Critical Success Factor: The Daily Schedule
Welcome to the second in our “Teaching 2e: Supporting 2e Distance Learners” blog series with tips and perspectives on how to successfully work with 2e learners during the Covid-19 pandemic. Are you a teacher? Then this series is chock full of practical ideas. Are you a parent? Review the series for yourself, since you’re likely to be more involved in your child’s education than ever; then, send the link to your child’s teachers! And, check out our downloadable flyer with even more tips and tools.
Critical Success Factor: The Daily Schedule
Remote learning completely upended regular routines for every teacher, parent and student. When we gathered a dozen parents of twice-exceptional learners and asked them to reflect on distance learning for their 2e children, one theme came up more than any other - the importance of setting a clear, daily schedule. Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, you’ve got an important role to play in helping your 2e learners create a structure that works best for them. It sets the outline for the day, including breaks, so kids know what they should be doing and when - and to reinforce the importance of downtime and fun.
Setting a daily schedule looks different depending on the age of the child. Here are tips from the parents of 2e children, by grade level:
Parents of early elementary aged children had the most success when they created and followed a consistent daily schedule. This involved checking in with their child’s assignments to review daily tasks each morning. Parents observed that printing out assignments that could be accomplished without a screen as part of the daily check in was helpful to their children. They, and parents of older children as well, also noted that it was useful to write the daily schedule on a whiteboard so the child could reference it throughout the day. Parents also found that having daily or weekly traditions, such as selecting books and then picking up the student’s weekly book bag, provided an anchor to the schedule and something to look forward to.
Upper elementary school parents, particularly those with students in 4th and 5th grades, found ways to begin teaching their children self-management and time management skills. First, they recommended reviewing the teacher-provided slide deck or other assignment tool together at the start of the day to make a checklist or plan; parents also created and printed out a weekly schedule with assignments due that week as well as ongoing assignments. During their check-ins, parents noted it’s important to let students choose the order in which to complete work, if that’s possible, as it provides the opportunity to practice prioritization and also gives 2e kids a sense of control over their time. In addition, parents used Google Calendar to help their children manage classes and other appointments, including scheduling lunch time and other personal activities on the calendar. Parents noted that some teachers would text parents if a child forgot to log onto an online meeting - it’s an extra step that went a long way to keeping the child on track. One also mentioned the usefulness of a visual analog timer so the student could have a sense of the time spent completing asynchronous work.
As learners move through middle and high school, they’re expected to take on more responsibility for their own workload. However, due to asynchronous development, 2e children are sometimes two to three years behind their peers in developing executive function skills. Plus, everyone was adapting to new routines “on the fly” - a difficult challenge for anyone. Parents of 2e learners found that teaching their children to use Google Calendar was a great approach; the parent and child both put meetings with reminders on the calendar and included Zoom or other meeting links. High schoolers were given more leeway to create their own "to-do" list and schedule, with a parent checking in at the beginning of the day to be sure the child was on the right track and then again at the end of the day to reflect on the list and suggest schedule refinements. This is especially important to 2e learners who often become overwhelmed by the quantity of assignments in secondary school - it’s important to have a dedicated forum for the parent and child as well as student and teacher to touch base about the amount of time assignments take and adjust assignments as needed. (Our recent blog posts from 2e students Chris and Ava offer insights into how 2e learners experience overwhelm and their suggestions for making it better.)
The Schedule Vis a Vis Asynchronous and Synchronous Learning
The daily schedule is important regardless of whether the distance learning method is synchronous or asynchronous. Parents of 2e learners expressed the benefits of both approaches, although among 2e parents, the benefits of asynchronous work and their child’s schedule was clear:
“Asynchronous learning allowed us to set our schedule to learn when my child was most able to focus.”
“Asynchronous learning is better for students who want to work at their own pace.”
“My 9th grader seemed to enjoy not being in the classroom and learning at his own asynchronous pace.”
“Video lessons allowed us to create our own schedule where we could do the lessons at the time that works best for when my first grader has attention.”
That’s not to say that asynchronous is always preferred by 2e learners. In fact, parents also note that synchronous classes and check-ins provide structure to the daily schedule; in particular, synchronous meetings are a great way to launch the day and close it out, with opportunities for check-in’s in between. Just keep in mind that there are benefits to allowing 2e children and their parents to set a daily and weekly schedule with some flexibility that works for them, rather than expecting 2e students to participate in synchronous meetings all day, every day.
The Importance of the Home/School Connection
Lastly, setting the daily schedule offers a wonderful opportunity for parents and teachers to support one another during remote learning. When teachers provide clear, daily and weekly assignments and meeting schedules, it’s much easier for parents to support their children and for older children to support themselves; this is especially important for families where parents have limited time to help their children with at-home learning, due to work schedules, illness, or caregiving needs of other family members. When parents take the time to understand their children’s teachers’ objectives and plans, the children experience more success and stay on track. Being clear about expectations and using those to set daily and weekly schedules is a win-win-win.
P.S. Special thanks to the REEL parents who contributed their time and insights to help create bridges between themselves and teachers in support of 2e learners everywhere. And to the teachers who give so much of themselves in service of their students.