educated Copper Courier Graphic by Desirée Tapia

Consistency and structure is key to helping kids maneuver through the uncertainties of coronavirus.

In the world of academics, educators are all too familiar with the “pendulum theory.” What worked last year – or even last semester – is suddenly irrelevant or outdated as the education pendulum swings back and forth. When pedagogy changes, teachers adapt; it is what we do. We monitor and adjust based on the needs of our students and government mandates.

However, COVID-19 has moved us all into uncharted waters. 

Since the first cases were reported, the pendulum has not been swinging; it is spinning and the education world is trying to hang on. We have lost control of the one thing we live for as teachers: consistency and structure.

Our Type A brains are moving a hundred miles a minute trying to figure out how we can make sure our kids are still learning, moving, eating, and socializing. What started as a few days of educators sanitizing classrooms and regrouping has now turned into a minimum of two weeks away from our students because of the coronavirus pandemic. And just recently, there are rumblings and rumors of the rest of the year being a wash and teachers are being asked to shift their primary focus to online and distance learning for an extended amount of time. 

I have been in education for nearly 20 years, initially as a paraprofessional, a teacher, an instructional coach, and now as a certified administrator. I have worked with hundreds of students from kindergarten through high school. Although a majority of my experience has been at an elementary level, I can easily say that no matter what grade you teach, kids depend on the stability and comfort of their teachers and their classroom. I have spent many years in the trenches with amazing individuals who devote their time, money, and weekends to make sure their students are successful.

Right now, there are thousands of teachers at home writing lessons, developing online classroom curriculums, researching the best digital resources, and even calling their students to make sure they are doing okay. Grade level meetings and planning sessions are also being held via web-based platforms like Zoom or Blackboard. In addition, parents are increasingly using apps such as Remind, ClassDojo or Bloomz to communicate with teachers, which is making it much easier to keep up contact and check in. We are all working together to get through this unprecedented event in our history.

How To Help At Home

With this in mind, I’d like to share some legitimate activities and online sites that can assist not only your child, but also your child’s teacher by ensuring that the learning continues—and is meaningful—during this ever changing and fluid situation.

And let’s be honest: as parents, grandparents, or guardians of school-aged children (like me), you may be just as overwhelmed with the prospect of homeschooling your children or even figuring out where to begin.

The immediate goal is to keep some level of consistency for your children and to not let this event derail the learning and strides that children have made in the classroom. It is also imperative that children and parents do not use this time as an opportunity to extend screen time. 

Online learning is inevitable right now, but it is also easy to blur the line when it comes to what is deemed educational and what is “busy work”. Of course, taking a break and watching television for 30 minutes or playing an online game is encouraged, but it should not be the foundation of a child’s day. 

Currently, many schools may be sending home sample daily schedules to help parents navigate the day in order to ensure that all of their child’s academic, physical, and social needs are being met. Khan Academy is a sample parents can refer to. The schedule I worked out for my staff to send to parents even has the students eating breakfast and saying the pledge of allegiance at the same time they normally would at school. Again, something as simple as lunch at their regular time or math practice in the morning after daily pledges can make a huge difference in how children cope with the change. 

Next, do not be afraid to have your kids FaceTime with their friends or have virtual playdates. We need to develop a small source of normalcy during this truly abnormal time. Additionally, make it a point to embed creative time where kids can draw, color, paint, and create. Again, this does not have to be an online activity; allow your kids to work with things they find at home. 

Some ideas include:

  • Planting beans in a clear cup.
  • Making predictions and charting observations.
  • Graphing the daily weather or researching the types of clouds in the sky.
  • Using composition books for daily journaling and encouraging writing complete sentences, using proper punctuation, and writing strategies.
  • Assisting with cooking. This will embed informational text, math, and reading and also give kids an opportunity to learn real life skills. 
  • Reading cereal boxes, adding the number of cans in the pantry, and sorting laundry into colors and categories. 

Additionally, if you do not have access to books, use your local library and an online e-reader to download books. Most high schools and even some elementary schools have digital access codes and websites for student textbooks. If you have a young child, explore sites like Epic.com or storylineonline.net for easy readers and read aloud stories.

In other words, turn every moment into a chance for learning.

Keep The Kiddos Active

It is so important that kids are getting a healthy amount of physical activity while they are home. Try these easy steps to work into their daily routine:

  • Allow time for multiple breaks throughout the day for kids to wiggle it out by going for a walk. 
  • Use online movement and mindfulness sites such as GoNoodle.
  • You can also find multiple KidzBop dance videos on YouTube and do this with kids as well. 
  • Reach out to PE teachers to ask for a sample calendar for the next few weeks. This is important for all kids from preschool to high school.

As an educator, I cannot stress enough the need for kids to be able to exercise their bodies as well as their brains. What is happening right now is something that will forever be etched in the history of our world. I can guarantee you that your child’s teacher is at home thinking of ways to help your kids from a distance. I know I can speak for every educator I know when I say, please reach out to us. Call, email, text – we will respond. In fact we cannot wait to respond. 

Your school’s counselor or social worker is also probably waiting for you to reach out if you feel your child is having a truly difficult time navigating through this fog of fear and emotion. This is a scary time, and counselors are also ready and waiting to assist. For now, please see the list of sites below that can begin to guide you through this new temporary normal. 

Best of luck my friends and hang on tight. We will take over as soon as we can. 

Disclaimer: Please note that these particular sites are ones that myself and my colleagues have found to be most academically sound and effective. These sites, however, may not conform to the content needed for students who have Individual Education Plans (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). I urge you to reach out to your child’s special education teacher for specific learning activities. 

PreK-3www.storylineonline.netThe SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more.
PreK-3www.starfall.comSpecializing in reading, phonics & math – educational games, movies, books, songs, and more for children K-3.
K-5www.zearn.orgThe only curriculum top-rated by EdReports that unites hands-on instruction and immersive digital learning. Aligned to Eureka Math / EngageNY. 
PreK – 6thwww.getepic.comEpic!’s digital library includes many of the best kids books, popular ebooks, and videos such as Fancy Nancy, Big Nate, Warriors, and National Geographic Kids.
K-12www.khanacademy.orgFull online curriculum for grades K-12. You will also find sample daily learning schedules aligned for the COVID-19 school closure.
K-12https://www.engageny.orgOnline math and ELA curriculum used by numerous school districts in Arizona.There are comprehensive lessons, videos, activities, and parent assistance pages. 
All ageswww.gonoodle.comGoNoodle® engages 14 million kids every month with movement and mindfulness videos created by child development experts. Available for free at school, home, and everywhere kids are!