For littlest kids learning from home, hands-on lessons, confidence builders keys to success

By KYW Newsradio 1060

Part 11 of a four-week series: 'Live and Learn: Education in a COVID-19 World'

GLASSBORO, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) -- The unexpected transition to online learning during the coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on just about everyone involved. Teachers, students and parents all seem to agree the current situation isn’t the best way, and the impact on the youngest students is pronounced.

Dr. Brie Morettini, assistant chair of the department of interdisciplinary and inclusive education at Rowan University, says very young children don’t have the independent learning skills that older students have developed, and that presents special challenges for learning at home.

“In particular, at the early childhood and elementary level, we have to remember that learning is a social endeavor,” Morettini said.

She says hands-on lessons are the way to go.

“What’s important for schools to remember is that children at the emergent literacy phase are not independent learners.”

And because of that, parents are often left doing the heavy lifting for their youngest, while also trying to work themselves. She says activities like scavenger hunts at home and art projects give kids a chance to do something themselves while promoting creativity and confidence.

“We want to encourage teachers to plan activities like that,” she said.

Some kids struggle to navigate the various platforms, such as Seesaw and Google Classroom, which leaves them frustrated, anxious and a little depressed.

“What we don’t want to happen is for children to start to feel like learning is not something that they are good at. That is actually the most detrimental thing," she said.

Morettini says she wants parents to do regular and continuous emotional check-ins with their kids -- to ask how they are doing and what is on their minds.

Also important: Tell them frequently that they are doing a great job.

“Praise can go a long way with young children who are learning how to be learners,” she said. “They’re creating their identity as learners in a whole new world right now.”

Another thing to keep in mind is limiting screen time and creating reading habits. If school time is onscreen, down time probably should not be. Morettini recommends having kids pick out their favorite books to read during break time instead.

The coronavirus pandemic has altered life in many ways for most of us, including the way students are learning. Over the next few weeks, KYW Newsradio is taking a look at the impact of COVID-19 on education with "Live and Learn: Education in a COVID-19 World."