How to Teach First Graders Online: A Step-By-Step Guide


Teaching first graders can be a tricky task online due to this being foundational learning. This article will show you how to teach first graders online using a sequence of simple steps.

To teach first graders online you have to perform the following steps:

  1. Choose A Subject
  2. Gather Up The Equipment
    1. Buy The Right Hardware
    2. Install Suitable Software
  3. Create Educational Content
  4. Host Your Course 
  5. Take Advantage Of Resources
    1. Online Resources
    2. Mobile Apps
    3. Resources for Parents
  6. Get Ready For Your First Class

Now that you understand the big picture of teaching first graders online, let’s dive in to find out how to perform each step.

Step 1 – Choose A Subject

During the first year of school, children are taught only several subjects. The reason behind this aspect is to help them get used to learning and staying focused during classes. 

There are 4 subjects that children learn about during the first grade:

  • Native Language
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Native Language

This is the most important topic that must be approached during the first years of school. Children develop several key competencies that will help them during the rest of their studies and throughout their lives. 

No matter what their language is the following topics are covered:

  • Reading
  • Listening 
  • Writing 
  • Speaking 

This is a huge focus for countries to make sure the people of that country have high levels of Language skills in LLN (Language, Literacy and Numeracy).

Mathematics

During the first year of school, children are taught basic mathematics starting with addition and subtraction. They understand how numbers relate to each other and how things are measured in their home country. In matters of geometry, students are taught how to create and recognize different easy shapes.

This is the Numeracy section of basic LLN learning for children through to adults linked to in the above section.

Science

This subject includes three different topics that are covered during the first grade:

  • Biology – plants and animals
  • Physical Science – gravity and Earth’s rotation
  • Geology – soil and oceans 

Those topics are meant to help the children to understand their surroundings and why certain phenomena happen (night and day, sun and moon, etc.).

Social Studies

This subject depends very much on the country your students are living in. However, most of the countries include History and National Holidays Celebration as subtopics of this subject. Social studies rely very much on children’s ability to understand the social aspects of the world (history, wars, celebrations, public holidayss, etc.)

Step 2 – Gather Up The Equipment

When teaching online you need certain equipment. To make it easier for you to understand what you need to use during your online course I split the equipment into two distinct sections.

Buy The Right Hardware

In terms of hardware (physical equipment), teaching first graders online is not a very complicated issue. Basically, all you need is:

  • Computer or Laptop
  • Stable Internet Connection
  • Camera
  • Microphone

Computer or Laptop

This is the most important hardware component that you are going to use throughout the online teaching process. The good news is that teaching first graders online does not require the most advanced computer available on the market.

Generally any computer less than 4 years old of around $500 will do for this style of training.  For most training online an i3 or i5 Intel processor with 4gig of RAM with a solid-state disk (SSD) or 8 gigs so RAM with an older style hard drive is more than enough.

To learn more about what are the requirements for a computer that’s used for online teaching, check out the following article:

ARTICLE: eLearning Authoring: A Perfect Professionals Computer Setup

Stable Internet Connection

If you want to conduct live classes during your online course, you must make sure that your internet connection is stable and fast. If you usually have trouble watching an online movie, you might want to consider getting a better internet service provider.  Generally if you are the only one using the internet connection a 10Mbps download and a 3Mbps upload is good enough.

One of the most important aspects of your internet connection is latency (also known as Ping). The ping is the time that your computer takes to reply to a server’s request. Over a 50ms ping is starting to get bad and over 100ms call your Internet Service Provider.

There are heaps of speed tests that you can try out online for free. These will help you determine whether your Internet connection is fast enough for teaching an online course. I suggest you try out the Ookla Speed Test.

Camera 

A camera is an important piece of your online teaching equipment. It is especially useful when you conduct live classes during your course. You can also use your camera to record video training content. Considering that your students are first graders you might want to take advantage of their increased interest in videos.  

If you are using a laptop, it probably has an integrated webcam. However, due to the poor quality and lack of helpful features, I strongly advise against using it for teaching online. 

You should invest some money in a dedicated camera that will capture high-quality footage that you can successfully use to teach your students. You can find my recommendation in terms of a web cam for online courses on the Recommended Tools page.  If you want to spend more you can always get a digital camera and tripod as well.

IMPORTANT: Due to the age of the students you will want to also have a parents guide for setting up the technology at their end.

Microphone 

A high-quality microphone is just as important as a dedicated web cam. Using those two pieces of equipment along with a stable internet connection will turn your live classes into a delightful experience for both you and your students.

Just like webcams, microphones are usually integrated into laptops. However, due to the same reason (poor quality recording), I strongly disagree with using the integrated microphone for teaching online. 

Spend some extra cash to get a high-quality microphone that will definitely help you throughout your teaching experience. Make sure the microphone you are buying has a noise-canceling feature. It is very helpful especially when you are living in a noisy neighborhood.

