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How do I teach remotely when students don’t have the internet?

october 20, 2020

Remote learning poses a unique challenge for most schools, but for those whose students don’t have devices and/or reliable internet, that technology gap makes learning from home especially challenging. But regardless of the circumstances, if students are sent home due to the pandemic, educators need to ensure kids will continue to learn.

For teachers who have the good fortune to be working with students in person, now is the time to plan for at-home learning that may be necessary later. In fact, if the right steps are taken now, the paper-packet, non-internet handicap doesn’t have to stand in the way of purposeful learning.

Focus on foundations

When considering a yearlong approach to teaching skills and standards, it’s important to dedicate this first semester to building strong foundational skills.

For example, when planning a narrative writing unit, there are a lot of skills that would be layered over time. Students need to know how to create effective dialogue, how to write a descriptive setting, and how to develop multiple characters and problems.

But all of these skills are secondary to a handful of foundational skills. For now, in-person instructional time should be dedicated to teaching the basic story structure: You need a character who has a problem that gets solved. By achieving mastery of this foundational skill, teachers can build upon that understanding later—whether students are learning in person or remotely.

Capture learning

When delivering these foundational lessons, curate a collection of the artifacts used during instruction. For example, when an anchor chart is created, take a picture of it. When the whiteboard is used to draft an example, take a picture of it. If mentor texts or other resources are shared, scan a copy and save them someplace handy.

These artifacts and images will be critical within the paper packets that will be sent home if remote learning occurs. These familiar images will support students as they quickly review what was previously taught. This, then, allows the teacher to begin extending the learning—even with kids at home.

Use tasks to raise the rigor

Remember, the ultimate goal is mastery of essential literacy skills. Therefore, after learning foundational skills with simple tasks, students need to be challenged with assignments that get progressively more rigorous. If remote learning becomes necessary, pick up where you left off, reminding students how to execute the skill—then raise the rigor slightly.

While the paper-packet scenario isn’t ideal for remote teaching, it also doesn’t prevent meaningful learning from occurring. As we share during professional development for teachers, with the right planning, teachers can pivot to remote learning while continuing to grow their readers and writers.

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