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Elementary students must learn to develop confidence, feel ownership over their work, and become passionate about learning

Why we should let online elementary students lead


Students must learn to develop confidence, feel ownership over their work, and become passionate about learning

The role of elementary teachers has never been more important, especially as kindergarten through fifth grade students today are facing more change than ever before–from the effects of the pandemic to social media and stressful current events being right at their fingertips.

According to The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the annual average learning gain for Kindergarten through second grade students is higher than at any time during a child’s years in school. This is why we both decided to become elementary school teachers–to make a positive impact in children’s lives during such a critical time of development and growth.

While it is essential for students to understand and master their learning in elementary school, it is also important that students develop confidence, feel ownership over their work, and become passionate about learning. If you can excite elementary students about learning, it can set them up for success not only throughout their entire education, but also their life.

But how can you excite elementary students in an online classroom? Let them lead and choose how they learn!

Here are a few ways we engage and connect with our elementary students teaching online at Florida Virtual School (FLVS):

Let students choose how they take their evaluations (Caroline Tevlin)

Every student learns differently, which is why it’s important to meet them where they are and give them a choice in how they want to learn.

Throughout my elementary Spanish lessons, I noticed that some of my students preferred listening to me speak the words in Spanish, some liked drawing their vocabulary words, and others liked playing games. With this in mind, and knowing that learning Spanish can be intimidating, I decided to create something called the ‘choice board,’ which allows my students to choose between learning styles during their discussion-based assessments, which is a verbal assessment required by Florida Virtual School to ensure students are mastering their courses.

As part of the choice board, I first ask my students which way they prefer to learn–either visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. Then, we move forward with their assessment based on what they choose. For example, say we are learning about the beach in Spanish. If they choose visual learning then they must draw three items they would find at la playa. If they choose kinesthetic, then they must act out the vocabulary words or phrases. And if they choose auditory for a lesson on el baño, then they must circle the items in the bathroom based on the Spanish vocabulary I say.

My students and parents love my choice board because of how interactive it is. By allowing them to choose which learning style they want, they can really be kids and have fun learning. The more students enjoy what they’re learning, the better they will do. I think it is important to let students choose how they want to learn because when students take ownership and responsibility of their learning, they feel more confident.

Infuse FUN–like music! (Michael Bonick)

I struggled in school growing up because I didn’t have the most positive learning environment. Then, I was introduced to music and my world changed. Not only did music become my passion, but I also found that it helped me succeed with my schoolwork. For example, melody and repetition comes in handy when students are learning to read and understand math.

I decided to infuse music into my lessons because it has always been my goal to create a positive and fun learning environment, which can build a foundation for student learning and lead to their success in and outside the classroom. Music created a positive environment for me, and I wanted to share that with my students.

My students really enjoy the music I add to their lessons for several reasons. The first is that it gives them a voice. Students don’t want to be talked at – they want to be heard. Throughout my music lessons, I have them sing along, answer my questions, and sometimes even ask them to teach me. I’ll say to my students, “I need your help!” which motivates them to contribute, and lets them know that they have a place in the lesson. And even better – the lesson will morph with their contributions, which leads to even greater learning.

Secondly, both my students and their parents like the confidence it gives the kids moving forward. The next time one of my students remembers when they helped me (their teacher) understand something, they’ll know they can help themselves.

They also love how I personalize the songs. For example, if a student is wearing a cool shirt, I’ll add a line about that or I’ll create an adjective that works with their personality – awesome Ali or incredible Isaac. Then, I’ll continue to use that adjective in my songs throughout the year, which they really look forward to.

Personalize as much as you can! (Caroline & Michael)

No matter what learning style a student leans toward, personalizing their experience makes all the difference. Remember how great it felt when your teacher remembered you had a big baseball game coming up? It’s the same concept, except you can infuse that knowledge into an assessment, one-on-one meeting, and more.

For any teachers who are interested in personalizing their lessons online, start by giving the student your undivided attention. By doing this, you make them feel like they are part of the learning experience as much as you are, and removes the barrier of a computer.

Then, when the lesson ends, continue that learning by letting the family know you are there for them if they have any questions or need any help. Let the parent and student know that you three are a team, and you succeed by working together to create a fun and productive learning environment.

It’s also important to remember that every family is different, and to be sympathetic to every situation. If a parent or student doesn’t get back to you right away, let them know you are there for them when they are ready and available.

It can be as simple as providing personal feedback to students via videos or emails. In your video or email, go into specifics on a topic or lesson that you and the student spoke about. By doing this, you let them know you genuinely care about their growth. Students love personal feedback because it encourages them to keep learning and doing well!

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