The sense of community in the virtual classroom creates the best environment for a rewarding learning experience for everyone who participates. Parents and caregivers are an important part of this community. The environment at home and the involvement of families in the learning process can have a significant impact on the learning experience of students, especially for the youngest learners. However, for many parents participating in the online learning process of their children, this is out of their comfort zone and may feel overwhelming at times.
How can parents be involved in remote at-home learning for a smooth and pleasant study experience for everyone who participates?
Get to know your students and their families. This is especially important when teaching remotely in a virtual classroom because the environment at home has a strong impact on students focus, progress, habits, attitude, etc. Recent events related to the world pandemic were the reason for the rapid switch to online learning for many schools which made the role of the parents in the learning process even more important than before. Therefore, it is helpful for teachers to dedicate some time at the beginning of the school year to interact with parents and caregivers and to encourage them to ask questions, give suggestions, and express concerns and opinions.
Create different channels for communication, such as email, chat groups, etc. to make sure that everyone who needs help or has questions can easily contact you. Another idea for engaging parents in the learning process is to provide scheduled reports and updates related to the curriculum, future lessons and events, and even some after-class activities. Use a simple regular reporting system on a weekly or a monthly basis to provide feedback on the progress of each student and to keep parents informed.
- Provide help, tips, and encouragement to the parents of your students
Parents are the students’ main helpers with homework, project assignments, and at-home studies. However, parents are not teachers and all those tasks can be challenging at times. Create guiding materials for the parents. The online whiteboard is a wonderful tool to use for preparing some content for parents in the form of images, diagrams, texts, tutorials, etc. You can add notes, as well, and send the materials directly to the parents via the established channels of communication. The online whiteboard in the virtual classroom is a practical tool to use to create some preparation materials and instructions as well. For example, give the parents simple lists with instructions and tips describing how to provide a smooth and problem-free learning process for their children. The instructions can be related to the study environment and how to decrease distractions, increase discipline, provide assistance for homework, etc. Make sure to send your students’ parents detailed materials describing the criteria for testing and the exams that are scheduled for the year.
- Encourage feedback
After the initial meetings with parents and caregivers for the purpose of getting to know your students and their families, it is a good idea to create a system for regular feedback. Use the online whiteboard to create simple questionnaires and surveys with just a few questions that don’t take a lot of time to answer, but will, at the same time, give you a better idea about the students’ progress and impressions. Organize parent-teacher meetings in the virtual classroom where you can discuss ideas for future lessons and even do short brainstorming sessions together on the online whiteboard for activities for the students.
- Regular one-on-one meetings
Having one-on-one sessions with parents is important even when students are learning from home and their parents are present for the lessons. Schedule regular one-on-one parent-teacher meetings in the virtual classroom to discuss the progress of the student and any other topics related to their education, interests, etc.
- Family activities (when the parent needs to be present in the lesson)
Parents and caregivers are often present during the online lessons of the youngest students to help with discipline, limit distractions, assist in cases of technical issues, etc. One great way to include the family members in the lessons is to encourage them to participate in group activities like exercising, dancing, and singing via the videoconferencing feature in the virtual classroom. Keep the lessons flexible by alternating more serious exercises with more fun activities. Incorporate games, challenges, and competitions where your students and their family members can participate together and play or compete with the rest of the class on the online whiteboard in activities such as Pictionary, Find 10 Things in Common, Special Skills (an activity where the student writes down their special skill on a secret note and then explains it to the class by doodling, adding images, etc.), Pictures From the Past, and others.
- Volunteering opportunities and more fun activities
While learning from home cannot include experiences like bake sales and field trips, there are still many fun activities for students where parents can actively participate as volunteers and assistants to the teacher. For example, parents can “host” different competitions and games, do presentations on different topics, and so on. The youngest students love read-aloud sessions. They are a wonderful idea for after-class educational activities that parents and caregivers can organize and take turns at doing. Storytelling, various competitions and challenges, talent shows, and other creative activities can also be organized by the parents to enrich their children’s learning experience and help them have fun while studying remotely.
The rapid switch to online learning is challenging for everyone involved in the process. Therefore, it is important to have lower expectations. Keep lessons flexible, be understanding if students have a hard time focusing in the virtual classroom, and always remember that parents are not teachers and they need your help in order to be able to help their children.
With the right attitude and commitment from all parties involved, learning at home can be as effective as the ordinary way of studying. It can also bring families closer together, as well as give parents a better understanding of the work that teachers do and their amazing efforts to provide an exceptional learning experience to all of their students.