Our new early years adviser, Katie Callaghan, shares some of her recent experiences of delivering remote learning in school. At the end of her blog, there is a new HfL remote learning card for you to download and a link to the page where you can access the other new cards in this set.
Now, over to Katie…
Here we go again with remote teaching….as if we’re playing a game of snakes and ladders!
In the words of Herts for Learning’s Managing Director, Andrew de Csillery, ‘It certainly feels like we landed on the snake that takes you all the way back to the beginning just as the finishing line seemed to be coming into view.’ Remote Learning, particularly in Early Years is a difficult task but an achievable one, whereby we can, as practitioners, showcase our great ability to adapt and be flexible.
Whilst we all know that we can present parents, carers and children with a range of effective learning opportunities to complete at home together, we need to remember to ensure that these opportunities are flexible to enable parents and carers to fit in learning to best suit their day. Every school and every early years setting will have their own ideas about how best to strike this balance and how best to reach out to the families they work with in their community.
Having recently joined the Early Years team at Herts for Learning, I have an authentic understanding of teaching young children remotely, having been fully immersed within this throughout the first and second national lockdowns. This included having to balance remote learning whilst also having bubbles close during the autumn term due to Covid outbreaks. Here are some top tips from a fellow early years leader that worked brilliantly for us:
- remember how brilliantly you did this first time around and if you can, reuse any resources that you created back in the first lockdown last spring;
- provide opportunities such as daily or weekly play challenges for the children to complete with their parents at their own pace. These could be created using a grid style approach which address all seven areas of learning;
- rather than scheduling daily live lessons at set times, record short yet effective clips for phonics and other areas of learning such as practical maths videos or engaging topic videos, centred on current themes. Ensure you are modelling in videos in the same way you would be during learning sessions in school;
- utilise school communication tools such as Seesaw or Tapestry to aid home learning. These apps enable you to reach out to children by recording and uploading videos, and setting them achievable tasks. They enable parents and carers to feed back to you by sending through photos and videos of their children’s responses. Children can draw, write and comment verbally on the tasks set without having to print out reams of paper. All of this enables parents and practitioners to keep in direct contact with each other and allows you to respond to the children’s home learning through written, drawn or even voice comments which are personalised to each child, helping you praise and move children on, even at a distance;
- support parents’ expectations by helping them to understand how to support their child’s learning. For example, share some videos on how to question children when they are following their own child-initiated learning. This will help parents to appreciate the importance of giving children time to play and develop their own learning fascinations and directions. Upload short and meaningful phonics videos to help parents to say the sounds correctly and suggest a simple daily timetable for them to help them to get the balance of play and adult led tasks right;
- check in with all families on a regular basis to understand how they are doing. This may be through the use of an application you’re using such as Tapestry, Seesaw or Google Meet (remembering to follow e-safety guidelines) or even by making a good old fashioned phone call or arranging a simple doorstep visit. Doorstep visits work great to reach out to children who may not have access to remote devices. Support children during these visits by talking to them about the pictures they’ve perhaps drawn or even just talking to them about what they have been doing whilst being at home;
- share the workload with your team, remembering that you’re all in this together. Utilise all of your team to see if you can engineer short ten to fifteen minute live well-being sessions with smaller groups of children of no more than five to ensure you’re staying in contact with children. These small live sessions are perfect to schedule ideas such as Rainbow Breathing, Mindfulness and Show and Tell sessions and also help the children keep in touch with their classmates;
- direct families to a range of resources by reaching out and taking advantage of the wide variety of resources that are already available such as the launch of the new BBC educational offer and;
- remind families about the importance of doing the simple things with their children too such as having their daily dose of exercise, preparing meals together, getting their children to help with the washing, sharing a book and having cinema time at home as part of a family.
And finally, remember how vital it is that you look after your wellbeing whilst providing a great home learning diet to your class. Take regular breaks away from your laptop whilst preparing home learning resources and ensure you’re staying in contact with your colleagues to share your thoughts and feelings. Make sure you give yourself time to connect with your family and friends during this challenging time and remember that you’re not alone. Take daily exercise, during daylight hours if possible - even just a simple 10 minute walk will awaken your mind and help you to focus on developing new ideas to reach out to connecting with you class.
Remember that you can’t mirror your setting in children’s homes but you can do your best to provide them with ‘opportunities’ that are accessible for all, staying well-engaged with parents to reassure them about the great home learning they are doing. Stay positive and remember that the end of this global crisis is just about in sight. One day soon, you will return to the magic that is your early years classroom, with the buzz of children exploring their exciting and open ended environments, and with adults seizing those ‘in the moment’ learning opportunities, once again developing each unique child and their personal next steps. In other words, doing the job you love, in the classroom you love.
You may not believe it but one day, you will look back on these experiences as a time when you had to showcase how well you could adapt quickly and respond to the changing needs for your children, and whereby you too also learnt an array of new skills that you never thought you had.
To all Early Years practitioners, just remember,
"You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh.
Remote learning cards
Here is an HfL early years remote learning card for you to use with your families supporting their children at home: