6 Tips to Set Up Your Micro-School for Success
If you’re considering forming a micro-school or learning pod for your child, here are some ways to set the experience up for success:
1.) Make sure all of the adults involved are on the same page, both literal and figurative, early and often. Micro-schools will have the greatest chance for success if both learners’ parents and instructors meet at regular intervals to discuss both the content and logistics of the micro-school experience. A few meetings before the “first day” are a great opportunity for parents to share what has and hasn’t worked about online learning for their children. Transparency in these discussions will allow the instructor to customize the way content is delivered so that it works specifically for those students. Explicit discussion of goals from the onset is also important: Is the micro-school being implemented as enrichment or replacement? Are there state standards you want the instructor to use in designing the curriculum? How will progress be tracked and reported? For younger students, how much play should be incorporated into the micro-school experience? Asking and answering these questions early will allow you to proactively address any potential hiccups. Parents and instructors may also want to consider scheduling a weekly or biweekly “check-in” so that if any adjustments need to be made, they can be addressed quickly and efficiently without the need for a potentially disruptive overhaul to students’ learning experiences.
2.) Acknowledge the novelty. Micro-schools may become the new normal, or at least the temporary normal, but they’re certainly not what students are used to, even if they experienced some form of distance learning in the spring and over the summer. It’s important that both parents and instructors explicitly acknowledge and address this fact with students. What’s happening in the world right now is scary—most students want to be in the classroom with their friends. And why wouldn’t they? Letting students know that the adults in charge realize that what’s happening isn’t what kids (or parents) want will allow them to express their own frustrations and fears and enable them to make the most of (and learn the most from) the experience.
3.) Ask students for both input and feedback. One way to help students gain a sense of control in what seems like an otherwise uncontrollable and chaotic time is to give them agency. Directly ask students what is and isn’t working for them. Have them share what their goals are as they embark on this new experience. A major benefit of working in a small group is that students may feel more empowered to speak up when something is or isn’t clicking. Many students won’t offer this information unprompted, so make sure your instructor builds in opportunities for students to voice their concerns, preferences, and ideas. While students may not always feel that they have a voice or get a say in how learning happens in a traditional classroom environment, emphasize that they now have a platform for their voice to be heard and should feel comfortable doing so! Micro-schools are a great opportunity to ensure that no student’s voice is muted, ignored, or unacknowledged.
4.) Use micro-schooling as an opportunity to boost SEL (social and emotional learning). Learning is an inherently social activity, and that socialization is much easier to facilitate and manage in a smaller group. Micro-schools also allow instructors the opportunity to weave the incredibly important elements of SEL into academic curricula. Seasoned education professionals will be able to teach the core content that students will need to master to ensure future academic success while also building foundational SEL skills of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making that will ensure long-term interpersonal and emotional success.
5.) Embrace the opportunity for customization and individuation. Because micro-schools offer students the opportunity to learn in smaller groups, they also offer extensive opportunities to customize and individuate learning in a way that traditional classrooms of 15 or more students may not always be able to. Instructors can use different modes of representation (visual, auditory, interactive) to appeal to different students’ learning styles, or offer choices among target learning tasks so that students can capitalize on their strengths. Unlike a traditional classroom, if something isn’t working, instructors can make adjustments so that maximum learning occurs and students feel good about not only the micro-school experience but also themselves.
6.) The Internet is awesome. Use it. The number of educational technology tools available to keep students engaged, motivated, and having fun is astounding. Use these tools frequently and often, asking students for feedback about what they do and don’t like about them. Some of this tutor’s favorites include: Formative, which allows instructors to give feedback in real-time; FlipGrid and SeeSaw, which offer ways to assign asynchronous work that embrace the social elements of learning; EdPuzzle and Nearpod, which let instructors create interactive asynchronous lessons; and Padlet and Wakelet, which are great platforms for collaborative work, whether synchronous or asynchronous.