With schools across the nation shutting down for COVID-19 social distancing purposes, parents are left at home, many overwhelmed by keeping up with student’s needs for learning.
First, take a deep breath. There are resources and help out there for you, and I want to share my best tips with you as well.
Whether you have a newborn or a college student moving home, these basic principals apply.
Talk to your kids. Ask them their thoughts and feelings, tell them about your day and your thoughts and feelings. Comment on colors of objects or numbers around you. Have open, fun conversations.
Sing lullabies and I’m A Little Teapot, sing made up songs about washing hands, and throw a little Queen in there. Sing them songs.
Read picture books and chapter books. Read their favorite book and your favorite book. Read them magazines and online articles. It doesn’t matter what you’re reading, it just matters that you READ.
Write small journal entries about their day, write a book, write a sentence. Have them notice everyday life and write about it. Let them see the scientific method be put to use every day in the simple things like getting dressed or choosing a breakfast food, and write it down. Use a pencil, use a pen, use a computer, but all they need to do is put words together to make sentences. Or if they are younger, put pictures together to create a story!
Engage in real, genuine, play. Make pillow forts and cuddle on the couch. Just enjoy your time together and use your imagination.
No need to overcomplicate an already stressful situation. Just take it day by day, do your best, and wash your hands. You’ve got this!
How do we collaborate between classrooms, schools, and students? It seems so easy, and so hard at the same time. Where do you start? I’m here to tell you just how easy and cheap it can be.
Do you have internet access? Do you have a webcam and a microphone on a usable device? Can you easily navigate a website? Is your budget $0? This is for you.
skypeintheclassroom.com where you can set up virtual field trips, Skype with other classrooms, invite a guest speaker via skype, collaborate on projects, and MORE. You can easily search what you are looking for and apply filters. Browse the website for five minutes and you’ll see just how easy it can be.
Google Drive- a tool the majority of teachers know, but let’s use it beyond our classroom. Think, penpals across the nation or across the world using a GoogleDoc. Students solving problems by bouncing ideas off of other students in different states, with instant results.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” -Matt Miller
Are you a dual immersion teacher? Or a teacher of Spanish? French? Imagine a Skype call in your French class with a classroom in France learning to speak English.
What about a history teacher? Maybe finding a classroom who has been on a field trip to a historical site and can tell your students all about it. Both benefit. Or vice versa if you’ve been on a cool field trip with your students that they can share.
But what if you can’t find a classroom to Skype that fits your needs? Get creative. Social media is a huge global tool. HUGE. Tweet out your idea of a skyping classroom, ask for friends to retweet and share, and see where it goes. Contact schools worldwide to see if they have any teachers with the same interest as you.
Are you seeing the same benefits I am? Why learn from one single teacher when the possibilities of education literally have no walls or limits? There is too much knowledge in this world to keep it within the four walls of our classroom.
Now go out and be global teachers and create global learners like this class!
I was sitting in my economics class in high school, it was finals week. This class was a college credit for me so it was important that I did well. I studied the material and came prepared to get a good grade on my test, I knew the content and was prepared to show it.
My teacher walked around the quiet room passing out the tests. He placed a one on my desk, and then put his hand on my shoulder.
“You seem anxious,” he whispered, “Do you want to take this test in the resource room where you can sit in a quiet corner and focus better? It may help your anxiety.”
Right away, I started to panic, was I anxious? Did I need a quiet room to test in? I was confident in my testing ability before, but this went out the window faster than my thoughts could finish processing. He told me I was anxious, so obviously I was.
I truly know that my teacher meant well and that he never wanted to cause me more harm or anxiety. He was looking out for me, as well as other students, and tried feeling empathy and create genuine relationships with his students in order to teach us how we needed to be taught.
But this experience made me think a lot about labeling a child’s emotions for them versus feeling empathy. What’s the difference?
Labeling emotions is telling kids what they are feeling before they have the chance to tell you what they are feeling.
