Supporting Students Offline
Many teachers have had to make the difficult transition from in-person to online teaching in a short period of time with little training and few resources, while other teachers have not been given the option to continue teaching via an online platform. Many teachers in the latter case are understandably worried because their students have no structured guidance for how to maintain the momentum they had at school while they’re home.
If you are a teacher who doesn’t currently have the opportunity to teach online, there are still ways you can support your students’ academic and social-emotional growth. Here are some ideas to start your thinking:
- Provide at-home journal writing prompts. These can be practical, such as “Find something in your home that needs to be fixed or improved. Write about what steps you can take to fix it.” Or, have students focus on something less tangible, such as “Write about how you used self-control this week at home. Include details: What was happening? How did you collect yourself? How did your use of self-control help the situation?”
- Encourage students to write letters to classmates, you, or staff members. Discuss developmentally appropriate characteristics such as length, vocabulary, and grammar.
- Model and practice social distancing for students at a meal pick-up location! Bring a sign to greet your students from an appropriate distance; consider adding a joke to get them to laugh from afar.
- Combine academic and social-emotional challenges for families! This could be an “Engineering at Home” task, such as building a fort or designing protection to keep an ice cube frozen, or a task like “Chemists in the Kitchen” where you encourage families to employ math (fractions in recipes), cooperation (working together), literacy (reading the recipe), and responsibility (use of kitchen tools and remembering to set a timer) to create a family snack together. Consider sharing one of your own favorite recipes or encouraging families to use a recipe that has been handed down for generations.
- Nothing will make a student feel more special and connected than to receive a phone call from their teacher. Checking in to see how students (and parents!) are doing and will help ease your mind and reassure your students. Consider setting up a plan to connect with each student in your class on a rotating basis at a frequency that feels doable for you, and keep calls short. Have some open-ended questions in mind to ask, for example:
- Without telling me what the food was, can you describe something yummy you have eaten this week?
- Moving our bodies is so important! What is a fun way you’ve found to move your body or to get exercise?
- What is your favorite part of your home?
- Consider providing social-emotional challenges for a week:
- Monday – Write about a time today that you took turns with someone you live with.
- Tuesday – Think about how a character in a book you’re reading was helpful to others.
- Wednesday – Ask your caregiver how you can help with lunch today. You may be able to get everything that is needed (utensils and plates), clean up, or even help prepare the food.
- Thursday – Say “Thank you” to someone at least five times today.
- Friday – If you start to get frustrated, take three deep breaths before you say or do anything.
- Encourage families to find teachable moments. There are many skills that students of all ages can learn that parents are doing on a regular basis:
- How to put air in a bicycle tire
- How to stamp and address an envelope
- How to read a map
- How to read an analog clock
- Where to find (and how to use) a fire extinguisher
- How to load the dishwasher (or handwash dishes)
Taking the time to teach children these skills now can have a powerful impact on them later.
During challenging times, teachers naturally want to be caregivers to their students. Being away from your students is a challenge that is made exponentially more difficult when you are not able to see them regularly—but o there are still many ways that you can connect with your students and encourage them to continue to find joy in the act of learning.