Suggestions for Distance Teaching in the Time of Covid-19
Many students with special needs do not respond well to changes in routine. While keeping students motivated and engaged in a classroom setting can often be challenging, doing so in the home environment can be much more so. For students with more rigid ideas of how things “should be” changing the idea of home as a place to relax with perhaps more limited demands to one of academic learning can be very stressful both for the student and the educator (teacher and/or parent).
So how can you tackle this challenge? To start, it’s essential that you take care of yourself. Join on-line groups (you can find several on Facebook) that are dealing with similar issues. These groups are a great place to get ideas, offer support and vent. Work in breaks that are comforting to you, whether it’s watching funny cat videos, having a cup of tea, stretching, gazing out the window, or a quick chat with a friend. Keep track of your accomplishments no matter how large or small. Understand and accept that you can only do your best. And finally, remind yourself that the student is also struggling with a dramatic change in their routine.
Engaging and Motivating the Student
A big perk in distance teaching is the heavy reliance on technology to promote learning. Most students, including those with special needs, respond positively to learning with the use of a computer, so you are already ahead if you are using some form of virtual classroom software. Start your day off with an enthusiastic greeting. Make it more personal by introducing them to your pet, give them a tour of your room, or anything else you feel comfortable sharing. This is a unique opportunity to be able to share with your students and have them share with you.
Break up your instruction with plenty of visual and auditory “rewards” that you know will interest your student. Short video clips, music and on-line games can be great motivators. If you play music, encourage the student(s) to get up and dance/move. I love https://www.helpkidzlearn.com/ for simple yet fun games.
As much as possible continue to use the same visual, behavioral and structural strategies that you used in the classroom. The use of visual schedules (you can download visuals for free by clicking here), and timers can be just as effective in distance teaching as in a school setting. Try to stick to a schedule that is similar to the one you used in the classroom. Whether you started your day with collecting homework, circle time, morning greeting or seat work, continue with that same format. Knowing the expectations, consequences and rewards will help keep students engaged.
Looking for some science or social studies or basic skills units designed specifically for students with significant needs? I have drastically reduced the price on all my curriculum for the duration of the Covid-19 distance learning requirements. All items which were previously priced between $5-$20 are now $1 or $2. There are also free units, which you will see advertised at the right of each web page. Go to the enable2learn home page to find the curriculum you are interested.
I wish you all the best as you go forward each day, helping these special children on their path of learning. You are hero educators tackling a daunting task.