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Fourth-Graders’ Tips for Learning Online: Go to Bed Early. Plug In Your Laptop. Try to Find a Quiet Place to Get Focused. Don’t Get Frustrated

A version of this essay originally appeared on the KIPP.NJ blog.

Remote learning is not what I signed on for when I became a teacher. The physical distance makes it very difficult for me to be there for my kids. But while this is an unpredictable and stressful time for everyone, helping students create new routines can provide the structure and normalcy necessary to succeed. We can still be there for our students by having open and frequent communication, teaching kids how to advocate for themselves and taking at least a small load off parents’ plates.

Students who feel safe and valued will be more open to trying new things, which can, in turn, make remote learning more comfortable, particularly when the work is challenging. Over the past few months, I’ve spoken with my fourth-graders about how they are navigating their schoolwork, and I’ve collected their recommendations for what keeps them engaged and motivated to learn.

As an educator or a parent, please consider the following advice my fourth-graders gave me:

Maintain a routine 

  • “Kids should try to get up early, like at 8. This way you can get your work done right away and get on Zoom with your teachers and teammates. Then, you can help other people too, by sharing your notes.” —Fernanda
  • “Go to bed early, so you can get up and get your work done. It’s easier to learn in the morning.” —Nichole

Be prepared 

  • “Plug your laptop in before you go to bed, and then it will be charged in the morning and you don’t have to worry.” —Nichole
  • “For math, use scratch paper to help you with your work. You can draw models for fractions and write number sentences. And for reading, go back to the text to help you with your writing or answering questions.” —Sanai
  • “Always watch or read the morning message from your teacher first, because it helps and gives you tips. My teachers also use it to shout out students for great work, which makes us feel good.” —Ameerah

Be kind to yourself 

  • “Don’t get frustrated if you get stuck. This isn’t easy, and you have to be nice to yourself.” —Fernanda
  • “Reach out to your teachers if you need help. They love you and want to see you succeed.” —Nichole
  • “Try to find a quiet place to get focused so you don’t get distracted. I made a fort with a blanket on my bed, and I work in there so I can concentrate.” —Fernanda

I hope these takeaways can help guide your conversations and encourage your children to find comfortable ways to learn during this uncertain time.

Amanda Geiger is a fourth-grade math teacher at KIPP Lanning Square Primary in Camden, New Jersey. She began her career as a middle school science teacher in the Bronx and, since joining KIPP 10 years ago, has also taught fourth-grade reading and fifth- and eighth-grade science, coached novice teachers and led a middle school science department as an academic coach in Newark and Camden. After school, Amanda coaches running.

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