distance learning for preschoolers
Remote learning has become a worldwide platform due to the current health crisis. Stay-at-home orders have been issued closing schools across the country. Going remote can prove difficult for early childhood educators who encourage play- or project-based learning.
Preschools are open to play in carefully planned environments. Children develop their foundational skills in academic, social, and executive functioning through play. Early childhood educators often serve as facilitators, focusing on children’s natural curiosity. We create spaces that encourage play by using open-ended materials.
Although preschools may have shut down and moved to online learning, the core principles of preschool education mustn’t be lost. You can work with your families to create play-based, child-centered education that goes beyond using a computer screen. My school keeps virtual meetings to a maximum of 30 minutes and gives families tools to foster learning at their homes.
We host a sing-along for large groups of about 30 families once a week. To allow for turn-taking and to ensure that all children have the opportunity to speak, we host virtual meetings with three to six children. Attendance is voluntary.
These are some other things that my preschool does to support families in continuing their learning at home. They also keep true to the needs of young children.
7 WAYS TO MAKE DISTANCE LEARNING WORK IN A PRESCHOOL
1. Children can guide you. Even though we aren’t together, children still play, explore, and learn in their homes. Ask your families to send photos and videos of their children’s play. This documentation should be analyzed for trends. These photos and videos are displayed during small-group meetings so that children can have their say. Teachers are not the only ones leading remote discussions.
One of my teachers noticed a trend among the photos and videos that we received from families within a small group. Many children were playing at home with cars, trains, and trucks. The teacher posted videos of children playing in their cars on the internet. The children then shared and compared their play.
2. Offer meaningful alternatives to screen time. Children aged between 2 and 7 years old are still in preoperational stages. It is developmentally inappropriate for them to learn entirely through screen-based learning. The teacher encouraged children to build automobiles out of cardboard boxes after the virtual meeting. The teacher invited families to send photos and videos of their creations.
These real-world prompts will be inspiring and practical in the homes of your students. To help you understand their resources, ask families to send photos or surveys. We have had at least half the families from each class share their details with us.
3. Family members are your best friends. They can help you extend the learning opportunities at home. Families have other responsibilities than supporting us in our lessons. Participation in the virtual meetings should be voluntary. If a family is unable to attend or fails to complete a project on time, they can send a note to check in and share what happened. However, participation is not required.
4. Remote relationship-building is critical: Relationships are the bedrock of our schools. We cannot all be together but we can keep in touch and show that we care. As a team, connect with families at least once per week via phone or video chat. Every day, send a school-wide email.
You can ensure that the work is distributed sustainably among your staff by creating a schedule that allows faculty to rotate responsibility for writing daily emails. This will allow each person to have their say. You can include a note of appreciation, videos of read-aloud, songs, or child-friendly recipes. Also, you could provide instructions on how to use household products to paint or build an imaginary building.
5. Children love music and are drawn to it. A child can easily engage with a screen by singing or dancing along to the leader. These rules are easy to translate into online settings. To re-engage students who might be distracted in a virtual meeting, you can do a school-wide sing-along.
6. Make use of your tech-savvy staff members. Even though your school may be low-tech, there are likely teachers and families who are tech-savvy. You can rely on them for your creativity. It is possible to take your school online. Any idea is worth trying.
7. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Your success is measured in participation and smiling. Children may not be interested in a virtual meeting because they are young. Do not make abrupt exits. If attendance is declining, you can call families and survey them to learn what they need. Then try to adapt to their needs. Finally, realize that you can’t be everything to everyone. All of us are doing our best.