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Sandra Little
September 2, 2020

Bringing Best Practices into Distance Learning

As educators in the midst of a pandemic, we have found ourselves rapidly pivoting as we identify new instructional strategies to fit new needs. Whether we find ourselves in a face-to-face classroom with guidance for social distancing, a hybrid instructional environment where some children are learning face-to-face and some are learning virtually, or in a full distance learning setting, we all are seeking ways to provide care informed by best practice within unfamiliar and unusual contexts.

You may be wondering how and where you can seek guidance on best practice.  In addition to The Creative Curriculum® foundation volumes, you can also look to The National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Developmentally Appropriate Practice Position Statement, which is referenced within our materials.

NAEYC’s Position Statement offers five guidelines, “which address the decisions that early childhood professionals make in five key areas,” for developmentally appropriate practice:

(1) Creating a caring community of learners

(2) Engaging in reciprocal partnerships with families and fostering community connections

(3) Observing, documenting, and assessing children’s development and learning

(4) Teaching to enhance each child’s development and learning

(5) Planning and implementing and engaging curriculum to achieve meaningful goals

Will the activation of best practices always look the same? Sound the same? Require the same number of minutes? Not necessarily; however, decisions guided by best practice can and should ensure that young children are effectively engaged in high-quality learning experiences, no matter the setting.

I was able to use these guidelines to make informed decisions around my delivery of online instruction during a two-week, online kindergarten camp.

I knew that having children online for more than 30 minutes at a time would stretch them past their capacity to attend and engage. This knowledge informed my decision to host large-group experiences for 30 minutes, during which I varied the experiences to keep their attention. The 30 minute large group offered opportunities for the children to actively participate by singing, taking attendance, and discussing the question of the day while limiting teacher-directed instruction to 5–7 minutes of interactive read-alouds and 3–5 minutes of developing the children’s knowledge of the study topic we were investigating—percussion instruments.

Considering the needs of the children led me to my decision about the duration of instruction; however, the family’s ability to support engagement was also a central factor.  The activities we did each day varied depending on the families’ abilities to engage with their children.

Knowing that I would need to document the children’s learning within these instructional experiences further directed my decisions for each component of the large- and small-group experiences. I had to plan with intention and think about how I would be able to assess children’s knowledge, skills, and abilities as I engaged them in each of the daily experiences.

Sounds easy, right? Not exactly! But having the guidelines in the forefront of my mind helped me to make informed decisions.

Knowing that best practice also includes a teacher’s constant reflection on and refinement of daily practice helped me remember that I did not have to have all of the answers perfectly developed on day one.

I had daily opportunity to learn from my experiences by engaging in intentional reflection utilizing the five guidelines from NAYEC.

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