How You Can Support Your Child’s Distance Learning

By Douglas Fisher & Nancy Frey
Distance Learning: Mother homeschooling teenage boys from home on dinner table in small city apartment self-isolating from Covid-19. Mother and boys are latin american. Horizontal waist up indoors shot with copy space.

The first few weeks of the new school year are behind you. Your child is acclimated to their virtual classroom and their teacher(s) have welcomed their students with getting-to-know-you activities. Now, it’s time for learning, which is looking very different this school year.

You have probably already heard the advice to establish morning routines, have your kid dressed and ready for school, create a dedicated learning environment and ensure that your child gets enough sleep. These are important, but it is also key to support your child’s distance learning by focusing on what your child needs to learn.

Support the learning that is occurring in the virtual classroom. Ensure your child is ready for the live lessons and completes the work that is assigned. Most importantly, when the teacher is live with your child, allow your child to struggle. It’s good for their brains. Productive struggle is how we learn, so don’t tell your child the answers while the teacher is conducting class.

We understand that you want to be helpful, but there are better ways to help. Here are four ways to help supplement the lessons provided by the teacher:

  • Read, and read a lot. Effective schools have students’ eyes on print about 90 minutes per day. Of course, that is spread out across the day and involves all kinds of reading. Reading volume corelates with overall achievement. It’s one of the easiest and most powerful things you can do. Ask the teacher for ideas for additional reading and ask your child what they are interested in and flood them with things to read, both digital and print.
  • Read aloud or with your child. And not just at bedtime. When you read aloud, share books that are a bit more complicated than your child can read alone. It builds knowledge and vocabulary. Talk about what you are reading and focus on understanding the ideas in the text.
  • Focus on words and vocabulary. There are several vocabulary game apps that build word knowledge. For younger students, focus on their understanding of sounds and letters. Vocabulary is a significant predictor of comprehension. The bigger the vocabulary the more knowledge the child has. Children use knowledge to understand more complicated texts.
  • Make math fun. Ask your child to create math problems based on what they are learning and teach you how to solve the problems. If you want supplemental math learning for your child, use the Kahn Academy. They have interactive videos for all grades.

Remember, we are not asking you to be the teacher, but rather support your child’s learning. Also remember that your child needs to socialize and maintain friendships. For more strategies to support your child’s learning at home, check out The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents.

Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey are professors at San Diego State University. Their book The Distance Learning Playbook for Parents outlines supportive strategies for navigating virtual environments to ensure effective and impactful learning that aligns the needs and expectations of teachers, parents, and students alike.

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