Feeling empathy is giving a child the chance to process their own emotions, tell you what they are feeling, and then helping them feel those emotions.
Emotions must be taught and understood so that students can label their feelings themselves before we create unnecessary labels for them, even if we are doing it out of the goodness of our hearts.
Looking back on my experience of having a teacher label my emotions, I have thought many times about what a better approach might have been for him to take.
Instead, he could have said: “How are you feeling about this test?” and waited to hear if I was confident, or worried.
He could have also given me affirmation about my testing ability by saying, “I know you have worked hard in this class and to study for this test, especially when you came in during lunch to ask further questions on material you didn’t understand. You will do great.”
It was a learning moment for me to watch what I was saying to my own students so that they can feel and process their own emotions, instead of me placing the burden of what I thought they were feeling on them.
It took time, practice, and dedicated effort, but the results were worth it.
What do you do to make sure you are genuinely feeling empathy instead of labeling emotions in your students?
In college, I took a course called “Teaching Science” where we spent class time creating our own scientific journals and carrying out experiments that our teacher created and that we created ourselves. While these were happening, discussions happened of how we can apply this to teaching our students about science, and how we can incorporate science into different aspects of our curriculum such as writing or math in order to see more of it in our school year.
My professor for the course was truly one of my favorite professors throughout my entire college career. He reiterated over and over as often as possible that the goal with science was to be so influential that students picked it up and continued to use the scientific method on their own, beyond school. He told us that if we were teaching science correctly, students would be excited by the subject and want to know more, their learning would go well beyond the walls of the school.
While I respected him greatly as a teacher, I never believed that I could be the type of science teacher to instill this in my own students. My emphasis for my degree was in language arts, and I had a hard time choosing between that and reading. Math and science were so far off of my radar. I knew it was something I would have to teach, but science wasn’t a subject I saw myself being so excited about that it shone through to my students.
One day in class we were studying our long term science experiment, a flower we had planted. A colleague of mine brought up a childhood story of her sister and herself planting popcorn kernels made for air popping in their sandbox, and how they would grow tall enough that their mom would rip them out of the sand. My professor looked at us with a confused look and told us this was impossible. He said that the popcorn kernels we buy from the grocery store is processed and wouldn’t grow in soil, let alone sand. He claimed she must have been given corn seeds or some other type of seed because having any result from popcorn kernels was not possible.
Maybe it was the stubbornness in me, maybe it was my growing love for science, but whatever it was, there was a burning fire in me to prove him wrong. That night I went home and found a bag of popcorn kernels in my pantry, planted them in a pot of soil, and left them in the kitchen window. I didn’t tell him about it at first, because obviously I wasn’t about to be embarrassed if he was right and the popcorn seeds didn’t yield anything. Days and weeks went by with no sign of improvement, but I continued to water them and wait for the day they grew into something.
One day I woke up to one little green leaf sticking out of the soil, it was incredible! It was actually working! I continued to take care of my plants until they grew bigger and stronger, strong enough to take a trip up to campus with me during my class.
I walked into class that day holding my pot of popcorn seeds that had turned into real plants with the biggest smile on my face. I plopped it down on my professor’s desk and after he looked down at the plant, he looked up at me waiting for an explanation of what this was and why it was on his desk.
“You told us popcorn kernels wouldn’t grow anything, you claimed that they were processed enough that they wouldn’t turn into anything when planted. Well, here you are, this is what happens when you plant popcorn kernels.”
Immediately his eyes lit up and I distinctly remember him jumping up out of his chair in excitement. I was waiting for his praise on what a great plant caretaker I was and how right I was. I was also waiting to hear those precious words come out of his mouth, I was wrong. But that’s not what happened next.
“You get it! You did it! You see what I’m saying now, this is genuine science, this is the ultimate goal as a teacher! You wanted answers about popcorn kernels and instead of going to the internet or accepting my answer, you conducted an experiment using the scientific method yourself! You did it!”