If you are not yet happy with the audio quality, you can always spend some time editing the audio recordings. To learn more about what you can make to improve your audio record quality check out the following article:

ARTICLE: Editing Audio: Sound Like A Pro In A Screencast

On the Recommended Tools page, you can find my recommendations for microphones for online teaching.

Install Suitable Software

If you are planning on conducting live classes with your first-grade students you must decide what web conferencing platform you are going to use. I suggest choosing between Zoom, Skype and Webex because of their user-friendly interfaces. If you are not sure whether you want to use live classes during your online course I suggest reading the following article:

ARTICLE: Teaching Live Online: The Pros and Cons

Considering the young students you are teaching, you might want to rely on video training content rather than written materials. Below you will find a list of applications that you can use to create all kinds of training content that are suitable for first graders.

Video

Whether you are recording your computer screen (screencasting) or recording audio with your phone or tablet this is the best way to engage young students.  Be mindful of the content you present and to be expressive when speaking to them.  For most of you this is a daily progress anyway.

To record your screen you can use the following applications:

For recording real world video your mobile phone will do on a cheap stand you can buy online or a stabilizer as well as audio and lighting.  The article below discusses some of these things with you.

ARTICLE: Getting Professional Video From A SmartPhone

After you’ve finished recording your video, to edit the raw footage you can use:

Putting on the final touches can be time consuming and if you are doing it for work you may want to use a contractor on Upwork or Fiverr to do this for you.  If you don’t have a small budget for this then you will have to do it for yourself.

Graphics

We all know a picture speaks a thousand words and for first graders that don’t have a huge vocabulary yet the use of graphics is critical to success.  You can take screenshots of what you are doing on your screen or create the graphics from scratch with royalty free photos and the 2D graphics packages below.  

There are also 3D based graphics tools but it will take you more time to create the graphics with no real improvement for the students.

There are plenty of applications that allow you to capture screenshots such as:

You can edit image files using the following software:

And finally some royalty free photos you can include in your training can be sourced from here:

IMPORTANT: Wherever you get your images and photos from make sure they are really royalty free so you are not breaching anyones copywrite.

Animations

These are always great for young students and they used to be very time consuming.  While you can contract the creation of these out on Fiverr or Upwork there is also software now that makes this really easy to do as well.

 Some of the Animation Creation Applications are::

Audio

Especially when learning how to pronounce words nothing helps people of all ages like good audio explaining in simple terms how to say words.  The ability to replay it until they get it right is critical.  Once you have recorded your audio on your phone or proper microphone then you can use the tools below to clean up the audio.

The most popular audio editing applications are:

Step 3 – Create Educational Content

Now it is time to create the actual training content for your online course. Use the above-mentioned applications to create high-quality content that will help your first-grade students to understand basic concepts. 

Make sure the material is not too complicated for their competencies. You can take advantage of the animations to teach heaps of topics. For example, you can use animations to help them to get a better understanding of the gravity concept or the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. There are plenty of options. All you have to do is to be creative. 

If you need inspiration on eLearning Content Types read this article:

ARTICLE: The Ultimate Guide To eLearning Content Types

Step 4 – Host Your Course

Compared to regular courses those that target first graders are slightly different. Due to your students being very young (5-6 years old), they are not ready to use a complicated learning management systems. That is why you should do your best to provide them with a clear, simple, and concise learning experience.

I suggest using the live classes to draw their attention. You should use a web conferencing tool that allows you to use other compatible functions. 

For example, you can use Zoom. Apart from the audio-video capabilities Zoom also provides a whiteboard that you can successfully use to teach children how to draw or write. 

There are many other functions available on Zoom that you can integrate into your online course, such as:

  • Virtual Background – to avoid distractions that may appear behind you
  • Integrated Calendar – you can schedule events using the integrated Outlook calendar with parents
  • Personal Meetings Room – for one-on-one tutoring with students that need extra help
  • And more.

This platform supports up to 100 people per call and offers mobile apps (available on Android and iOS).

For storing your content, you can try cloud-based storage. My recommendation is Google Drive as it offers up to 10 gigs of free storage for your account. This storage can be extended by paying a yearly subscription. 

Step 5 – Take Advantage Of Resources

For every subject, there are heaps of online resources that educators can successfully integrate into their courses. When you teach first graders online, you can use different websites to make your classes more interactive. 

One of the most common ways of making your students like the class more is using educational games. If you want to learn more about how to make your online course way more interesting, I suggest reading the following articles:

ARTICLE: 8 Ways To Make Online Classes A LOT More Interesting 

ARTICLE: 46 Fun Educational Games To Engage Online K-12 Students

Online Resources

Some of the most popular platforms that offer online resources that are suitable for first graders are:

Education.com 

The well-known platform Education.com has a special section dedicated to first graders. It allows educators to sort activities by topic (Art, Science, Language, Mathematics, etc). Children will be fascinated by the tremendous amount of colors and animation. At the same time they will learn different concepts and develop their competencies.

