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“I’m not trained for this!” is a common cry of teachers and parents throughout the world as schools have shifted instruction from the classroom to a distance learning model. Educators have been forced to adapt under the current COVID-19 guidelines and most, if not all, have felt unprepared at some point. How can teachers best support their students, our children?

Evaluate your students and their setups

  1. You, teachers, know your students best and understand their varying developmental levels. For example, if your students are unable to read independently, this should guide the type of instruction you provide. Awareness of what your students can and cannot do on their own should be addressed before considering what distance learning work to assign. If you aren’t sure, spend some time getting to know the unique learning differences of each child. Spend time with them over the phone or a video call to gather basic information. Learn what academic subjects and recreational activities they enjoy. All this will help when you start tailoring assignments to the individual needs of your children.


  1. In addition to the cognitive foundations of your students, it is important to understand their home-setting. Consider the following questions:
  • Are students working from home or in a different setting?
  • Do your students have internet access?
  • How many other school age siblings are in the home?
  • In which room does your student complete his/her work?
  • What devices are students using to complete their work (Pen & Paper, iPad/Tablet, Smartphone Chromebook)?
  • Are these devices being shared with siblings?
  • Do the students know how to get help if they are confused?
  1. Once you have collected information about the technology, structure, and supports, you can begin to determine the types of assignments that are best for your students. For example, if a student is going to be in a crowded house with multiple siblings and only one device, avoid web-based, time-intensive reading assignments that require concentration and quiet.

Determine Essential Skills

  1. Before any work is assigned, the teacher must determine the ultimate objective of a lesson. Ask yourself, “What do I want my students to be able to do at the end of the lesson?”

This is where knowing your students personally will pay dividends. For example, if I have a student who is struggling to read, I wouldn’t say, “I want this student to read a novel independently.” While this may be the ultimate end goal, the lessons you assign should be tangible. Examples of end goals are:

  • I want this student to recognize every letter of the alphabet.
  • I want this student to read and understand the meaning from a list of common sight words.
  1. Break your goal statement down into smaller chunks. At this point, ask yourself, “what other skills does the student need to have mastered first?” Once you have a completed list of desired outcomes, evaluate which sub-skills still need to be mastered.

In addition to the cognitive foundations of your students, it is important to understand their home-setting.


Most of us are able to automatically think of all these subskills and complete the task. However, for a home-bound student who is working independently, any deficit in subskills can result in an incomplete given task. Remember, teachers should provide lessons and assignments that can be finished with limited supervision if distance learning is to be successful.

Matthew 7:24-25

The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

Dominic Milano

Dominic is a Learning Behavior Specialist with over ten years’ experience, holding Master’s Degrees in Teaching and Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership. In both teaching and administrative roles, Dominic has built collaborative relationships to transform Special Education in Chicago, seeking to provide equitable, high-quality programming. He has a passion for growing teacher competency and efficacy in the classroom, as well as changing the structure of education to meet the needs of students and communities.

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