At the time I was somewhat dissatisfied with his reaction, I wanted him to admit how wrong he was. But later on, when I looked back, I realized the full impact of what had happened. He knew from the beginning that popcorn kernels would grow, he just wanted to test us. He wanted someone to prove him wrong all along, and that ended up being me.
That semester I may have planted popcorn kernels, but a seed was also planted inside of me. A seed that helped me understand why we teach science and how we teach it. I grew up thinking science was memorizing vocabulary and mixing vinegar with baking soda once in a while, but now I know that teaching science has evolved into inquiry and wonder of the world around us, how it works, and why it works the way it does and putting it to the test when we want to understand something deeper.
It took until my senior year of my undergrad education before I could grasp this concept, so my only hope is that I can inspire students to learn it much younger than I did and to plant the seed in them as well.
Today’s post I want to feature a teacher who was an excellent representation of integrating arts into her core curriculum. Andrea Heiner teaches third grade in Utah, and during her science curriculum of soil layers, she used watercolors as their medium for creating a diagram. A little science, a little art, a lot of fun! Check out their great project here:
The students started with the bottom layer, bedrock. The next day once this layer was dry, they worked on the second layer, subsoil.
Each layer shows components of what this layer of soil contains, such as rocks, roots, and even worms!
Once their paintings were finished, they added labels and descriptions for each section.
What a great example of arts integration! Great job, Ms. Heiner!
Puppets have a special place in the classroom of littles. Using a puppet in teaching may feel like another item to worry about or check off your ever-growing to-do list, however, when used correctly, they can be powerful to students. It’s as if you have a second teacher in the classroom, a separate being with separate ideas is what they see it as. Puppets to students are magical, even when they are old enough to know better of what they are and how they work, their little brains work in the way that they look at that inanimate object as an animate object with its own thoughts and feelings, even if they are all indirectly coming from you as the puppeteer.
Tips for using a puppet in the classroom:
Use him as an example of good behaviors you want students to model.
Use him as an example of common problems in the classroom such as trouble with a math problem. Later, when students run into the same problem, a great reminder for them would be how the puppet solved the problem.
Use him as a new storyteller in the classroom.
Let the puppet introduce new topics such as persuasive writing or reading non-fiction.
Let the students use the puppet as a writing audience.
Turn it into an art project and allow the students to create their own puppets.
Puppets have a big place in the classroom, whether he or she becomes a part of the classroom, or they are simply used in dramatic play for storytelling. The best part of puppets is that they can be as complicated and expensive as your limits allow, but also as simple as a sock with buttons glued on. They don’t care about the complexity of it, they just care about the magic behind it.
Do you use puppets in the classroom? What benefits do you see?
Reader’s theaters. A tale as old as time. Teachers have been using reader’s theaters in the classroom for years and years now because they are the golden nugget of adding in arts to our reading and language arts curriculum.
Students can work on reading, reading out loud, reading with emotion, drama/acting, and more while practicing and performing a reader’s theater.
Ways to make an RT successful:
Give it an authentic purpose and audience.
Model, model, model the proper way to read for an RT.
Pick an interesting topic to the students.
Choose a good RT based on the reading level of your students.
Utilize gyms, theaters, and stages in the school to practice reading.
Film the students practicing for them to go back and watch so that they can see what they look like reading out loud.
A few websites full of good (and mostly free) reader’s theaters:
Beyond these, a simple Google, Pinterest, or Teachers Pay Teachers search can also lead you to great reader’s theaters, whether free or paid.
In my own experience, I saw reluctant readers shine through as they performed an RT on space for a younger grade learning about planets. Their confidence came through as they watched themselves get better and better in the spotlight with practice. Reading wasn’t a chore, it became fun and exciting to them.
What are some great experiences you’ve seen while doing reader’s theaters in your classroom?