So we’re in for it.
I got the email, I’m sure you NYC parents did too. No school for a while. It will be a long hunker.
Just when Jacob got cleared to go back to school. After months of hunkering, I thought this news would put me over the edge…but (selfishly) I have to say these next months of hunker will be easier. Hunkering when life was still around you was the hardest. But now we all stop together. Selfish I know. Misery does love company!
But writing quickly to give you some KEY advice. REALLY important. Pay Attention:
#1. School should start today. I know some of you are on “Spring Break” (if we can even still call it that!). And that your schools are preparing for distant learning come April. I would NOT wait until April to begin schooling. It will make April THAT much harder as nothing will have changed for your student, but all of a sudden they have to “work.”
I would start creating routines immediately. I did this with Jacob when he was diagnosed on June 18th and knew that our life for the next 6 months (boy did I underestimate that one) would be different. We started “school” June 19th.
#2 school should not be a whole day (hours).
If you take out the “specials” of school (music, art, PE, drama, lunch, recess, etc.) you are probably left with an average of 2 hours of core instructional time (this is a generous estimate, I would guess some days it is 45mins depending on your student’s schedule). If you are expecting your student’s school to entertain your child from 8-3, you are mistaken and if any school attempts that…you are at the WRONG school. That means they do not understand best practices of distant learning and will attempt to replicate school through a video feed.
Sorry Side Rant (can’t help myslef) People always want to compare schools. The number one question I get from parents is what school is better. They want a ranking system. Something concrete they can point to. They want to know that they are at the “best school.” This is impossible and sad that parents need this validation, but now I think you have your chance validation seeking parents! Seeing how your child’s school approaches distant learning compared to your friends will differentiate the good schools from the best schools (I have a whole LOAD of things to say about this…for another time). This social experiment will show you the schools that have strong culture, as well as, an understanding of the future of learning. This virus will make all that VERY clear.
In a distant learning environment, your student will be receiving close to 1:1 self-directed learning with no peer distractions (there will be other distractions though!). I tend to shoot for 45mins-1.5hrs daily of “work time.” That is a lot of 1:1 instruction time. Way more than normal school. If you try and replicate the hours of school…you are not only asking for it, you are really damaging your child. That is NOT a normal expectation for a child to be pen to paper for hours. He or she will hate you and rightfully so. There is no way to sustain that for months. That strategy will blow up in your face.
And in this Spring Break time without school support, I would just do the following. We also do science, but I outsource that (you do need to look at the activity prior to the lesson to have the materials needed).
Literacy Activities before school support kicks in:
Kindergarten-1st Grade: Just have DEAR time (Drop Everything & Read). You read too! Everyone reads. If things start feeling stale… you can start these two twists I’ve used.
- DEAR DRAMA- In this twist, siblings take turns reading while the other one acts it out.
- DEAR SCAVENGER HUNT- Using small books like these leveled readers (if you do not know your child’s reading level, reach out to your teacher), pick enough books that equal a good 10-15 minutes of reading. I like using 3 books for Jacob (2 are an easy read, 1 a bit harder). He reads the books and at the end is a clue. He then has to “rescue” his stuffed animals that I told him were taken. He has to read the books to find the clues that I write at the end of the book as to where his animals are. I try and go the extra mile and find books with a theme, but honestly, kids just like to find things. Have jelly beans there! Anything.
- Sight Word FUN! Here are the Fry Sight Word Lists. Find the sight words that your child doesn’t know by attempting to read them in isolation. Make flashcards of the first five words and play games (bingo, roll a site word, memory). I honestly don’t think you need to buy any prepaid games/ sheets for this, but if you want to, please use THIS website. It pays teachers for their work. Search sight word games. Add words every week.
2nd Grade and up: Start a family book club. Take turns leading it (kids included. They will probably be the best leaders. The person leading it should be in charge of the following after DEAR time.
- Pick a paragraph that was found interesting (funny, sad, important, etc). Read aloud to the whole group and discuss
- Character watch: Did we learn anything new about a character? Do you like this character? Why or why not?
- Predictions! Everyone can make a prediction as to what will happen next
For those of you who are distantly working and can’t run a book club, I am sharing here what I’m doing with Benno as I can’t run one either. We are at the hospital all day while Benno is home. He is currently reading The Doughnut Fix (thank you fellow Nightwing for the rec!). While I’m not a huge fan of “read and answer,” you got to do what you got to do! I assign Benno 1 chapter a day and he completes the following worksheets.
Here are the WS I created so far (last night at midnight so excuse any typos!). Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 , Chapter 4, and chapter 5. If you would like to continue to receive this, just email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Write a story together. Start with “Once upon a time…” and every day each family member can add a sentence including your little one. Let them use inventive spelling and they should illustrate it. White paper will work, but to motivate reluctant writers get this. Something about a “real” book makes it feel special
- Family interviews! Get your social distancing on and finally take the time for your child to know their grandparents and extending family over Facetime. Together come up with questions they want to know about their family members. I would limit it to 5 questions. Have them record the answers. Some should be simple! Favorite colors count!
- Corona House PSAs. Have your child make their own signs for the bathroom to remind people to wash. Great for Pre-K kids!
- Family biographies. Read a biography together first if your child does not know what a biography is and then interview a family member and write their biography. This is a great way to take advantage of the time together and to create stories about loved ones.
- There are loads of small writing moments that can be linked to the book club. You can write an alternative ending to the book. You can write to the main character a letter of advice, etc.
- Gotten some requests for workbooks. For spelling and word study, Explode the Code is the best out there.
- The best activity that takes time and kids love is ROLL to 1,000. It will take weeks and it is a great way to teach place value and involves loads of number writing practice. I’m at the hospital so will post on this more with directions when I get home. But you will need these. BUY THESE. These blocks will come in VERY handy and can be used with your 2nd and 3rd grader for addition and subtraction problems that require regrouping.
- Dreambox (online) or IXL math (online)
- As you sit in your apartment for the next week and your anything like us, all you will be thinking about is all the things you want to redecorate once this whole thing is over, lol. Give your child a budget and have them redesign their room! This is a great activity that involves measurement, money, arithmetic, etc. Your student will need to take the measurements of their room and draw their room on graph paper. Then you can pick a website (Wayfair I think is the easiest to navigate) and have your child redesign the room by placing their wanted new furniture on their graph paper (that bed needs to fit! They will need to use measurements). Then they will need to add up all the costs to balance their budget! Have them write a persuasive writing piece about it too! Have them sell you on their vision:)
- Cooking is a great way to practice math especially if you double or half a recipe. That requires some thinking.
- Dreambox (online), IXL math online
Remember it is still Spring break so this should be enough to get you through a week. No more than 2 hours at most should be spent on school during this time. Go for more and you will hear the GROANS.
Apologies for the long post. Hope it is helpful!