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tips for parents

Lessons Learned from Remote Learning: Tips for Parents

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Thursday, September 3, 2020

girl raising hand remote class

By Stacey Sargent and Robert Kahn

Mid-March of 2020 thrust all of us into a brave new world, and parents, students, educators, and administrators worked hard to bring their expertise and experience along for the ride!  Ultimately, June arrived and curriculum, teaching strategies, and personnel had become more or less accustomed to a routine of remote learning. But while educators came at this task from a perspective of “How does pedagogy, methodology, and curriculum translate?”, families often had to confront broader and more challenging perspectives involving multiple students in different schools, utilizing differing models, and competing for shared resources. Heading into this school year, at least we have been forewarned of the uncertainty ahead. There are factors we cannot control, and learning may take several different forms, including remote or hybrid phases, before we return to the world we knew in early 2020. Here are some tips from our experience to date specifically for parents on how to make remote learning most effective.

Create a successful learning environment

Just like in a classroom, it is important for students to feel comfortable and productive in their learning environment. Talk to your child about where in your home would be a good place to attend remote classes and complete school work. Ideally, the spot you choose should be a quiet, well-lit area with a desk or table and a comfortable chair. Remove items that could be a distraction and add needed supplies, such as writing utensils and paper. Many schools have published an at-home supplies list for the hybrid model, focused on the home learning center. In some cases, items like printers and articulating cameras are useful but costly. Less expensive versions are often fine, and schools or districts may have these items to loan out. Some parents may want to explore a cooperative pod approach to resources, bearing health mitigation in mind, where multiple families have access to items which may not be cost effective for individual households. 

If your home allows, we recommend avoiding bedrooms as a learning venue, but space may be an issue, especially when multiple family members are going to school online and parents are working remotely. Teachers understand the drawbacks and constraints of virtual learning. However, as parents, you can help students focus and stay on task by being aware of the distractions posed by siblings or even adults passing through the learning area or lingering just off screen. In general, recreate the ‘class experience’ by not being a presence when your student is going to school. It’s an issue to talk about as a family if necessary.

Establish consistent routines

Your child’s school day is filled with routines at different parts of the day. Establishing routines at home can provide structure and consistency conducive to learning. Talk to your child about what routines they think would be important. Some routines to consider are meal and snack times, organization of school work and supplies, getting ready for classes, and break times. One consistent observation of many faculty was the need for supplemental executive functioning (EF) support in an all-remote mode.  

Time management, preparation, memory aids, planning organizers, focus, and motivation are different depending on the level of monitoring available to your student. Several veteran instructors noted that they were impressed at how students responded to the EF challenges of remote learning. It was a “learning to swim by being tossed in the deep end” experience: overwhelming for some but a trigger for independent growth in others. As a parent, the more you can be a supportive observer and coach, while keeping it positive and collegial, the better.  One tried and true method to avoid mixing the roles of parent and EF coach is to consult with your student’s teacher, advisor, or counselor about any observations before directly intervening with a strategy. Once a rapport is established, a school counselor or teacher can connect with other faculty, and meet with your student directly. In the case of an all-remote mode of learning, they will also have the opportunity to reach out to a person designated as your student’s executive function coach. Private tutorials in the pandemic have not dried up at all; many educators are available to help students with their organization, work load, and proactive planning.

Make the most of breaks

Help your child make the most of their down time in between classes. This is the time to use the restroom, grab water or a snack, and engage in movement activities. After class, encourage your child to step away from all screens, including phones and televisions. Take a family walk or engage in physical activities outside. Talented remote educators have learned the value of alternating activities on screen with other parts of the lesson that explicitly send students away for a task or a reflection. Screen fatigue is real; many working parents need no convincing of this. If the remote learning mode does result in some post-pandemic aversion to screen time, we may agree it’s a silver lining.

