Editorial Team

The education sector has been hit hard by the unexpected and unprecedented challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic. The biggest question has been how to address the absence of the chalk and talk model in education or do without the brick and mortar structures where young children once stepped in to experience the world outside their homes, for the first time? For preschoolers especially, not being able to step outside their homes to play and learn with peers has been hard because a big milestone from their lives has gone amiss in a blink.

Rajesh Bhatia, educationist and Founder and CEO of TreeHouse, a borderless preschool online initiative, says, “It has been a challenge to transition to non-traditional methods of teaching but eventually what we have understood is that we need to keep our focus on children. What engages them, works with them and for them is most important and that is how we have tweaked our instructional methods.”

Here are some of the tips he believes, have helped teachers to transition from conventional teaching methods to virtual ones:

Involve the kids instead of turning them into passive onlookers:

Rajesh says, when the kids participate in activities whether in real or virtual classrooms, they feel more connected with the learning process. “When they are encouraged to become the character/s they are learning about, they take ownership of a lesson,” he says. It is important to keep preschool kids engaged in particular, he adds, because their attention spans are very small. Rajesh says, “With aids like sound effects, dance sets, music, interactive games that engage all their faculties, children enjoy their lessons far more.”

Give the kids alternatives to screen time:

Rajesh says, when most of the education is being imparted virtually, it is important to give children a break from screen time. He says, “giving them projects that involve creativity, the use of imagination, planting something, painting or building a scrapbook, completing a puzzle, learning a poem or a song, gives them the pleasure of exercising their faculties actively and energises them to come back to learning with renewed zest.”

Teach the educators to adapt to the new normal:

Teaching during the pandemic is not something that any educator was prepared for, says Rajesh and adds that wherever possible, teachers should be encouraged to update their skills to adapt to the new normal with animated and interactive PowerPoints, and the delivery of concepts in a new way. He says, “A successful virtual educational programme is about a productive exchange of energies between teachers and students. That can happen only when teachers know how to teach without the resources of classroom techniques they are habituated to and can deliver age and time appropriate learning.” But virtual does not mean that education cannot be organic and adds Rajesh, “Our teachers have brought tactility to learning by using beans available at home to teach counting to preschoolers!”

Enhance student teacher interaction:

What teachers and students miss the most is actual interaction with each other and this gap can be bridged innovatively with simultaneous experiments that teachers and students can conduct and through constant verbal engagement. Rajesh says, “We encourage all students to answer questions in class and to approach teachers to solve their queries. It is absolutely important that all kids get opportunities to be heard, read aloud or recite a poem so that they develop confidence along with reading and speaking skills respectively.”

A disciplined atmosphere during the classroom while doing classwork is essential along with encouraging learners to think, analyse and write better. Says Rajesh, “Teachers must employ the scaffolding method where students are supported in such a way that they eventually learn to work independently. We conduct homework sessions post school hours. Here students can join their grade specific slots and receive the support they require.”

Celebrate life together:

In an increasingly virtual world, children miss being part of festivities, functions and connecting with peers and schools are learning to create alternatives to even such experiences. Says Rajesh, “We make it a point to celebrate all festivals and national holidays in all their glory. We encourage students and teachers to dress up, put up skits and share the essence of the festival together with music and dance. In the end a supportive partnership between educators and parents is essential to make learning as seamless as possible during this difficult time.”

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