How to Create a Low-Stress Distance Learning Classroom

Any time you are in a new environment or asked to do something unfamiliar, that automatically creates a certain amount of stress. But, there are simple intentional steps that you can take to create a low-stress distance learning environment for you and your students.

Distance learning is new for almost everyone. Many of the technologies that we are using are new to us. Now, add on all of the other stressors in our “pandemic world” and it can become unmanageable. But, it doesn’t have to.

Take a BIG breath and read on for ways to help create a low-stress distance learning classroom for both teachers and students.

How to Create a Low-Stress Distance Learning Classroom

Set up Your Work Station (Classroom) and Be Prepared

Leaving tasks until the last minute causes stress. Be prepared. This is NOT the year to have an elaborately decorated “classroom”. Go for a simple and pleasant classroom/backdrop.

  • Set up a quiet, uncluttered, efficient work space. 
  • Make sure you have good lighting and you can easily be seen online. 
  • Make sure you have plenty of space to do all of the activities in your lesson plans.
  • Print your schedule and post it where it can be seen at a glance.
  • Have your lessons and materials ready and within arms reach. 
  • Lay out your clothes the night before. (Yes, even if it is just from the waist up.) 
  • Plan your meals so you can have plenty of time to eat and get back online for your afternoon classes or office hours.

Being prepared is a MUST in order to create a low-stress distance learning environment.

PLAN AHEAD but NOT TOO FAR AHEAD

We all know that plans can change. And, they can change quickly. Plan a broad overview of units and topics for the quarter/semester. Leave the detailed planning until the prior week. Right now, creating detailed lesson plans 1-2 weeks in advance is sufficient.

To make lesson planning easier and more family-friendly, consider creating Graduated Difficulty Lessons that may be used for various grade levels.

Be FLEXIBLE and Have a BACKUP Plan

If you have to go to “Plan B” or “Plan C”, deliver that plan confidently with a smile on your face. Learning flexibility is important for our students too. Help your students learn to problem solve and develop a “can-do” attitude.

Do you need some backup activities for your “fast finishers” who always want more to do? Or do you just need to have some “Plan B” activities handy? CLICK HERE to browse helpful distance learning activities for the elementary music classroom.

Learn from Your Colleagues

If other teachers in your district are doing the same thing you are, they are a VERY valuable resource. TEAM UP! There is no need for everyone to reinvent the wheel. Work together to help each other and lighten the load.

Even if other teachers are teaching different subjects but using the same platforms, their knowledge of your district’s platforms & procedures is invaluable. Reach out and ask questions. You can serve as support for each other.

Practice = Low-Stress Distance Learning

Developing familiarity with the platforms and programs that you will be using will definitely lower your stress levels. Practice using the technologies in the same setting in which you will be teaching.

If you will be teaching from home, practice using your home wifi under the same conditions in which you will be teaching.

How to Create a Low-Stress Distance Learning Classroom

Problem Solving Strategies

When in doubt, “Google it!” If you are having trouble with something, chances are other people have had the same problem. When you type in your question use the vocabulary you think most people would use. 

Be specific about your problem. Name the problem and the platform as in the examples below.

  • How do you ….. in Google Classroom? 
  • How do you ….. in Schoology?
  • How do you add a new assignment in Canvas?
  • How do you assign Boom Cards with a FREE account in Google Classroom?

If you don’t find the answer, try different wording and try again.

Do Not Expect Perfection

DO NOT EXPECT PERFECTION from your students or yourself. EXPECT everyone to show up and TRY THEIR BEST. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Maya Angelou. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” 

Let your students know that as a teacher you are still learning just as they are. You will make mistakes, just as they will. Encourage them to do their best and ask questions when they need help.

How to Create a Low-Stress Distance Learning Classroom | Mistakes are Proof that You are Trying

Teach Tech Skills First

Actually, teach expectations and procedures first, then teach the technology skills that students need to know to complete each lesson. Do NOT take for granted that students know how to use every technology. Even something as simple as copying and pasting can be a roadblock for some students.

Also, take into account the devices your students are using. Teach how to complete assigned activities on those specific devices – laptops, Chromebooks, iPads/tablets.

Video Tutorials and Screenshots

A picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a million! Use and make short, simple video tutorials and/or screenshots for your students. Teach them how to make and email screenshots. When they are having a problem, this will be your best source of information to provide help.

If your students need video tutorials and screenshots, so do your colleagues. Share the tutorials you make. Divide up the workload.

Limit the Number of Different Technologies Used

Give students plenty of time to become comfortable and proficient with technologies before introducing new ones. Provide direct links and limit logins if at all possible.

Lower Stress by Teaching Multitasking “Add-On” Lessons

Teach ADD-ON lessons that build on a previously learned song, lesson, or concept. Provide many opportunities for review. Do NOT teach brand new lessons with new concepts in each class session. Stagger your content so that each lesson includes some review, some extension of previously learned lessons, and some new elements.

By adding a simple element such as an ostinato, a hand clap, another verse, a B section, etc., this helps to keep the song or activity fresh while still familiar.

Model a “Can-Do” Learner Attitude & Plan for FUN!

Kids are resilient. If you don’t treat something like a big deal, they won’t either. They will mirror your attitude. Do NOT add to their stress. Be a source of JOY and INSPIRATION for each student that logs into your class every day. 

Plan something every day that is just for FUN! Maybe it is a riddle, an optional puzzle that students can complete, a quick game of “This or That”, a joke of the day, or any other simple, quick activity.

You CAN Create a Low-Stress Distance Learning Classroom – “Just Do It”

JUST DO IT with a SMILE on your face. Show up online or in your classroom with enthusiasm and joy. It will make everyone around you feel better and you will feel better too. We all have to “Fake it ‘til You Make It” these days. You CAN teach and your students CAN learn better in a low-stress distance learning classroom environment.

Best wishes, friends!

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