Keep in touch

When your child is learning at home, it is important for him/her to maintain a connection with the school. Check emails on a consistent basis for important school-wide updates. Maintain communication with teachers and advisors and reach out to counselors if needed. Even when your child is at home, he/she is still a supported and valued member of the school community. Deans, advisors, and counselors all conduct meetings virtually, similar to the drop-ins or scheduled visits they would normally have on campus. Take advantage of these extra opportunities to connect with faculty and team members. We’ve found a variety of creative ways that schools are continuing to build community online. One very simple one is for teachers to allow classes to have some group discussion time before and after the lesson. While maintaining an adult presence in the group is critical for safety, student feedback to teachers has been amazing when teachers allow less-structured ‘extended time’ for students to connect at the end of class for 10-20 minutes. Website hubs are great places to browse for community-building opportunities. In a remote mode, be alert for options to connect with school faculty and peers in non-class settings built into the school day, such as meetings, clubs, office hours, designated breaks, while continuing to encourage time away from the screen once the school day is done. As a parent, you may have a chance to provide input into your school’s plan for remote learning, so take that opportunity to suggest ways for student-faculty connection apart from the classroom hour, in hopes of approximating the way a school community functions.

As we navigate through the pandemic, remote learning has taught us a great deal; not only about the strategies and techniques that do and do not adapt to a digital interface, but also about the emotional and psychological demands of being a student and a teacher in circumstances where you often cannot control the interaction in expected ways. As an overall tip, patience and flexibility are even more essential to remote teaching, where despite the best efforts of both teachers and students, communication can take some unexpected turns. We will all benefit from absorbing the lessons that make us better, and making peace with the factors that are simply beyond our control.

About the Authors

Stacey Sargent is a teacher at Landmark Elementary•Middle School. She has over three years of remote teaching experience as a reading tutor and an English language instructor. She has taught students all over the world through virtual learning platforms. 

Rob Kahn was head of Landmark's Elementary•Middle School from 1985 to 2020, and before that was a tutor, teacher, academic advisor, department head, and dean of students at the school. He began teaching at Landmark in 1972 while at Harvard, and has his Master's Degree from Simmons University. He continues to stay involved at Landmark in a variety of roles.

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Tags:  remote learning tips for parents executive function strategies

Tips for Parents: Working with Your LBLD Student, Part 3

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Sunday, May 15, 2016

mother and daughter at computer

By Gail Kent

Homework: Importance and Procedures for Success

Ever have difficulty figuring out how to help your child with homework? Why is homework so important anyway?

Homework is used to reinforce skills and information learned during class time. It is important for students because it allows them to further interact with material and repeat learned skills. In addition, it readies them to perform independent work after high school. Below are some best practices for homework completion:

Establish a consistent time and place for homework completion. Use a desk, the dining room/kitchen table, or someplace with a hard writing surface.

Set up the homework completion area for success:

  • Be consistent
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Maintain homework tools:
    • pencils, pens, colored pencils, highlighters
    • paper
    • tape, glue stick
    • hole punch, scissors
    • ruler, calculator
    • miscellaneous items that your student may need

Monitor but don't get involved in the routine completion of homework. The goal is for your student to become independent. While students may need more direct help to set up a routine at the beginning of the school year, slowly decrease your support.

Learn the work cycle of your student and when students need a break. Breaks can happen at certain time intervals or after certain goals are accomplished. Just make sure breaks are taken before students reach points of frustration.

Give positive feedback. Make a point to talk about the things your student is doing well and praise their effort not just their accomplishments.

Expectations. Talk to your student about getting to know their teachers' expectations. Each teacher may have a slight variation of their expectations. Make sure your student knows what these are. If a teacher does not provide a hand-out at the beginning of the year (or for each assignment) listing basic expectations, encourage your student to ask for one.

Use the notes. If your student doesn't understand something, encourage them to look in their notes. Notes are the best way to get information from what happened in class. Asking your student to reference their notes encourages them to take better notes, see potential places they could improve their note-taking, and become more independent learners.

It's still not working. If students still have questions, encourage them to email their teacher.

Don't do it for them! 

gail kent headshot

Gail Kent, an academic advisor, has been a teacher and tutor at Landmark for 20 years.

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Tags:  dyslexia education Executive Function homework homework help Landmark School language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities learning style tips for parents

Tips for Parents: Working with Your LBLD Student, Part 2

Date Posted:  Thursday, April 14, 2016

smiling family using laptop

By Brett Hall

Landmark’s Six Teaching Principles™ give teachers guidelines to enrich their lessons and ultimately increase positive student outcomes. In my twelve years at Landmark High School, they have proved helpful time and time again when working with students in and out of the classroom. As a parent, they come in handy at home as well. Although I could reflect on all six, for now I would like to share principle number one:

Provide Opportunities for Success.

