|OLOR Series:||OLOR Reviews|
|Original Publication Date:||28 August 2023|
In Teaching Online for Kindergarten and Primary Teachers: Get Ready for Your Next Online Class (2023), Gregory Michael Adam Macur masterfully crafts a straightforward yet enriching guide for educators on how to navigate online contexts with young students. The text delivers pragmatic guidance for improving student engagement and performance in digital spaces, encompassing a wide range of content from classroom management and instruction to utilizing body language and prioritizing the socioemotional well-being of learners.
Teaching Online for Kindergarten and Primary Teachers (2023) is widely applicable to all educators working within online contexts, informing readers thoughtfully through a combination of teacher interviews, extensive research, and the author’s own experiences as an online educator. The book offers 13 chapters in total, each focused on a particular element for consideration when navigating the online teaching of elementary-age students. The first chapter introduces the whole text, providing foundational knowledge of scholarship and historical contexts that influence online instruction. Subsequent chapters address topics such as various online teaching platforms, classroom management, learner engagement, activities that promote learning in online settings, and feedback and assessment.
The title of this book might prompt readers to assume that the contents apply solely to elementary-based instruction. However, the research, strategies, and topics are relevant to all teaching levels as narrative-driven scenarios and guidance in the text thoroughly illustrate what successful online classrooms look like, specifically in terms of positive student engagement. This structure allows Teaching Online for Kindergarten and Primary Teachers (2023) to be malleable based on the instructional needs of the reader. Furthermore, the scenario-based examples throughout the text illustrate different pathways afforded to educators in pursuit of establishing a positive classroom culture and rapport online. The preface even advises readers to reflect on their instructional pedagogies (among other aspects that can impact academic success, such as student welfare and social well-being) before diving into the contents of the text. Macur preempts readers to “take value in what stands out to [them] as applicable and pragmatic,” prioritizing authenticity in how the strategies can further develop one’s practice (p. xiv).
An extensive range of strategies is delivered throughout the text from re-engaging distracted learners to working with parents in solely online contexts. Teaching Online for Kindergarten and Primary Teachers (2023) begins by describing the increased awareness of online education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, acknowledging the advancement of technology and internet accessibility as contributing factors. Macur articulates the value of traditional classroom settings as well, discussing how physical interactions aid in the socioemotional development of children. However, the distinct argument in support of online instruction is the global nature of these settings, extending education access to communities that have not been afforded such learning opportunities as easily (p. 2).
Macur discusses several factors that can either impede or support the academic progress of students, especially elementary-age learners. Learning management software (LMS) can act as a major component in determining the efficiency of online classrooms. The text incorporates practical discussions regarding technology access, specifically in terms of funding and functionality, while emphasizing the value of a diverse online toolkit comprised of resources and applications intended to enhance student engagement. Such guidance throughout Teaching Online for Kindergarten and Primary Teachers (2023) assists tremendously in a broader application of the offered strategies to all learners, not just elementary-age students. For example, Macur includes a general list for educators to use in determining the functionality of a tool and if it fits the needs of the online classroom, such as screen-rotating abilities of an app and accessibility across operating systems (e.g., Android, Apple iOS). Such considerations certainly are not restricted to elementary-school teachers. Instructors of all levels could benefit by using or modifying these pragmatic strategies to inform their practices in pursuit of how to best support their students.
Throughout the book, body language in the online classroom is referenced unfailingly, demonstrating the unique importance of using nonverbals as a support for positive student engagement. Chapter 5, “Body Language and Instructions in the Online Classroom,” details how teachers can “act” during synchronous teaching sessions to keep students engaged, including advice about voice and tone, posture, movement, on-screen graphics, camera angle, and learner actions, such as asking students to tilt their camera so that the teacher can see students’ response to directions to create an artifact. Macur cites research-based evidence that indicates how body language correlates directly to the effectiveness of instruction, even in online spaces. The author assigns nonverbal communication as an essential element of classroom management, affirming that “the use of proper body language and giving concise instructions…give students the best chance of accessing the curriculum” (p. 60).
Similarly, other extensions in effective instruction are given special attention throughout the book, such as Chapter 10, “Online Student Welfare and Wellbeing,” where Macur discusses the impact of extended screentime on students’ visual health, and Chapter 12, “Things Your Students Should Have Ready for Classes,” which enumerates environmental items that might interfere with optimal student participation in online classes.
Most chapters start with Done Right versus Done Wrong scenarios where readers consider best practices for online teaching. Then, Macur provides research-based explanations of the topics and practices relevant to the chapter. While some approaches may appeal more to younger students (e.g., gamification, extrinsic motivators), the information within the book evokes several reflective opportunities for readers to consider through the perspective of their own teaching practices. These insightful occasions lend themselves the option for educators to modify such strategies for learners older than kindergarten ages. Overall, Teaching Online for Kindergarten and Primary Teachers (2023) presents a comprehensive guide for educators to reference as the different needs of their online classrooms arise, regardless of the education level that the reader teaches.
Gregory Michael Adam Macur. 2023. Routledge. [Paperback, $31.96; Ebook, $31.96].
Kenna Grove is a Department Chair and English Instructor at The Career Academy in Lincoln, NE. She received her Master of Arts in English (Composition and Rhetoric) from the University of Nebraska, and much of her research explores the intersections of writing knowledge transfer between K-12 and post-secondary education.