Much of the content from today’s post was collaboratively constructed with some of our early years team. Zoe, Esther and Nelle are wonderful to work with as they are passionate about pedagogy and always enjoy a nice laugh!

A few weeks ago the YIS Early Years team and I lead a Seesaw webinar session centered around our experience in Japan from our Continuous Learning program. This PD in your PJs had an audience of mostly American teachers who hadn’t yet started distance learning, but were quickly realizing that it was a real possibility. Zoe, our ELC team leader, was approached by Seesaw on Twitter when she shared out a document that give an overview of how we approached distance learning, or what we call Continuous Learning. 

We used this slideshow to guide our discussion:

Home Learning 101 Presentation

A bit of background

Our context: At the time of this workshop, YIS had only been experiencing a temporary, two week closure. The Japanese government had recommended schools close for March and, for us, that only meant two weeks as the last two weeks of March is our spring break. We are sharing what worked for us during those two weeks.

Our language: We’ve been very specific about the language we use regarding our time off campus. We decided to call our program Continuous Learning as it creates a better understanding of what the learning looks like when we are off campus. We moved away from eLearning as we really want to focus on balance learning and not only learning through technology. 

Our initial approach: We started our campus closure with two days of professional development for teachers. This allowed us to share our draft plan for continuous learning and collect teacher input. It also allowed for collaborative team planning and a bit of tech-upskilling. 

Care to learn more about YIS’s approach? Check out our Continuous Learning site

Four things that have worked

Stay true to your pedagogy

Be who you are as an educator. While things will need to look different in a continuous learning environment, we agreed that now is not the time to completely reinvent the way you teach. Your teaching won’t exactly look the same, but it should feel the same. It should feel like you, your class, and your school. 

Technology will be incredibly helpful in reaching your students, but focus on technology tools that have worked for you and tools that your students are familiar with. Yes, you might need to introduce a couple new tools due to the circumstances, but not isn’t the time to try every new tool you find. 

Communicate

A calm, consistent and clear message communicated to your entire school community will help develop a successful continuous learning program. As a school, we had school-wide messages coming from our senior leadership team, and as teachers we followed up on those messages with a consistent message calmly reinforcing what the program is going to look like in our classes. 

As an early years team, we thought it was important also to communicate with our students the idea of a big change. We were lucky enough to have a day’s warning before closure so we took that time to talk to our students about the change and what their learning will look like. If you have the opportunity to talk to your students now because your campus is still open we encourage you to start having those conversations with your students. How would the learning look the same? How will it be different? 

We provided the parents with a weekly overview so they could help plan the week of learning with their children. Check out some of the communications sent home by our kindergarten team here. 

Lastly, in regards to communication, look after yourself and your team. We found it crucial that we stuck to school hours in our communications with students and parents. We didn’t want to set an expectation that we were available around the clock and we wanted to ensure that our teacher balance their time away from campus as well. 

Schedule

An ELC student’s schedule

Schedules and routines were crucial for young learners to be successful in the continuous learning environment. However, we didn’t dictate the schedule and daily routine to our students, instead we gave the students the agency to create their own schedules at home. We conveyed the importance of a well balanced routine and we asked parents to help us develop that. 

In relationship to schedule, we also found it was important to plan less and do less with our learners. As a teacher it’s easy for us to plan five or six hours of learning to take place at home, but instead we worked to develop about 1 to 1.5 hours of learning to happen each day. This, in turn, didn’t overwhelm both our students and families and allowed the continuous learning to be manageable for everyone. 

On the first day of continuous learning our students were tasked with the idea of creating their own learning space at home.

Parents as partners

First, check in on parents. They are likely dealing with the challenges of working from home at this time as well and need our support. Some of our teams have sent videos directly to parents to let them know that we appreciate them and are here to help. 

Second, encourage your parents to set their own schedules with their children. We had one father who used a shared parent/child schedule with his daughter to help them both accomplish their ‘work’ goals for the day. 

This is what worked well for us, but we understand every situation might be a little different. If you want to know more about our approach, check out Zoe’s comprehensive document or reach out to me on Twitter