Many parents provide opportunities for success naturally at the initiation of a task or event. For example, they might prepare a child for a long car ride by bringing toys, activity books or an iPad. They might get a child ready for a doctor’s appointment by talking through the various tools that the doctor may use or help coach an older student for a college interview with practice questions. All these efforts are made with the hope of increasing the child’s ability to be successful. However, I would like to suggest going beyond the first step when thinking about how you can increase positive outcomes for your children. These following ideas may help your child who learns differently:

  1. Help your child think through all the steps of a process and provide cuing for each step of the task.  
  2. As you structure a day, event or activity, build in time for processing, reflection and rest.
  3. Give specific steps in order and one at a time to lessen working memory demands.
  4. Use visual reminders and technology.  

Don’t forget that day-to-day structure and routine are important constants in a child’s life; although there will naturally be disruptions to the schedule, it is important to balance these disruptions and prepare for them.

If your child learns differently, odds are they have had their fair share of disappointment academically or even at home. By providing them opportunities to genuinely experience success, they get a taste of it and dopamine releases in the brain. This chemical reaction feels good and they want more. That motivation for more success encourages growing independence and as parents, isn’t that our goal? You are the child’s primary teacher. Take every opportunity you can to “provide opportunities for success.”

brett hall headshot

Brett Hall is the Reading Department Head at Landmark High School. Since joining Landmark's faculty nearly twelve years ago, he has taught one-on-one tutorials, small group reading classes, worked as an Academic Advisor, and taught professional development workshops through Landmark's Outreach program. He is also the proud dad of two girls.

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Tags:  cuing dyslexia Landmark School Landmark’s Six Teaching Principles language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities Opportunities for success Parent tip routine self-esteem structure Success at home teaching principles tips for parents

Tips for Parents: Working with Your Student with LBLD, Part 1

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Friday, April 8, 2016

How to get your child chatting: beyond “How was your day?”

By Linda Gross, M.A., CCC-SLP

It’s a fact: parents want to know about their child’s day. We want to know about their classes, their social life, and what they ate for lunch. Children with language-based learning disabilities (LBLD) often have trouble answering the usual flood of questions that parents so lovingly ask. This can turn the ride home into a painstaking exchange. Students with LBLD may have language formulation difficulties or an auditory processing disorder that makes it challenging to respond to parents’ questions.

I bet this dialogue sounds familiar.

Parent: “How was your day?”
Child: “Okay.”
Parent: “What did you do today?”
Child: “Nothing.”
Parent: “Did you ask Mr. Smith about the Algebra homework that you didn’t understand and did you sign up for soccer?”  
Child: “Huh?”
Parent: “Do you want to play a sport this season?”
Child: “I don’t know.” How can you get your child to share more about their day?

Try these four tips:

  1. Find out about their day by doing your own investigation. Perhaps your child’s school posts activities, events, or course links on their website or in a weekly newsletter.  Armed with this information, you can fine-tune your conversation and questions.  Maybe it could go something like this: “Who did you vote for in today’s student council election?”
  2. Avoid open ended and yes/no questions. The type of question you ask is key! Ask specific "Wh"-questions. For example, you could ask, “Who was your lab partner in science class today?” or “What kind of sandwich did you make for lunch?” Check out this link to Bloom’s Taxonomy for a hierarchy of questions.
  3. Allow time for your child to process the question and formulate a response.  Small moments of silence may mean that your child is thinking, even though it may appear that he’s ignoring you or didn’t hear you. Also, ask one question at a time; too much language at once can be difficult for your child to process.
  4. Use a multiple-choice format.  Some children have trouble sharing information due to word retrieval or memory difficulties.  For these children, a multiple-choice format works best.  For example, rather than asking, “Which sport do you want to play this fall?” You can ask, “Do you want to run cross country or play soccer?”

So, on your next ride home or at the dinner table, try following these tips. You may be surprised by the more meaningful conversations you’ll have with your children.

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About the Author Linda Gross, M.A., CCC-SLP – Landmark High School Speech-Language Pathologist/Consultant and Landmark Outreach Program Adjunct Faculty

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Tags:  auditory processing communication techniques dyslexia Landmark School language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities tips for parents
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