I usually write blog posts for other teachers, letters to students, emails to parents. But today, this note is for me and all of the educators out there who are starting the year under very different circumstances.
We are in the midst of very challenging times. A global pandemic, in-person school cancelled in many parts of the world through the end of the school year, stay-at-home orders for most of us. In the United States, we've been staying put for about five weeks now and teachers, students, and parents are still trying to figure out work, school, and life in general.
At the Kilmer Library, we've working to create engaging content to keep our students interested and learning without our normal channels for classroom collaboration. One such activity has been our virtual vacations.
Schools Are Closed. Now What?
As schools have shuttered over the past few days, I’ve fielded a lot of questions from friends about what exactly they should be doing in order to help kids keep learning as we enter a phase of social distancing. The answer is that, well, like everything these days, it’s complicated. Some school districts are rolling out long-distance learning plans, while others are saying that they will provide resources for continued student learning but that these experiences are merely suggestions and not required. Regardless of the plan offered by your school district, I do have some suggestions for how to structure your child’s learning to maximize results without driving yourself crazy.
Our Reading classes come to the library monthly for lessons and activities. Last month, our reading teachers requested that we develop a lesson on external text features -- think: bold print, italics, tables of contents, glossaries, etc. Text features are a fairly dry topic so we turned to one of our go-to instructional strategies: stations. Stations allow for lots of student movement, the ability for us as teachers to push into smaller groups that need extra support, and offer room for lots of differentiation. And, stations let us meet our goal: making text features a lot more accessible and a bit more interesting for our students.
Take5: Eco-Anxiety (Yes, it's a Thing). Public Speaking, Collaboration and More
Our post this week explores the challenge of teaching students about climate change. It also highlights strategies for promoting public speaking, and collaboration in the classroom. We explore how some schools are helping kids cope with school refusal and last but not least, highlight how one teacher is using her personal experience with Valentine's Day to teach kids first hand about kindness. So put down that grading for a few minutes and Take5.
Art Students Honor Victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing; Lesson blends history, creativity, and compassion
When I was a senior in high school, a month away from graduating, I sat in my Physics class and watched the breaking news of a federal building blown apart. In the early moments of the tragedy, my classmates and I thought this event was unfolding in the nation’s capital. After all, to us "federal" was synonymous with Washington, D.C. But a few minutes into the coverage we realized that this nightmare was in our state of Oklahoma, a hundred miles away. Kids cried and classes were dismissed as we drove home in a world without cell phones to check on family and friends. It was the first time that my innocence was shattered. The first time I watched my community reel from pain. I remember the first nights were sleepless as I mourned people I didn’t know but to whom I felt connected. A few weeks later, we graduated wearing ribbons to honor victims, a somber shadow cast over my home state, an uneasy feeling in our each of our hearts. If this could happen in Oklahoma, no one was safe.
Our large school system has just implemented a new regulation for students in grades 7 through 12 granting them a partial school day off -- excused -- to participate in "civic engagement activities." These activities can include any number of things such as advocating on behalf of an issue or campaigning for candidates. Our secondary students take both Civics (8th grade) and Government (10th or 12th grade) during their academic careers and, due to our location just outside of Washington, DC, have many opportunities to understand and connect with elections and issues on both the local and national levels. But given how the news media has largely emphasized this as a "day off to protest" (WTOP | The Washington Post | CNN | NPR ), I got to thinking about resources to support a better understanding of activism and the history of protest in America
Recently, our reading team approached my co-librarian and I with a request for a lesson on setting. They wanted their students to understand the big picture in the setting of a story -- primarily realistic/historic fiction or non-fiction settings -- in terms of geography, climate and terrain, as well as distance and scale. Whew. A lot to cover in a 47-minute class period. But after brainstorming and planning (as well as some consultation with Corey), we pulled together a fun lesson with lots of posibilities. We headed out into the world with our reading classes using Google Earth.
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