Virtual learning is a new concept for many early learning professionals. Working with children in an online setting is challenging, as much of our work with young children is relationship-based. While you might not be able to replace the experiences of an in-person classroom, you can still set up an online environment that is engaging and developmentally appropriate to help children continue to learn and maintain connections with teachers and their peers.
10 Tips to Make Virtual Learning Engaging
1. Let children guide the way
Just as you would in a regular classroom, in a virtual environment, it is important that we let children lead the way. Ask the children what they have been doing at home — what kinds of games have they been playing or what activities have they been enjoying? Use this information to guide some of your ideas for virtual meetings. If children have been enjoying spending time at the beach, you might choose to read a few books about the ocean or sea animals.
You also might try a few different virtual activities in your meetings, and see what children enjoy the most. If you notice that children are really enjoying music and movement in virtual meetings, but seem less interested in other activities, use that observation to guide your planning for your next meeting. When we follow the cues of the children we work with, we can create engaging learning experiences.
2. Ask for help
If you’re not tech-savvy, and virtual learning feels intimidating to you, ask your team members if they have any tips or ideas to help you get started. If you have a team member who is particularly good at getting meetings set up via Zoom or hosting virtual meetings, that person can be a great resource for you and for other teachers in your program as well!
3. Break it down into shorter sessions
As you know, young children cannot sit and keep focused for long periods of time! Just as you would in the classroom with circle time, it is best to keep your meeting short and sweet. Try to do one activity or a few quick songs before logging off. Children will be much more engaged, and the meeting will be much more productive. If you notice children are having a hard time participating or paying attention during a meeting, don’t be afraid to cut things short. You can let the children know that you’ll pick back up with the activity next time, or try a different activity that you might be more interesting to the children. Virtual activities require the same flexibility that you have in the classroom!
4. Think about developmental milestones