Utilizing Instructional Assistants & Paraprofessionals During Distance Learning
When distance learning first started, figuring out how to use our paraprofessionals was difficult. Trying to establish new routines and finding the best way to utilize paras/instructional assistants was not an easy task. But with some brainstorming, collaborating, and a little trial an error- we’ve found some great ways to utilize all adults in the classroom to help meet all the various & changing student needs.
Integrating them into your Instruction/lessons
- For many counties, paraprofessionals cannot teach new information, but they can definitely be part of your instruction- have them read stories to the class if you are doing a book etc.
- You would lead the instruction, but they can be part of the follow up/review activities.
- Have your paras/instructional assistants print & assemble relevant work packets/activities that can be sent home via mail to students.
- Any kind of lesson prep- if you have student specific activities that need to be laminated, cut out, Velcroed, etc. or anything you need prepped for lessons, have your paras help!
- Any other adults in the classroom can be in charge of supervising breakout rooms. They can assist with individual or small group activities, discussions, or mini review lessons as needed.
- If certain students need additional help with something, have them assist one-on-one as needed.
Fun/Break Time/Brain Break Activities
- Have paras lead fun breaktime activities! There are tons of videos and short activities for brain breaks and this is a great way to get your paras to be included in full class activities. (Do a song/dance, mini kids yoga or some kind of physical exercise, or games)
- You can also have paras help lead routine activities like morning or closing circle
Dropping off student specific materials
- If you have paras/IAs that are open to driving around and dropping off student materials/work, this is a great idea too!
- If there are special packages or items you want your kiddos to have for a holiday or just a little surprise- try this! They can just be dropped off at the front door.
Online trainings / Professional Development
- This is also a great time to get your paras caught up on any trainings your county may require of them.
- If there are specific programs you want your paras to be trained on to help with your classroom instruction/lessons, now is the time! Most programs have online certifications available now.
- If you need a more efficient way of collecting certain data (i.e. participation, answering questions, conversational skills, etc.) have your paras take data for you during instruction. They can have their data sheets in front of them and tally for you as you teach.
- This can help you utilize your time as well. Just make sure they understand what data they are collecting and that it’s being done correctly.
A key thing to remember is that paras and other adults in general don’t know what you’re thinking. You have to be clear about what you expect for your classroom and be specific when you explain what you’d like their role to be. When you are all on the same page about how the classroom is run, it can be a smooth process and an enriching environment for your students.