As parents and educators, we all know how hard it can be to keep children entertained when learning from home. A momentary distraction or seemingly unprovoked tantrum can completely derail an afternoon of education.
Over the past two months, we have brought the EchoKids lessons and activities to the digital world - and we’ve learned some important lessons along the way. The various types of online activities that we run include:
Private Zoom lessons
Group Zoom lessons
Instagram live streams
YouTube live streams
Self-directed online courses
You can find more information about the above lesson-types on our EchoKids At-Home page.
For most children, especially those doing remote early-learning programs, virtual group lessons are the most common lesson formation. We have found the following best practices to be useful in keeping the attention of all children in the class:
Use Props - We use puppets and scarves to keep children’s attention. These attract the eye and help hold attention. If you are using common props to teach a lesson, it can help for the children at home to have the same prop to hold (like a teddy bear).
Have a Defined Lesson Plan with New Activities - Pauses in a lesson give children the opportunity to get distracted by something outside the lesson. Having a defined plan and incorporating new activities each lesson will keep the action moving and give children something to be excited about.
Hand Movements - For children, facial expression is everything. On video lessons, it can be difficult for children to recognize facial expressions the same way they would in-person. Instead, hand movements can be used to emphasize emotion. Children can also mimic hand movements, which makes the class more engaging.
Make it Personal - Children like to know that you are giving them attention. Call out their names, ask about their favorite activities, and ensure that the lesson is a 2-way conversation.
At EchoKids, we offer many one-on-one private music lessons -- even for students who are too young to speak! Naturally, kids understand one-on-one virtual experiences better than group lessons, and we see amazing engagement from kids of all ages. Many children are so engaged that parents no longer need to be next to them for the kids to remain focused.
We keep our private lessons engaging by:
Consistent Lesson Plans - Familiarity is key. The feeling of a lesson is so different over a virtual interaction that we keep our traditional lesson plans as unchanged as possible. This includes singing songs, playing games, and doing worksheets.
Keeping Track of Lesson Progress - With both teachers and students doing way more Zoom and virtual lessons than ever before, it can be much harder to remember where the last lesson left off. Having a lesson progress book or chart keeps everyone on the same page. Tracking lesson progress also helps identify student strengths and outline what they should be practicing. This is immensely helpful to parents that are now heavily involved in their children’s education and can use help staying organized.
Educating Parents - Now that parents are more involved, they may also need some direction to ensure that they are able to fully assist their children’s learning. As needed, we will provide parents with worksheet answers, videos explaining different music concepts/playing styles, and instruct the parent directly on how to help their child practice.
Throughout all of this, it’s important to remember that educators and parents are on the same team. It is easy to get frustrated while we accept our new normal but with a concrete action plan and a shared purpose, we are thrilled to see the impact that these lessons are having on students’ day-to-day lives.
Do you have any tricks to keep children engaged with their virtual lessons? Let us know in the comments! Don’t forget, you can see all of EchoKids’ virtual offerings at EchoKids At-Home