12 Virtual Learning Tips & Tricks for Beginners
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Virtual learning is back in session and there’s a new teacher in the house!
You might not have imagined you would be sitting at home doing long division and being called “teacher”, but this school year will be a little different due to the coronavirus as many of us navigate distance and virtual learning with our kiddos at home.
If you, like many other parents, are your child’s new teacher or find yourself much more involved in facilitating at-home learning, we commend you on your patience and flexibility during these unpredictable times!
To make school at home more productive for you and your kiddo, we’re sharing 12 virtual learning tips and tricks so you don’t feel totally lost as you take on the new school year.
1. Create a schedule and try to stick to it.
Outlining your child’s virtual learning day with a set schedule will not only give them a sense of security, but it’ll also keep you from feeling frazzled and overwhelmed.
Of course, it’s ok to allow for some flexibility, but try to fill their day with time-blocked tasks and activities similar to what they were accustomed to when they went to school. The example schedule pictured above should help you get the ball rolling!
2. Remove or restrict non-school devices.
This is at the top of our list for a good reason! Your kiddos probably won’t get very much work done if their phone is within reach during school hours. To keep device distractions to a minimum, it’s best to either remove completely during work time or set specific guidelines for their usage.
You can even incentivize phone privileges for finishing assignments or accomplishing tasks on-schedule or ahead of time like my Hip sidekick, Alana does.
3. Set up a designated workspace.
When your child can keep all of their schoolwork and supplies in a specific space, it’ll help keep your house in order and support the new distance learning structure.
If studies are taking place in a multipurpose room, give your child a basket or bin to pack up their materials at the end of the day so it doesn’t create a mess or become disorganized. For some, this space might be the dining table (like Bryn’s setup pictured above) or a nook in the kitchen or living room. I’ve even seen little learning stations in oversized pantries, so get creative with the space you have!
Tips for creating the ideal at-home work station:
- Try to find an area that has good lighting, whether it’s natural sunlight or a lamp that won’t strain their eyes.
- Pick out a sturdy desk, table, or another surface that they can do their work at.
- Give your child headphones or a Bluetooth speaker to help block out noise from other rooms in your home.
- Make sure there’s a trash can nearby so their work station doesn’t get cluttered with papers and junk.
- Print out their daily schedule and pin it to their desk or a wall nearby.
- Have your child pick out a couple of things that will help make their designated area their own (pictures, an accessory organizer, favorite figurines).
4. Consider getting a second screen for high schoolers.
High school students juggle a lot of multitasking projects, so it’s helpful to have a second screen so they can easily navigate between different tasks and accomplish things more quickly.
Lina did this for her son who just started 9th grade and it tremendously helps him throughout his day.
“My son’s additional monitor makes it so much easier for him to create slides in google docs and navigate zoom calls for high school in addition to the school’s iPad. I also posted his schedule above his computer so he knows what zoom calls are when.” – Lina
5. Invest in some good blue light blocking glasses.
Since the whiteboards and chalkboards are now laptops and iPads, you might want to consider getting your student a pair of blue light blocking glasses so they don’t get eye burnout in the middle of their school day.
Blue light not only reduces natural melatonin production which can interfere with sleep, but it can cause nasty headaches and even dizziness. Blue light blocking glasses don’t just have to be for school though, your kiddo can wear them while they’re gaming, watching TV, or just playing on a device.
6. Join a virtual learning Facebook group.
There are a ton of awesome distance learning Facebook groups that share teaching tips, ideas, and offer support to others that are teaching their kids at home.
If anything, this will give you a circle of friends that can relate to what you’re going through on some level and also serve as a resource when you need advice or a second opinion about something.
7. Gain more distance learning insight from the HSLDA.
If you’re feeling lost and don’t know where to start with virtual learning at home, the HSLDA website is full of helpful tips and resources based on state by state requirements. Note that this applies more so to actual homeschooling, rather than distance or virtual learning which have set learning guidelines from your child’s school.
You’ll have access to tools that allow you to customize curriculums, better understand your child’s learning preferences, and help create the ideal distance learning environment to add more value to their at-home learning experience.
8. Have older students help assist younger students.
If you’ve got a high schooler and elementary or middle school-aged children at home, enable your teen to be a resource for the young learners. It’ll make your day less stressful and it will also reinforce their learning!
Try to plan activities for the little ones ahead of time so that you can dedicate more time and attention to your older students when they need it.
9. Always take breaks!
Without recess, lunchtime, and 10-minute breaks in between classes, I’m fairly certain that our kids would be going totally stir-crazy!
Even though you’re not in a school building, try to work a few breaks into the daily distance learning schedule so your child can take a breather and get out all of their wiggles before finishing up their work. This could look like free time outside, playing a game, doing a puzzle, or whatever else your child enjoys.
