Knowre Blog

The Importance of Setting Distance Learning Contracts and Expectations

Posted by Bara Levitt on 3/31/20 2:22 PM
Bara Levitt

At the beginning of each school year, teachers and students engage in activities and conversations which are designed to set expectations. In many elementary school classrooms, processes and procedures are not only introduced, but actively practiced again and again.

Often during this time, little to no academic content is being taught. These efforts, though time consuming, create an environment in which learning can occur because everyone knows how to interact and behave within the classroom. This time spent at the beginning of the school year typically reaps dividends as the year progresses.

As distance learning kicks off in schools across the country, it is time to return to beginning-of-school-year mode. It is important to once again engage in activities which allow for the setting and practicing of expectations between teachers and students and students and students. Clear expectations will not only help ensure a more smooth distance learning experience, but will also help to establish a sense of normalcy during this very uncertain time. 

Consider the below questions and request feedback when working with students to establish your distance learning contracts. Since many students have already been home for at least one week, they will likely have some great ideas of their own which will help you help them. When the contract is drafted, be sure to share it in a place where all students have access to it. 

  • How often can students expect to hear from you?

  • When you do reach out to students/families, how will you be reaching out?

  • What will you be reaching out about?

  • How will students know what they should be working on?

  • What should students do when they are struggling with or can't complete their work (ie. tech limitations) or have a question that no one supporting them can answer?
  • When a student has free time and wants to engage in learning activities, what should they do?

  • How are students supposed to behave when they are meeting as a class via Zoom or Google Classroom?
    • Consider rules for muting/unmuting, asking questions, using digital backgrounds, drawing on the screen, and entering how their name will appear.

  • If someone breaks the rules of the contract, what are the consequences?

  • Will this contract change? How? When? Why? 

When I was a fourth grade teacher, my students' favorite part of expectation setting practice was the chance to act out the “wrong way” and then, after the giggles died down, point out in what ways their performance broke the class expectations.

In this new age of distance learning, your students might need the digital version of “acting out” the wrong way. Consider setting a timer for 1 minute and allowing students to change the background on their video or to write their name all over the screen. Getting these distracting behaviors out at the beginning of your distance learning journey may help as time progresses. 

Currently teachers, students, and caregivers around the world are being asked to become digital instructors, digital learners, and homeschool teachers in the blink of an eye. This process will likely take time to perfect and mistakes are going to be made by all along the way. Be kind to yourself during this process and take the time needed with your students to try, through classroom contracts and expectations, to set everyone up for success. 

Would you like to learn more about we can help with distance learning during these challenging times?

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Topics: Classroom, Student Success, Teachers, Schools