Most of us are teaching in either, remote learning or a hybrid model, at least for the start of the school year. The parents of our students are struggling as much as we are to get the school year off to a good start.
Technology issues aside (which is a huge aside), parents need assistance and information from us as their child’s teacher about setting up a learning space for their children at home. Establishing a place for a child to work from home has many challenges especially if there are multiple children in a family, or if the adults in the home are at work all the time. This is a rather sensitive topic because we want to be mindful of our students’ home situation, but we also want to make sure that they are loved and taken care of instructionally. For the purpose of this article, I will be talking about the characteristics of learning spaces during remote learning. This kind of learning space is different than a space to do homework after school!
You can help parents think about a learning space by hosting a virtual parent event and recording it for parents who cannot join in or by sending an electronic newsletter with lists of supplies. These are the type of things to think about when selecting a place at home for a learning space, and providing photos of learning spaces to give parents ideas for how to set up a space.
Home Learning Kits and Information
Many schools are putting together learning kits for children that have supplies like a device for home use, and basic school supplies. Some things we can think about to include in our classroom kits from the school include:
- Colorful name badges on a tongue depressor like the name badges we might have at a child’s seat in the classroom. This will help you and the other children in the class learn each other’s names during the first week or so of online learning.
- Basic supplies that you use every day in your classroom like a small dry erase board and eraser along with a couple of dry erase markers. We sometimes take these things for granted until we want to have the children use them. You really need to consider the kinds of supplies you would normally have and use regularly in the classroom that are important for children to use for the way you teach.
- Paper and markers for children to use and hold up to show you their work. Keep in mind that if you want to ask children to share in this way pencils, thin markers, and crayons may be hard to see. I like each child to have a clip board to work on so when they show their work, the paper has already been clipped to the board and doesn’t flop around.
- Not all parents will have access to a printer, but if your children’s parents do have access, sending an email to them with things like a class list, a set of guidelines for interacting, class schedules all make for good communication and clear understanding of your expectations. You will need to teach about these in your classroom, but most parents will appreciate having these things in writing too. Graphics for younger children are helpful as cues for remembering the guidelines. You may need to think about having these translated into other languages.
- There are agencies in many communities that are providing school supplies in a backpack. If that is happening in your community, your school can contribute ideas for what to include. While children still need basic school supplies you may have ideas as a teacher that agencies may not have considered providing.
Models of Learning Spaces
Here is a sample of a picture of a learning space set up in a corner of the dining area in my sister’s home. You can set up a sample in your classroom if you are able to do a virtual parent meeting to show what a space might look like, or to take pictures for a newsletter. You can show the parents about displaying the important guidelines, the class list of names, reminders for participation. Note the poster in this teaching space with the reminders available.
In this example you can point out things like the bag of readily accessible school supplies, headphones, access to water, a stuffed animal friend on the floor. The table and chair height are important (just like we have kid sized tables in the classroom) but most parents do not have kid size furniture so ideas like having a box on the floor for the child to put their feet on can be an easy suggestion. A folding chair might seem like a good idea but a wiggling child and fold up that chair in a hurry. In this example the table is placed so the child can look out the window and have natural light, but this is not the best for all children. Access to electrical outlets matters when using devices for the classroom day. Parents also need help thinking about accessibility of the space for adult supervision of the learning environment. This is individual as well. Generally older children need less supervision, but parents need to consider the needs of their child.
Family distractions also factor into the placement of the learning spaces. Crying babies, people going in and out, parent workspaces, cooking going on the kitchen to prepare lunch, and learning spaces for other children all factor into the home set up. Some children may work better from their bedroom but that may limit supervision. Our examples are just that, examples! Some parents may have extremely limited spaces and some children may be participating from childcare centers. None of our homes were designed for this kind of space! We need to help parents and our students consider what works for them and their home setting but providing ideas and options from the teachers experience is important. Parents may find that their first set up isn’t working and just like we change our classroom arrangement, they may need to change things too. Since you are coming into the learning space from the other side, you may need to offer suggestions for the learning space when what the parents have arranged is not working. A computer on a coffee table or the floor may be the best a child and parent can do. Just keep in mind that this is new for everyone and we all need to work together!