Teaching Younger Students Online? Don’t deviate from your path, just pivot a little.

We have entered a strange new world where teachers are being asked to rethink so much of how we teach, almost overnight.   While we might be familiar with accessing online platforms ourselves, we might not really see what the possibilities are for connecting with the little dudes online.  Here are a few suggestions of how you can engage preschool, foundation and year 1 on an online platform.

Firstly, while we are being asked to rethink our teaching, don’t deviate from your evidence-based approaches.    Instead, PIVOT your delivery.  For example:


You usually teach an explicit systematic synthetic phonics program in your classroom.   This program involves you showing students cards.  You say something, the students say something.  You do something, the students do something.    

In this case, you can keep your original approach simply substituting your cards for a PowerPoint presentation.   You don’t have the abandon your evidence based approach when your teaching goes online.

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

This is another area where you can maintain your usual method of teaching.

Instead of having cards or real objects to practice clapping syllables for, use a PowerPoint.  Little poppets may find this so much more interesting when you link the phonological and phonemic work to a much-loved story book.   The following example is from a ‘thumbs up, thumbs down’ activity.  Rather than having to click something or write something children can simply give a ‘real life’ thumbs up or down into the camera for you to see.

Similarly, you can have children ‘chop’ syllables.

For children who are able to identify and write the first phoneme, you can display a picture and have children write the starting grapheme on a whiteboard and hold it up to the camera.

You can also share some of the on-screen action with students. When you share your screen you can hand over control to a person on the other end of the ‘line’.  In Zoom, you can share your screen or a particular document with the class and give children the opportunity to use the pencil to circle pictures from their end.  

Story Time

There are several ways to read story to children online.  You can just read it as you would normally do in the classroom, or you can scan/ photograph pages and put them into a PowerPoint (copyright warning!)

Shared Writing

Shared writing is a snap with a computer with a touch screen.

My Top Tips for Working Online with younger students

  • Teach online etiquette.  Children need to know that your classroom rules also apply online.
  • Keep sessions short
  • Limit session size to the amount of children you can see at any one time
  • Ask parents or an older child to be close by to help in the event of technical difficulty
  • Avoid asking children to work in breakout rooms or type/write anything
  • Make sure that you keep children actively involved. You say something, they say something. You do something, they do something. 
  • Show short, interesting video clips on your shared screen

Teaching online might not be exactly what it is in the classroom, but you don’t have to abandon your evidence-based practice.  Remember, you don’t have to rethink how you teach, just adjust how you deliver!

Interested in learning about how to help struggling readers both face to face and online? You can find out more here.

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