4 Strategies to Promote Student Success 

Distance LearningIn-Person or Distance Learning? We’ve Got You Covered!

In March 2020, teachers were given no other choice but to pivot to distance learning after the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shut the doors to schools across the country.

While the majority of districts seem to have stabilized back to an in-person learning environment, if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that plans can shift quickly.

Below you’ll find four tips to help you optimize student learning and engagement whether instruction is happening in-person or remotely.

1. Prioritize your planning

Planning in advance for different scenarios helps to keep you organized and your students’ learning on track.

  • Identify which resources are needed for each of your students to help master their IEP goals. Outlining the individuals, services, technology needs, materials and accommodations that are necessary for your students will help to maintain efficacy of instruction regardless of in-person or remote learning.
  • If you have to pivot to distance-learning, prioritize goals where progress can continue in the home environment or with technology.
  • Schedule weekly planning time, in-person or virtually, to meet as an IEP team to discuss student progress towards goals and any necessary modifications.
2. Build student independence into your routine

Building student independence into your daily classroom routine is not only helpful for distance learning, but also provides your learners with valuable life skills.

  • Beginning on the first day of the school year, implement simple technology-based classroom routines that students can learn to complete independently. This can be something the student does immediately when they enter the classroom, without any instruction from you.
  • If your students are not yet able to complete tasks independently, begin with teaching prerequisite skills like following a simple schedule or routine.
    • Bonus tip: make this routine a clickable schedule or task analysis on your learning management system, this way students can self-manage and click off each task as they finish it.
  • If in-person learning unexpectedly shifts to virtual instruction, students will already be familiar and confident with technology-based routines.
  • Increase your capacity as a teacher by having students self-manage various tasks and routines they have mastered or are close to mastering.

The more independence skills that students learn over the course of the year, the better prepared they will be.

3. Foster home-school partnerships from the get-go

Many parents and guardians are only used to receiving communication about something that is problematic. Opening up the lines of communication for positive events as well can go a long way.

  • Consider sending home a survey or virtual form for parents/guardians to fill out so that you can learn more about your students’ home life.
  • Be sure to include questions that will give you a better picture of a student’s environment and resources for distance learning, for example: technology access, who will assist the student with their virtual learning, as well as what other supports are in place.
  • Check-in with parents/guardians on a frequent basis using their preferred method of contact. This can be as simple as asking if they have any questions about their child’s progress.
    • Bonus tip: find out what this communication method is in the survey!
  • Rather than only reaching out when something is wrong, send home at least one positive communication a week to build rapport. Both parents/guardians and students will greatly benefit from this simple strategy!
4. Purposefully program for engagement and preference

Find out what your students prefer with a standard preference assessment or forced choice preference assessment, and use that as reinforcers or rewards for task completion and mastery.

  • Try and incorporate technology-based preferences, like computer games or YouTube videos, into your assessment so you are prepared for distance learning if needed.
    • Bonus tip: use these as reinforcers for independently completing routines (see #2).
  • Keep your lessons engaging with utilization of virtual tools.
  • Use programs like Kahoot! as a fun way to check for progress.
  • Schedule time for brain breaks using resources such as Go Noodle or Yoga In The Classroom.

Familiarizing your students with these types of tools now will support success when using them independently.

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