HA Distance Learning: Rigor, Engagement, and Joy

HA Distance Learning: Rigor, Engagement, and Joy

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Students eagerly raised their hands during literature studies class, ready to answer questions. Fifth grade teacher Tia Clemons beamed as she looked at their joyful faces on her computer screen. “It felt just like our regular class,” she says. 
Earlier this spring, Harlem Academy students and teachers transitioned to distance learning and turned virtual classrooms into a place where engaging instruction and student participation continue to flourish. 
“Our focus today is the same as it always has been – on the development of core academic skills,” says Head of School Vinny Dotoli. "Over the past few weeks, what’s been really inspiring is the way our teachers and students have come together to make that learning as exciting in an online environment as it is when we’re all in the same room."

Following a 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. suggested schedule, students take part in interactive, live classes supplemented with videos, written lessons, and guided independent practice on online platforms that allow teachers to monitor progress and provide feedback. Although the learning is now remote, academic expectations remain high, and students continue to receive individualized support from their teachers. 
It’s a system that students have embraced. “I’m used to learning this way now that we’ve been doing it for a few weeks,” says fifth grader Kennedy. “I miss being with my friends and teachers, but we still have fun during our live classes. Last week, for instance, we had a great discussion because everybody was participating and talking about the chapter we’d just read. I like to share my ideas, so I was joining in a lot."
Her mom, Kamila Scott, sees how animated Kennedy is during class, and attributes it to Harlem Academy’s commitment to giving students the same level of education online that they receive in school. “Kennedy is engaged,” says Ms. Scott. “She’s having a good time. She doesn’t get bored. She interacts with her teachers and classmates in real time – and it can get pretty lively – and she also has independent work in between the live classes. If she has questions, she can email her teachers, too. I’m very pleased with how it’s going.”
Students like Kennedy are so engrossed because their teachers are coming up with innovative ways to build core skills and keep kids’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity flowing. “I host online games with questions about something we’re currently studying,” says Ms. Clemons. “Because we play it live, students get to see who is in the lead with the most correct answers and have fun competing with one another.”  
Whether diving into an online discussion or playing a game with their classmates, our students are rising to the challenge. “It’s amazing to see how excited, energetic, and engaged they are,” says Ms. Clemons. “Our students have jumped right in and taken the lead.”


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