Schools are well-known for running on a strict timetable, complete with bells to let you know when it’s time to move on to the next lesson. For schools trying to design remote learning for their students, or parents trying to support their children’s learning (often while also continuing to navigate their own work), it can be tricky to know how to structure a day.
While the research base is rather limited on structuring a day for home learning, there are some underlying principles based on research about effective learning and human behaviour, that might be useful.
Create a (relatively) consistent routine
Humans love routine (even if we also sometimes love a break from them!). Think about how you can develop a consistent routine for weekdays, allocating particular time periods for learning in different curriculum areas as well as time for meals, physical activity, and free time.
Organise learning into small chunks with breaks in between
Our memory can only take so much new information at one time. This means that learning is most effective when it is organised into small chunks that build on each other sequentially. Furthermore, practising skills or learning new content is most effective when it is spaced out over time and revisited on a regular basis rather than crammed into a single session.
Play, social connection and physical activity are essential every day
It is vital that a daily routine builds in lots of time for other activities alongside schoolwork. There is a wealth of research demonstrating the importance of play – both structured and unstructured – for enhancing physical and mental wellbeing, academic and cognitive performance, and social and emotional skills. Similarly, social connection – engaging with family members or friends (via technology while under lockdown) – and physical activity are closely connected to enhanced wellbeing.
Make the school day shorter than it normally would be
This is particularly true for primary school students. For many children who are learning remotely, their day will likely be shorter than a typical school day and organised slightly differently. This is because maintaining concentration and motivation is much harder when working remotely. Having more frequent breaks and prioritising the learning that is most valued can be useful.
How to develop a daily routine for home learning
Determine what time children will start their school work each day and from there, organise your day into chunks. For children in primary school, these might be half hour slots for learning broken up with half hour breaks in between for free time, play and physical activity, with a longer break for lunch. For older children, each learning slot might be 45 to 60 minutes. Again, make sure that children have regular breaks in their learning.
Identify the subjects or key learning that children need to cover each day. In primary school these are likely to be reading, writing, maths, and then a combination of science, social studies, art, music and technology which you could alternate on different days of the week. In secondary school, the subjects and the amount of time dedicated to them each week is more likely to match the school’s regular timetable.
A sample remote learning timetable for primary school children
Success Academy, a network of high achieving charter schools in New York City, have released the timetables that they’re using with their students at different levels of the education system. We’ve provided adapted versions below as they may provide both parents and teachers with ideas for how to structure a school day when learning from home. Please note that these are just a guide and are by no means a definitive model.
|09.00-09.30||PE / physical activity|
|13.00-13.30||Science / social studies|
|14.00-14.30||Art / drama / reading|