JumpStart

JumpStart is an educational platform that offers a wide variety of resources for the first grade

These resources include:

  • Worksheets
  • Lessons Plans
  • Curriculum
  • And more.

Teachers can access those resources for free without having to pay for a monthly subscription.

MathGames

https://www.mathgames.com/

This website provides a lot of interactive assignments that help children to learn basic concepts about mathematics. It also features a section that contains only first-grade math games.

ReadWriteThink

ReadWriteThink offers heaps of free resources for K-12 students. They also have a page for first graders. There you will find anything from lesson plans to student printouts. 

Choose The Best Mobile Apps

On the Google Play store and iTunes you can find a lot of mobile apps that you can use while teaching first graders online. Those apps cover all of your LLN needs and some are free and others are paid for.  Educational games are the best ways to help young learners.

Let’s find out which are the best mobile apps you can use to teach first graders online.

Vocabulary Spelling City

Compatible: iOS
(Click on operating system to link to mobile app above)

Price: Free

Rating: 2.8 (603 ratings)

This app focuses on spelling competency. It has a wide variety of fun games that teach kids how to spell common words. It contains over 35 games and will help you to keep children engaged for hours.

Todo Math

Compatible: iOS
(Click on operating system to link to mobile app above)

Price: Free

Rating: 4.7 (376 ratings)

Todo Math is an app designed for K-2 students that want to practice their math skills. It also contains hundreds of free games that will develop children’s mathematical skills.

First Grade Learning Games

Compatible: Android
(Click on operating system to link to mobile app above)

Price: Free

Rating: 3.8 (5,714 ratings)

This app contains 18 fun games to help children learn first-grade lessons. It is the perfect mobile learning tool for kids aged 6-8. It develops various competencies, such as literacy, fractions, science, eand more.

1st Grade Activities

Compatible: Android
(Click on operating system to link to mobile app above)

Price: Free

Rating: 4.1 (635 ratings)

This app was developed by California credentialed teachers and includes 60 different games for first graders. It is meant to teach children about colors, shapes, sizes, letters, and more.

Resources for Parents

When you are teaching first graders you must constantly be in touch with their parents. Obviously this is because the students are too young to get ready for an online class or load mobile apps and the parents’ help will be needed.

When the first graders are studying the parents will need to engage with them to help where needed and supporting your parents with guides and technical support will mean a better learning outcome.

For example, you can make use of the following guide:

ARTICLE: Parent’s Complete Guide To First Grade

The above-mentioned article contains interesting activities that the parents can integrate into their children’s everyday schedule. Those activities are both fun and educational. Therefore it is an amazing opportunity for the children to actually learn while playing.

 It provides guidance for various topics such as:

  • Writing Competency
  • Reading Competency
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • And more.

Step 6 – Get Ready For Your First Class

Your first online class will be a little stressful as you get used to the technology involved and explore the tools you have available.  Doing a test run with a friend or partner will get you more comfortable with how it all works in a web conference.

Here are some Tips on preparing for your class.

Tip #1 – Test Your Connection Before The Class

This is something that you have to do before every class. It is a great idea to also ask your students to test out their connections before the class begins. This way, you will avoid eventual inconveniences provoked by poor network signal or unstable internet connection.

As well as testing the internet connection speed also check both you and your students can connect to your chosen web conference software.  This will also allow them to check their microphone and speakers.  Be sure you do this at the start of class as well to ensure everyone is good to go.

Provide your mobile or remote desktop support software if they need help setting up.  The following article will give you some help to help them.

ARTICLE: Understanding Live Student Support

Tip #2 – Constantly Check For Understanding 

From time to time ask your students if everything is clear.  Using active listening skills like getting students to paraphrase or repeat in their own words are things we normally do with older students.  With first graders you may just keep your questions closed and not open ended and merely yes and no and reading body language on the shared video is a better option. 

Tip #3 – Short Breaks For Success

Having a break from time to time improves student understanding by letting their subconscious process the information they have been given.  Breaks also allow the brain to refresh itself for the next session.  And finally it also a helpful tool when something goes wrong or a single student needs help to give the rest of the class a break to look after it.

For more tips on running your first online class draw from my years of experience running them by reading the following article:

ARTICLE: 15 Practical Tips for Teaching your First Online Class

Glen Brown

I am a Technical Trainer and Manager with over 20 years experience in IT, Education and Business. I have multiple qualifications on each topic including post graduate qualifications. I have a passion for sharing knowledge and using technology to do this. If you would like to know more about me please see the about page of the website.

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