How can we help students learn at home during this school crisis? Many parents and teachers are still uncomfortable with plans to reopen schools. Some school districts are postponing school re-openings.
Remote learning and Internet connection should be available to all children, but how can we help students learn without relying on screens?
Everyone’s struggling to find answers, so your ideas are welcome here. Here are some thoughts.
1. Weekly Learning Packets *
Teachers have been providing students with learning packets filled with instructional activities, assignments, worksheets, and informal assessments.
Each week elementary students get an envelope in the mail. Middle and high school students get several packets for each subject, or one large packet with assignments and activities for each subject. Teachers can get as creative as they want with these packets. They should include a return self-addressed envelope.
School staff like bus drivers, and those who aren’t working, might work with teachers to collect packet material and prepare it for mailing.
Sending learning packets by mail, have the added benefit of giving the post office more business!
2. “Educational Toys” Drive
Think Toys for Tots, only Educational Toys and books for kids at home during Covid-19.
Determine games and materials for learning to take place at home. PTA’s might request help from big chain community stores and others who wish to donate.
Getting age appropriate learning games (don’t forget dolls and cuddle toys) into the hands of children, will brighten their days and keep students busy.
What free household items safely help children learn?
3. Hire More Teachers
Smaller class rosters enable teachers to better account for students in their care. Teachers might be more willing to work with children in smaller controlled groups. It will help them work with students remotely.
4. Small Learning Groups for Working Parents
If schools reopen, perhaps it should only be for the children of parents who must work.
5. Hire More Counselors, Nurses, and Social Workers
School districts need support staff to make home visits, call and check on children remotely, and help with home and school visits (when safe).
Children still need health screenings schools provide, like dental, hearing and eyesight, height and weight measurements, scoliosis evaluations, blood pressure readings, and tuberculosis checks.
6. Canvas School Districts to Help Students and Families in Need
Students and families rely on schools for social services and food. This is separate from education, but critical.
Children cannot learn if they’re hungry, ill, or mistreated.
Counselors, teachers, and staff need to determine how to safely check on students at home or in small groups to ensure that they and their families are not in crisis and no abuse is going on in the home.
7. Read! *
Get books into the hands of children! Schools should fund a book allowance for children to purchase books to read for fun. Seek donations.
Scholastic Book Clubs have good prices on books at all levels. They provide perks for teachers. Teachers can purchase class book sets for assignments. Each student gets their own book to read and discuss with the class remotely. School districts might be able to negotiate deals on the books and magazines in bulk.
Scholastic also has magazines for a variety of subjects with rich learning activities. Scholastic Scope works well for middle and high school students including students with reading disabilities.
School and community libraries and librarians are needed to get books safely to children.
All students should get copies of the textbooks teachers choose for each subject.
8. Ask Teachers!
School districts must include teachers in the back-to-school conversation. Teachers understand how schools work and foresee the difficulties of working with students under stringent Covid-19 rules or remotely.
9. Include the Arts
Provide ample time for students to explore new art techniques. Make sure they have art supplies.
Help students learn to play musical instruments or sing by connecting with their music teachers online.
Find a spot in the house where students can practice dance moves, and exercise.
10. Inside/Outside Activities
Children learn measuring skills if they can help with age-appropriate kitchen tasks. Supervise younger children. Older students might enjoy preparing a meal.
Many recommend outside play where children and teens study the natural world. Growing plants, flowers, or a garden is a great science activity.
Help students learn organizational skills and how to manage simple household tasks.
Children need unstructured playtime. Too much screen time is detrimental.
12. Traveling Teachers and Staff
Teachers and have visited the homes of students. They’ve practiced social distancing in the yard, the driveway, or behind a window. School districts should pay for mileage which shouldn’t be costly since gas prices are low.
13. Outdoor Community Support
How can communities support their children? Many cities and towns have botanical gardens, outdoor amphitheaters, and large outdoor parks. Those who run these parks might work with local schools to create plays and storytelling performances where children and families social distance outside under the stars, or during the afternoon when the weather is nice.
14. Students with Disabilities
This is not the time to reverse course on the rights that parents have fought for. Special education teachers must safely address student needs and work with parents to assist students at home. IEPs must still be the focus. Individuality is more important than ever at this critical time. Every teacher and student situation is different.
15. Virtual Learning: NOT What Parents and Students Want, But It Will Have to Do
Parents and students are not keen on anytime, anyplace learning. For now, remote learning is necessary.
Work to keep schoolboards from purchasing online programs like K12 or Connections Academy with a poor curriculum to replace teachers. Research shows children fail to make academic gains with these programs. Scrutinize online programs before they’re purchased.
Remote learning should be with the child’s teacher.
16. Phone Home
Kevin Godden is the superintendent for the Abbotsford School District in British Columbia which includes three groups of First Nations people. In an online Radcliffe meeting, Godden told how teachers in his school district successfully communicated with students by phone. This especially helped the shy student who hesitates to speak out in class.
17. Physical Activity
Children need daily physical activity to feel good and to practice a sport in which they excel. The CDC presents guidelines for contact activity.
18. Fix and Rebuild Schools
It may seem strange to think ahead, but district administrators and school boards might use this time to update school infrastructure and ready school buildings for the future.
Do you have ideas that could help children learn safely from afar?
Children’s books, like other paper-based materials such as mail or envelopes, are not considered a high risk for transmission and do not need additional cleaning or disinfection procedures. Let packets sit undisturbed for a few days if concerned.