If you want, you can even incorporate sports or P.E. into their day so they have a physical activity outlet. After all, kids are kids, and it’s so important for them to be able to run around and let out all of their energy!
10. Help fidgety kids stay focused with sensory toys.
If you have an abnormally rambunctious little one, the new virtual learning situation is probably not easy for them or for you to adjust to. To help them focus and stay on task (and to give you some relief), try using a sensory toy that will keep their hands busy and bring them some comfort.
We recently shared a post on these monkey noodle sensory toys and I was encouraged when I heard that so many teachers use them in classroom settings with kids of all ages.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that my son who has ADHD sometimes twirls and pulls his hair when he’s reading a book or watching a movie. I was worried he would eventually have a big chunk of hair missing, so I grabbed a monkey noodle and told him to play with it whenever he feels bored or reads a book. So far, it’s working for us!
11. Develop a reward system.
Having trouble getting your kiddo to engage in their studies? A reward system might just be the solution. For Alana, her son’s productivity kicks in at the first mention of Fortnite. For other kids, it might be a piece of candy, a new toy, or a special privilege.
Be careful not to over-reward though as you don’t want your kids to become accustomed to getting something special every time they do their schoolwork. Instead, create a weekly goal for them to achieve or set a specific deadline for a project they’re working on.
12. Have some grace for yourself and your children.
You’re already an awesome parent, but adding the role of teacher to your resume comes with many challenges and no one expects you to be perfect. As you jump into this unconventional school year, spend some time getting to know how your child thinks and learns in this new environment. Children have different learning styles and what works for one child may not always be the best method for another child.
Don’t forget to acknowledge their accomplishments and praise their unique skills and talents AND don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for rolling with the punches and taking on these new responsibilities with such gusto! Hopefully, these virtual learning tips and tricks will make the months ahead more smooth.
Let’s make this school year one to remember!
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Definitely check out HSLDA, it’s a fantastic resource!
I agree! It is full of so much helpful information and resources!🙌
I am a private virtual tutor and I love all of these suggestions!
I’m so glad! I hope they help you throughout this school year!❤️
Lina how do you set up the extra monitor with the school ipad. I’ve been trying to figure out hooking the ipad to a tv and keyboard.
Hi Sarah! I just heard from Lina on this.
“He has the extra screen attached from his personal laptop to expand the screen for assignments and uses the ipad to zoom call and to see class/teacher.”
It looks like I if you have a Mac computer you may be able to use the iPad as an extra screen. I do see some tips on that with a quick google search. Hoping this is helpful!
Thank you. Still confused since we only have ipad but thanks!
Setting up a TV as a second screen is a little more tricky. It’s definitely easier to do it on an actual computer, especially a Mac.
You’d need to get a bluetooth keyboard for the iPad. For second screen from iPad to TV, if you pull down from the top right corner of the iPad, you’ll see the Action Center. From there, choose screen mirroring. If the iPad and tv are on the same network, you should see the TV (or streaming device) pull up as an option. It works with best with Apple Tv, Chromecast, or Roku but you might be able to do it with your smart TV too. Click on whatever tv/device pops up and it should mirror the iPad screen on the tv.
From there, you’d need to play around with multitasking on your iPad to make it functional: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT207582.
If you want to hardwire a connect, there are adapters that let you hook an HDMI cable up to the TV from the iPad. This essentially turns your TV into a monitor (same as screen sharing above) so you’re still controlling everything from the iPad but it will possibly let him have a bigger screen so he can multitask.
Tip from a teacher: If you child is doing live meets with a teacher and class, just because you give them headphones, does not mean it blocks out background noise for us on the other end! Put your child in a quiet place as much as possible. We can put them on mute, but even taking them off to answer questions and interact is very hard with loud background noise (TV, siblings, near other virtual learners, etc.) We are all in the business of giving grace this year, but this is just a small tip to help when it is possible. (I get that sometimes it’s not, just something to think about) 🙂
Thanks for sharing that tip! You are certainly right, headphones don’t block out all noises so a quiet space is very important. I hope this school year goes well for you even though it’s very different!❤️
Thank you for this! We have a dual monitor for everyone in our house. My college son & HS freshman daughter are now really enjoying theirs! My hubby is in IT & always uses a dual monitor for work. He can’t do anything without it. It really does help our students get stuff done easily as they can have multiple things open!
Yay! I agree with you, I could not live without a second monitor and love that our kiddos can get more done with a second one too!🙌
Got my 7yo a new wrist watch so she can use the alarm to alert her when class starts. Was using my phone, but sometimes I forgot to set the alarm. She is excited n this also gives her more independence n responsibility