners to deal with virtual learning stress:
- Parents’ self regulation – Children can pick up your emotions. It is therefore important that parents regulate their emotions and stressors to prevent their child from being affected by it.
- Ensure that it is not noisy during lesson time. Use headphones if necessary.
- Ensure that there is adequate space in their learning area.
- Ensure that they are connected to the internet.
- If you’re a parent, help your child to connect with her peers and teacher online.
- If you’re a teacher, connect with the child’s parents.
- Check your child’s stress levels if he or she seems to be acting out.
- A massage, bath, music or outdoor time might help to calm your child and reduce stress.
- It is important for both parents and teachers to listen to the child and be external regulators for their emotions.
Irrespective of the hardships involved in teaching kindergarten during this pandemic, it is important for both teachers and parents to work together to provide the best possible environment for children to grow and develop.
If schools are open in your area and you’re wondering whether it’s safe to send your child to kindergarten, check out our Covid-19 Preschool FAQ.