Is Online Learning Working for Your Child? Here’s How To Tell

“Most parents never expected they’d be in grade school again, and yet, here we are…In a moment when time is precious and energy even more so, it might be challenging for parents to understand how growing a bean in a cup fits into their child’s larger education picture.You may be asking yourself: How will I even know if my child is learning anything this year?” K. Bosch, The New York Times (11/2020)

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

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Excerpt: How to Tell if Distance Learning Is Working for Your Kid -Measuring skills, not test scores, is key. By Kim Bosch, The New York Times

“The short answer: Focus on the outcomes. ‘Learning Outcomes’ (which are sometimes called ‘goals’ or even ‘standards’) are a set of skills a student should master by the end of a school year.

For example, a typical outcome for a third-grade student in language arts might be, ‘Student can use transition words to vary sentence structure,’ or in mathematics, ‘Student can estimate and measure perimeter,’… Outcomes are a clear and measurable list of skills…As the education crisis caused by Covid-19 continues, all levels of education should focus more on the number of skills students need to learn rather than the amount of time spent on Zoom.

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This is especially important in primary school where education is closely tied to developmental milestones, and for pandemic parents who are struggling to find time and energy to help their kids with online education… So how then do they know whether or not their kids are keeping up in their development?

Figure out how your child’s school measures success.


First, go online and see if you can find a copy of your school’s learning plan (here is a good example), or ask your teacher or principal for a complete list of learning goals for your kid’s grade. It is important to note that outcomes are not synonymous to major projects or grades or test scores…Depending on your kid, it might also be a good idea to share the list of outcomes for the year with them. Some kids might like being ‘in’ on the plan, or by focusing on the tasks in a list it might take away the anxiety of getting good grades… Parents are being asked to play a bigger role in their child’s education than ever before, and because of that, they should also be given the information that will allow them to do so. This is why your relationship with your child’s teacher is so important…what was once a conversation about ‘math skills’ (vague) can now be ‘Do you have some ideas about how I can work on X outcome at home?’

Having these conversations helps not only students and parents, but teachers too, since they can give you ideas for how you can support your child in person where maybe they, sadly, cannot right now because of social distancing measures.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 60 minutes.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions: Examine the titles of the post and the actual article.  Examine any photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas  that you  and your group members think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Despite the best efforts of compassionate teachers parents are needed to help with online learning.
  2. Many parents hover over the computer with their kids.
  3. Students are reminded  to document their findings in science class.
  4. Parents are feeling anxious these days.
  5. Learning Outcomes are sometimes called goals.
  6. The author guided faculty through the process of going remote.
  7. It is important to note that outcomes are not synonymous to major projects.
  8. By understanding the learning expectations, parents gain a sense of organization
  9. Once you understand what your kid is expected to learn, you’ll be able to better engage them in the learning process.
  10. For many years, educators have used formal assessments as the measure of a student’s success.


 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error.  Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.


  1. Parents never expected they’d be in grade school again.
  2. Parents are still playing a big role in online education this fall.
  3. Parents hover over an computer with their children.


  1. Many teachers are compassionate.
  2. Faculty member are asked to focus on what their students still need to learn.
  3. Parents are advised to  go online and find a copy of their school’s learning plan.


  1. Understanding the expected outcomes for your child’s grade can be helpful.
  2. It’s important for parent to engage their kids in the learning process.
  3. It is a good idea for parents to share the list of outcomes for the year with kids.


Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins

Directions: Have students read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Understanding the ___outcomes for your child’s ___can be ___in a couple ways. First, it allows you to ___a bit knowing that your school has a ___plan for your child’s___. It also gives you a ___by which to measure your child’s success.By understanding the learning expectations, ___gain a sense of ___and ___over an otherwise uncontrollable situation.

WORD LIST: control, organization, parents, relax, checklist, development, helpful, focused, grade,


III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,  students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Are you currently in an online learning program? If so, describe your experience so far. If you are a parent describe your child’s online learning program.
  2. Why are parents playing a big role in online education?
  3. According to the article, why are parents feeling anxious about online education?
  4. What is the best way to measure whether a child is learning a subject?
  5. What is another term for “Learning Outcomes”?
  6. What does OBE stand for?
  7. At her school, what did the author ask her faculty to focus on with their students?
  8. According to the article, what should education at all levels focus on?
  9. What is a good way for parents to find out if their kids are “keeping up in their development”?
  10. Why is knowing the expected outcomes for your child grade important?
  11. Why is sharing the expected outcomes with your child a good idea?
  12. The author states, “For centuries, educators have used formal assessments (tests, worksheets and grades) as the key measure of a student’s “success.” But in these challenging times, it’s important to focus less on the formal evaluation of student skills and more on the ability to demonstrate a skill in any way.”  Why is this important?
  13. Describe some  ways  in which a parent can make up the informal assessment periods kids used to spend with their teachers.
  14. Why is it important for parents to focus on the outcomes of a problem and not the way in which the child achieved them?
  15. What does the author suggest parents should do in regards to their child’s teachers?


Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.