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University Primary School Provides Tips for Transitioning to Remote Learning

by Tom Hanlon / Jun 22, 2020

University Primary School

University Primary School, a PreK-5 school located on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana-Champaign, has been the College of Education’s Lab School for over 40 years. School director Dr. Ali Lewis and some of her staff share a few tips on how to successfully manage the transition to remote learning, which they did for the final two months of the school year in the wake of COVID-19.


  • Reassure students. “Our routine with our Zoom classes became an anchor for the kids,” says Kristen Miller, head teacher, second and third grades. “We clued in early to the kids’ need to talk about the coronavirus, about the pandemic and what it means, and to reassure them that they were okay, and that we were still a unified class.”
  • Be alert to the needs of the parents. “Parents were in a new space,” Lewis says. “They were really stressed. Some of them didn’t feel like remote learning was going to be sustainable, like they were just trying to hold on.” Lewis and Uni Primary teachers maintained a constant flow of communication with parents, providing learning ideas and projects, mini lesson plans, emotional support, and the flexibility and assurance parents needed to pull off their increased role in their kids’ education.
  • Make the most of the available technology. Uni Primary relied on Zoom to maintain contact with children and parents, and within Zoom, they used breakout rooms to form smaller groups of learners who could explore different topics and interact with each other. They used the whiteboard function of Zoom to encourage creativity and collaboration, and they used online resources such as Kahn Academy (math) and Epic! (reading) and Flipgrid (for kids to upload their own videos) to enhance the learning.
  • Emphasize social and emotional learning. Using those resources freed teachers to home in on the kids’ social and emotional learning needs. “We were all on the same page about prioritizing social and emotional learning and staying connected as a community,” Lewis says. “Being able to use Kahn Academy and Epic! helped us to focus on the social and emotional aspects of activities,” adds Alexandra Warwick, a co-teacher in second and third grades and a graduate student in the College of Education. “That made it less stressful for us, and for the kids, too.”

Looking for more remote teaching and learning ideas? Visit LearnAway and search birth-12th grade curriculum ideas by research type, content area, and age. And check out the Educator Resources page for the latest 10TALK video expert’s chat and download the 10TALK Top 10 lists of remote learning recommendations from our experts.