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A month of school at home: 10 experience based methodical tips for teachers

The first four weeks of school at home have passed. The first conclusions have been made. Based on these, Innove, the Institute of Educational Sciences of Tallinn University and the Ministry of Education and Research have compiled 10 tips to help teachers continue to work successfully while maintaining peace of mind.

  1. Teaching plays a particularly important role in distance learning, as contact has been reduced and students need more support. E-solutions help both learning and teaching: you can, for example, record a video (material for the future as well!) to explain a new chapter. Distance learning allows the use of different e-environments, but it is worth remembering that all learning should not take place on a computer or a smart device – right now is a good opportunity for research and project based studying and creative tasks. In distance learning, it is good to use all the environments and materials that surround the students: fiction and reference works, magazines, newspapers, board games, the natural environment, the resources available at home for doing research. Also, the textbook, workbook and notebook have not disappeared – younger students are more likely to be used to them than to new e-environments.
  2. Mentoring and support means that both the teacher and student should spend less time on technical questions and more time on explanations and feedback. Record video lessons, your explanations, discussions, conduct e-homeroom classes once a week, give study goals for each task in your written instructions and add step by step in detail instructions according to the capability of students. Only after substantive teaching can one consolidate and check the obtained knowledge, read extra and do assignments meaningfully – meaning not doing assignments just for the sake of them, but to support studying with a certain direction.
  3. A flexible and personal approach is always time consuming, but it’s the only chance to teach and support all children in the current situation. Without flexibility, some students will inevitably miss the teaching or support. Try to avoid being too strict with deadlines and the format in which the work is presented, leave room for creativity and support students’ autonomy, allowing them to plan their own time.
  4. The importance on self-directed learning has become clear in the current situation. The learner, who now has to manage his or her own learning at home (not that it could not have done before), is facing greater freedom, but also a resulting increase in responsibility – studying is first and foremost in the students’ own hands. The current situation has created a good ground for self management. Be sure to read more here.
  5. Repetition is much easier than teaching and studying a new part in distance learning. There is no need to be afraid that the learning goals of the academic year will not be met this year. When such a fear arises, it is worth reminding yourself that most of the school year has already passed. In the spring, a few months before the end of the school year, it’s just the right time to focus on repetition. It’s easier to teach the new parts that are left by associating them with past lessons, thereby activating the students’ prior knowledge from a new angle (as in a normal situation). Read more about repetition here.
  6. Group work or studying together in small groups is very motivating, even for children studying in primary school. Make sure that no one in the class is left out of the group. At the same time, it should be acceptable if a student wants to study in solitude, because we all have our own learning preferences. It is important to find a way to do group work without having to meet face to face. For example a mutual discussion in group chat.
  7. The integration of subjects provides an opportunity to find common bits between subjects and subject areas. By collaborating with other teachers, students can be supported to form a holistic picture of what they have learned. It is supported by, for example, project learning, research type learning, thematic learning. For example, the atom or global warming can be studied within natural and social sciences as well as in mathematics and language subjects. It is important to alternate learning activities so that the student does not experience tiredness and boredom from performing similar tasks. Topics and perspectives on the same subject should also be presented in alternation. It’s possible to divide the subjects so that a maximum of 3-4 subjects are dealt with at the same time by teaching thematically and integrating the subjects as much as possible. In primary classes, general education, theme days and e-learning free days can also be held.
  8. Place emphasis on general competencies, as current topics in society allow them to be developed in students. The ability to value human relationships, act as a responsible citizen, behave safely and follow a healthy lifestyle, organize the learning environment, expressing oneself clearly in different situations while understanding communication partners and communication safety, using new technologies and digital possibilities purposefully, reacting creatively and flexibly to changes – all these important keywords of general competencies are of particular significance in the current situation.
  9. Assessment, as in grading students, cannot be a priority in the current situation (parents must also understand this). You don’t have to give grades, but you can. But more important than numerical/differentiating assessment is formative assessment so that the student knows how to move forward. Feedback should be explicit and encouraging and it should acknowledge the effort of the whole learning process. Mistakes are a natural part of learning and can even speed up learning if they are analyzed and studied with the help of a teacher. It is important to maintain students’ self-belief and motivation to learn!
  10. Supporting a student with special educational needs is extremely important, as he or she may not yet have the independent work skills needed for distance learning. One of the important goals of distance learning for students with SEN is to develop planning skills and a sense of responsibility. The same principles can be applied for primary school students.

Furthermore… Try to keep your calm! The calmer the teacher, the calmer the child and the parent. Communication helps to prevent tensions and fears in the learning process. If you need help, feel free to ask the school management, colleagues or Innove for help. The current situation also gives teachers an opportunity to learn from their students, for example how to operate in a digital environment.

Don’t forget that both you and your students need some rest too!

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