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More than 55 million students were affected when the COVID-19 pandemic forced at least 124,000 public and private schools in the U.S. to close their campuses, according to a report by Education Week.

The closures also affected millions of teachers. With little time to prepare, teachers scrambled to set up, plan and provide online lessons for students they had been teaching face to face.

Quick Changes

Pivoting from classroom teaching to online instruction quickly “is something most are not prepared for,” says Lauren Angelone, Ph.D., in a YouTube video posted in mid-March 2020. Angelone is an assistant professor of instructional technology at Xavier University in Cincinnati and created the video after a student teacher asked, “How do we provide online instruction for students in the elementary grades?”

Here are some tips from her video Teaching Online for Elementary Grades.

Use tools you already have: Avoid bringing in new tools. Use the learning management system (LMS) already accessible to your students and parents.

Provide an outline for parents: Provide a list of tasks organized by subject in multiple ways: post a PDF in the LMS, send it by email or include it in the district-wide system already in place. Keep instructions short and simple, especially in the beginning, giving everyone an opportunity to get familiar with the format. Make sure your graphics or images are limited and straightforward.

Start using video: Research shows that seeing the instructor’s face engages learners and promotes a meaningful learning experience for students. Here are a few suggestions for making your own videos:

  • Keep videos short. No more than about two minutes, for your young audience.
  • Keep it simple. Using a phone or camera is convenient, but somewhat limited. A screen-casting app records the images on your computer screen and can capture video of your face on a screen inset, as well as the audio of your narration, creating an effective mini-lesson. Use a whiteboard app to capture video and audio, a good tool to demonstrate and explain how to solve a math problem.
  • Produce an introductory video. Say hello to students and parents and to give a brief overview and outline the day’s activities.
  • Video tape a mini-lesson. Explain a concept related to an activity students will complete during their school day.
  • Consider all your options for distributing your videos. Embed them in your LMS with your list of activities. Share them on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Start a YouTube channel for easy access to many audiences.

Maintain Usual School Days If Possible: Since you do not have in-person touch points with your students, try to get students online for at least 20 minutes on regular school days.

Encourage Offline Activities: “Remember that online does not mean online all the time,” Angelone says. It’s important for students in this developmental stage to experience hands-on, tactile learning. After a short video in which you explain an activity, release your students to do it on their own. This could include a writing task, a simple project made from common ingredients or acting out a simulation. Offer several choices so students in any environment are be able to complete at least one of the tasks.

Looking to the Future

The COVID-19 pandemic will not last forever. But other local, regional or statewide crises could arise with a similar effect on schools. To avoid having to scramble if there is disruption to the school year, teachers at all levels must be ready for online teaching, just in case.

If you would like to strengthen your teaching skills and practice, consider earning a Master of Education in Elementary Education online at Mississippi College.

Learn more about Mississippi College’s online Master of Education in Elementary Education program.


Education Week: Map: Coronavirus and School Closures

YouTube: Teaching Online for Elementary Grades

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