In some countries, early childhood education and care services have been closed for months. Many educators are running amazing remote learning sessions that are keeping children connected and giving isolated families hope, inspiration and a purpose to their day.
In this week’s Amplify! We find out what it’s like teaching remotely in China and Italy, which platforms they are using, and give some helpful tips for remote teaching.
Remote teaching in China
Maria is a preschool teacher who has been teaching remotely in China since early February. She’s been using a web application called Classin, which she highly recommends.
“It has many features that make teaching online interesting, fun and interactive. It is like live teaching and you feel like the children are in the classroom. It’s highly interactive and you can have a chat with the children when they enter the class, ask about their day or what they have been up to.”
Teaching topics and activities
Maria provides three 20 minutes sessions a day that children can log in to at 8.30am, 10.30am and 3pm.
“We often start the day with a hello song or an action song,” shares Maria. “We have been teaching topics that make it easier to plan and provide home activities. We also ask the children what they would like to learn about, so we can continue to follow their interests as much as we can.”
After each session, she introduces a home activity and asks the parents for their support. She uploads the activities on Classin, where parents can also upload photos and videos. Maria and her colleagues provide feedback on the activities, mainly to stay in touch with the families.
Here are some interactive activities that Maria shares on Classin:
- I spy
- Find items in your house of each colour of the rainbow
- Make playdough
- Who can build the highest tower?
- Can you draw a picture about spring or draw your favourite animal (Classin has a black-board that children and teachers can access)
- Spot the difference
- Science experiments
- Games/activities children can do with family members
- Building a den for their soft toy
- Cooking together
- Using recycled materials to create things
Maria says that the most challenging aspect of online teaching is not being able to be in a classroom where the children can play freely, interact with friends and choose their own activities.
“I do notice that the children are missing face to face interactions and they miss their friends. We talk about the situation and give children opportunities to share their thoughts and feelings.”
Tips and suggestions
Maria offers the following tips for educators looking to kick off their online classes:
- Try and keep the numbers per session small, this gives you more opportunity to interact with each child
- Find lots of songs and stories online that you will be able to use with the children. This is a good start to get used to the programme/platform
- Explore Pinterest, Facebook groups and Twinkl for teaching resources
- Share new resources with your colleagues to save everybody time
- Make e-learning stories for the children to be able to look back at
Remote teaching in Italy
Pia* is an early education teacher on her fifth week of remote teaching in Italy. Here she shares many great applications and ideas to get the ball rolling.
“Class Dojo is a great platform to post the daily timetable, messages and photos for all the parents and to communicate individually with parents through private messages as well,” she says. “This is a platform you can use throughout the school year to post messages, documentation and photos of the children’s learning so it is familiar already for many educators.”
Pia also recommends Padlet as a tool to provide an interactive timetable for the children and parents, with videos, links, pictures, pdfs and plans attached.
With Padlet you are able to create an interactive timetable with columns for each day of the week and other important aspects of the children’s day (circle time, rest time, brain breaks). In each column you can attach videos introducing the learning experiences, YouTube links for relevant songs, videos, yoga, stories, action songs, pdfs for the children to print off and complete, links to our google meet sessions.
Pia suggests that educators and families can also use Google Meets to video call with children for a short interval each day.
“It’s a very important and valuable moment of the day to be able to see and talk to your class children. It allows you to engage in a learning experience together, communicate and interact with one another, share ideas and feelings, and reflect on yesterdays learning and introduce today’s experiences.”
Pia suggests that the screen display is not ideal for large groups of children, so it is best to separate classes into smaller groups of about 7 or 8 children at a time to ensure they educators can see all of the children while on the call if using Google Meets. She recommends that Zoom may be better for larger groups.
“The Zoom application is another great platform to use for online video calls with children as you can select a grid view and see all children at the same time on the screen. There is a mute button so the children can take turns to turn on their microphone and share their learning, ideas and knowledge. You can share your screen with the children to show songs, read books or write on the whiteboard.
Teaching topics and activities
Pia provides a wide range of activities for the children in her sessions, offering the following examples as great starting points:
- Provide a timetable outlining the learning experiences of the day and including a good morning video from the teacher, addressed to the children to explain the activities to them.
- Encourage children to create their own circle time with their toys and sing circle time songs, cross off the date on the monthly calendar, identify the day of the week and complete a weather diary for each day of the week.
- During Google Meet or Zoom sessions, engage in treasure hunts or I Spy games with the children and encourage them to hunt around their house for;
- an object beginning with the sound of their name
- a certain number of objects
- objects of a particular colour, shape, material, patterns and so on.
- Give the children tasks which allow them to get up and move around their house and then return to share what they have found with their friends and listen and learn from one another.
- Share your screen and listen to a song or watch a short video relating to an activity
- Sing an action song together to keep the children engaged and moving.
“It’s important to ensure the learning experiences throughout the day are interactive,” says Pia. “This could include experiments to explore, constructing and creating using blocks and recycled objects, drawing about their experiences and creations, sensory play including making their own playdough and using this to form letters, numbers, shapes and other objects.
“Audiobooks and stories are great to listen to during rest time which relates to the children’s current interests and inquiries. The length of time for each learning experience is individual and unique to each child, around 20-30 minutes, and it is important for parents to follow their child’s own needs and interests as well. It is also very important to have breaks in the day to ensure the children are also enough independent play and exploration time and also moments to rest and relax.”
Pia says that it can be difficult to capture all of the children’s unique interests and to try and plan activities in response to all of their individual inquiries and to keep them all interested and engaged in the group inquiry.
I encourage the parents to feedback any growing interests of the children so I can do my best to incorporate these ideas into the plan for the following week.
Tips and suggestions
Pia suggests that educators should keep the learning experiences open-ended and interactive for the children.
“Personal videos from the teacher introducing and encouraging the children to engage in the activities support the children to feel motivated and the parents to understand how to guide their child,” she says. “Go with the flow, don’t be too hard on yourself. “It takes time to get used to this new challenge, navigating your way through all the technology and experimenting with the most successful way to engage the children.
“As time goes on, you will get more into the flow of this new way of teaching and the children also become more familiar with interacting on the video call and engaging in the learning opportunities.”