Keeping the expectations for distance learning for kindergarten developmentally appropriate is a constant struggle and the screen time required only compounds the issue. How can teachers keep instruction and activities age-appropriate while delivering content through a screen? When districts mandate an exorbitant amount of screen time for remote learning for kindergarten kids, the only control a teacher has is how to use that screen time.
Distance learning expectations are different everywhere, but keeping 5-year-olds (and in some cases still 4-year-olds) in front of an iPad screen for 3+ hours a day hurts my teacher soul. We know that's not what's best for little people. But it's mandatory, so teachers have to be creative in finding ways to keep their students actively engaged in appropriate tasks.
Last spring I wrote about the things that worked well for us during distance learning in kindergarten. You can read more about that here. But that was spring when kids started the year in person and we could do all the fun, developmentally appropriate activities to help build important motor skills.
Keep kids moving.
Get them up and dancing. Practicing numbers? Use a fun video and get up and move. Or send them on a scavenger hunt to find 2 spoons, or 3 markers, etc. You can do some exercises like jump 5 times, do 2 sit-ups, hop 3 times. Be creative and get them moving. Kids need to move so giving them a purpose is helpful to keep them engaged and on task in a meaningful way.
Give them paper-pencil tasks when appropriate.
Don't forget what you learned in your child psychology classes in college. Kids need developmentally appropriate activities to help them to develop important executive and fine motor skills. Imagine a surgeon who never developed fine motor skills like using tweezers or cutting with scissors! Fine motor activities should not be optional.
Listen, kids need to learn how to use writing instruments. They NEED to use a pencil and crayons. From a developmental standpoint, they need to continue to work on improving fine motor skills. Sure, their parents might be working on these skills at home, but not all do. Many kids come to kindergarten without being able to write their names let alone hold a pencil. There is no digital replacement for this. Kids need paper-pencil tasks.
I know that some teachers are not permitted to send papers home (I'll keep my opinion on that to myself…) or they can only send what the entire grade level across the district sends home. Somehow you have to get pencils and crayons in your students' hands. Be creative, send craft “kits” home or cut and paste worksheets. You could even send them home via email for parents to print out if they are able. In the spring, we used choice boards like the ones pictured above. It helped to give kids options for motor practice and kept some assignment choices away from the screen.
Take brain-breaks that do NOT require a screen.
Give kids 15 minutes to grab a snack, use the restroom, do some exercises, take a cat nap, etc. Get them off their devices to give their eyes a break. Put them in your Zoom waiting room and walk away from the computer, get a fresh cup of coffee and a moment to breath. You all need a break from the screen.
Gonooodle is super fun for classroom brain breaks, but the kids need a break from their devices not just academics. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying abandon the fun videos and dances. Just You can incorporate them during your live teaching time instead.
What other tips do you have for keeping distance learning engaging and appropriate for kindergarteners?