Independent Learning Strategies During the Coronavirus Outbreak


Independent Learning

You just got the notification - school is closed due to the coronavirus. Now what? It is likely that the school is providing some measure of distance learning via an online platform. You want to help your student succeed while keeping sane. Here are a number of independent learning strategies to help you tackle distance learning, and a few tips for some educational activities if your school isn't providing formal options.

Environmental Strategies

  • Help your child make a reasonable schedule and stick to it. If your child works best in the morning, make sure they are up and going bright and early. If they could use that extra two hours of sleep, block off a solid time frame for work in the late morning and early afternoon instead. When you make the schedule, be sure to include adequate break times. If a break is coming, it's easier to stick with the work schedule.
  • Go through the list of assignments. Determine which assignments should be spread over multiple days, and which ones can be completed in one sitting. Help your child decide the order in which to work on the assignments. Make note of which assignments can be done independently, and which will need your help.
  • Create a quiet, distraction-free workspace. Turn off the music and TV and limit other interruptions. Gather needed supplies before beginning to work.

Task-Related Strategies

These strategies can help your child with home assignments. Remind older students of these strategies, or help younger students to work through them.

Reading Assignments

  • Preview the reading passage by looking at key text features like section headings, graphics, and terms in bold.
  • List three questions you expect to have answered when reading the assigned passage.
  • After reading the passage, determine if the questions were answered. If not, seek more information.
  • State the main idea of the passage as well as the most relevant supporting information.

Video Lessons

  • Viewing a video lesson or recorded lecture? If possible, find a copy of the transcript for the video. Use the transcript to highlight key information and take notes.
  • If a transcript is not available, take notes while watching the lesson.
  • After viewing the lesson, write down questions you have about the lesson, then review the video or search online for the answers to their questions.
  • If you have difficulty with note-taking, you may want to use a simple outline. See the image for one example.

Sample Outline for Taking Notes on a Video Lesson
notes outline

Online Research

  • Distance learning is likely to involve online research. Remember the rules for choosing good online sources. Choose sources that are credible, such as established institutions and published journals. When evaluating a source, consider the source's bias, currency, and authority.


  • Begin by reviewing the rubric. Note the required elements of the project and the criteria for success.
  • List the steps that will be required for the project. Examples include finding resources, doing research, writing about the research, and creating a presentation or product.
  • Make a schedule for the project work, especially if you will work on it over several days.
  • Find creative ways to present information without compromising the integrity of the information.

Promoting Learning Without School Input

Maybe your child's school has not set up formalized distance learning, but you want your child to keep up with some structured learning activities. What can you do?

  • Use your child's recent school information to identify their current topics of study. Look for educational games or apps on the same topic.
  • Help your child choose a question or topic that interests them. Have your child do research on-line and prepare a presentation of the information in any format that they enjoy (written report, video, song, poster, etc.).
  • Encourage your child to read! Hold them accountable for their reading by asking questions and discussing their book. If you can, read a book together and have a mini-book club.
  • Have your child write daily. Give them a fun journal prompt or story starter, or let them choose their own topic.

Final Strategies

Stop, take a deep breath, and do your best. For most students, independent learning will be a big adjustment. Don't worry if they struggle at first. Be supportive and encouraging. Celebrate accomplishments, and don't forget to have some fun as well.

Homeschooling is hard enough as it is, but balancing the needs of children of different ages makes the challenge all the more difficult. This blog post offers suggestions for how you can succeed when homeschooling your entire family.

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