Teaching the “Kit for Kids” Virtually in 8 Easy Steps | Organization for Autism Research

How To

In 2020, daily living as we knew it, such as work, school, and volunteer activities, either came to a standstill or changed substantially. Gradually, we have adapted, mostly by making use of virtual platforms and tools. A survey done by the Atlanta Federal Reserve and the University of Chicago found that the number of people working from home is projected to increase fourfold from pre-COVID numbers, so we can anticipate that virtual activities of all kinds will continue into the future.

Like other critical activities, OAR’s work must go on, and that includes outreach with the “Kit for Kids” program, which can be taught through a distance learning platform. To do that takes a little work, but these steps will guide you through successfully adapting and using the program online.

 

1. Apply to be a youth education leader.

If you are interested in teaching the “Kit for Kids” program, you must first apply to be a youth education leader. You can volunteer regardless of where you live, but be sure to indicate in your application that you intend to teach the program virtually.

 

2. Download and review digital content.

OAR offers the “Kit for Kids” materials in formats that can be shared online. Complete kits for each age group can be downloaded in a PDF format through the OAR website. Before teaching the lesson plan, download the materials you need and practice presenting them. Timing yourself and practicing with a friend or family member are great ways to get comfortable with the material and your teaching plan.

 

3. Pick a video-sharing platform.

There are many video-sharing platforms available, such as Zoom and Skype, that work for this program. It does not matter which one you choose, but be sure to familiarize yourself with the functions before teaching your first lesson. I like Zoom because it has “waiting rooms” and intuitive screen sharing and allows kids to “raise their hands,” among other useful features.

 

4. Contact schools.

You can’t teach the “Kit for Kids,” without the kids, so contacting schools is a necessary part of sharing the program. If you are not acquainted with a particular school or teacher, research some schools in your area and make a call list with each school’s general phone number. I found that coming up with a rough sales pitch and/or list of questions for the teacher before calling schools greatly increased my phone confidence. You will typically first speak with a school administrator who can connect you with the appropriate contacts.

Typically, once you are connected with the appropriate contact, it only takes one call to book a date over the phone. You can explain that you will send additional information by email so they are ready on the day of the lesson. Make sure to give the person you book the session with your phone number so they can get in touch.

 

5. Email the teacher prior to the session.

Teachers lead busy lives, so it is important to summarize the details of the phone call in a reminder email. Things that should have been discussed during the phone call and now restated in the email include:

  • The digital platform that will be used (which may depend on what the school uses)
  • How many students will be participating
  • Date and time
  • How the instructional materials will be assembled (Will the teacher print them out? Do you need to provide them?)
  • Additional details that will make the session a success

This email should include the video meeting link and PDF attachments of the learning materials. I also recommend signing the email with your title as an OAR youth education leader and providing a link to the OAR website.

 
6. Have a professional appearance.

Even though you will not be physically present at the school, it is important to maintain a professional appearance. Make sure that you are set up on the digital platform you are using in advance of the time the lesson will start and that you are dressed appropriately. You should be in a private area with a good internet connection and no interruptions. I made my Zoom icon the OAR logo and presented myself as a youth education leader so that I was identifiable.

 

7. Make it as engaging as possible.

While video sharing has revolutionized that way we communicate, there can be obstacles that get in the way of engagement. It’s a good idea to limit class size to 20 to 30 kids and offer multiple, smaller sessions if necessary. This ensures that everyone has a chance to participate. In addition, make sure to employ the teacher’s help when calling on kids because they may be physically there with them.

It is common to encounter a class with some kids physically in the classroom and some kids attending class over Zoom from home because of capacity limits. If this is the case, it is important to engage both types of participants, which can require some creativity. When there are kids physically in the classroom, I like to employ the teacher’s help when calling on them. I also find it helpful to ask the kids who are virtually attending from home to make sure their name is displayed on their video.

 

8. Email the teacher after the session.

As soon after the class as possible, send a follow-up email to the teacher. This email should thank them for participating in the program and offer a platform for feedback. OAR offers a survey of experience that is not required to be filled out, but should be sent to the teacher as an option.


Brooke Traitz is a graduate of The Ohio State University, where she studied strategic communication and art history. Her passion for creative communication led her to pursue a degree in speech-language pathology at the University of Florida. While at UF, she volunteered through Hearoes for Hearing to raise money for patients in UF’s cochlear implant program and Smile Impact Society to raise money for cleft palate and lip repair surgeries. During her free time, she loves cooking up new recipes and hiking with her family.


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