Collaborating with therapists to support your students during COVID-19

By Mary Eno

COVID-19 continues to have a devastating impact on our educational institutions. Therapists who work with kids are experiencing these reverberations along with teachers and school support staff, as we work hard to find ways to support our clients who are struggling. And, just like many school personnel, therapists are hustling to learn how to do their jobs online while worrying about when and how we might be able to open our offices safely again. While we might be tackling kids’ problems from different angles, we’re dealing with similar issues and share a common goal: ensuring that all children learn and thrive at school.

As a therapist who has worked for many years with kids who have school problems, I’ve learned that there are enormous gains when teachers, student support staff, and therapists collaborate. Each party has different insights to share and has access to different aspects of a child’s world. Together, we can pool our data points about a particular child to better understand their lived experience. Given the myriad problems that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, it has never been more important for schools and therapists to work together to support vulnerable students and their families. So how can educators and student support staff best collaborate with outside therapists?

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What My Special Needs Son Has Taught Me about Learning

By Jonathan Gold

In a normal year my seventh grade history students would be preparing to debate the merits of the American colonists’ arguments for declaring independence. This year, which would have been my fifteenth in the classroom, is no normal year; instead of teaching history to socially distanced students, I am on leave, working as a full-time homeschool support teacher for my special-needs 9-year-old. My son, Neko, has an extremely rare chromosomal disorder that causes deafness, autism, and significant developmental delays. Neko’s amazing school opened fully remote, and with childcare unfeasible for a child with his profile, my family and I decided I would stay home with him. Neko’s needs are fairly significant and life with him can be challenging. In our best moments, we think of him as a mystery: a magical child who hums with the energy of the universe in ways we can’t fully understand. Serving in this new role as his teacher has given me a different perspective on the complexities of teaching and learning.

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Why Bellringer Activities Are More Important Than Ever

By Mary McConnaha

Since moving to virtual, hybrid, or socially distanced in-person learning, many of us have had to adapt our tried-and-true classroom procedures to fit these new environments. As a middle school English teacher, I have always enjoyed engaging with my students through my “bellringers”—activities I’ve established for the first few minutes of class while my students get settled. Though it took some trial and error, I’ve found ways to continue these traditions via hybrid and online learning. What’s more, I’ve found it to be more important than ever to engage with and uplift my students through these small routines. Here, I’ll share my favorite ways to kick off my English class, whether in-person or online.

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The Unexpected Benefits of Teaching Virtually

By Danielle McAuliffe

The absence of bells and the cacophony of announcements in the morning is replaced with an unusual, peaceful quiet in the virtual high school. There are no loitering students in the halls, no calls to cover classes, no broken copy machines or parking problems. The usual hustle and bustle of what we associate with school is gone, and we are left with, well, time. Uninterrupted time to prepare for the day has become the new normal for both students and teachers. And I don’t mind it—in fact, I enjoy teaching remotely.

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Going or “Going” to School: One Student’s Decision to Remain Remote

By an anonymous sophomore

The age-old high school social dilemma of where to sit at lunch has finally been solved—it only took a global pandemic.

I am a sophomore who attends a private school in Manhattan. My school has recently announced that they will be switching to an optional hybrid model after previously stating that they would remain remote until mid-January. I was extremely happy and proud of my school when they initially announced they would be remote for at least five months, and I was shocked and upset when they declared their decision to switch. Upon receiving the news, my parents informed me that the decision to attend school in-person or remain in my pajamas was mine.

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Using Current Events for Online Assessment

By Benjamin Barbour

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed education and forced teachers to reconsider how they assess students. The virtual classroom demands something other than the traditional multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank test, assessments that even in the best of times often require little more than recall. Students learning from home have access to the internet and, in some cases, their textbooks as well. This requires teachers to “google-proof” assessments by asking questions that demand more creative and analytical responses.

Remote learning provides educators with an opportunity to try new approaches to evaluation. I have found that incorporating current events into my classroom in a more systematic manner has opened new opportunities for both formative and summative assessment.

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The Power of Picture Books: Maximizing the SEL-Literacy Connection in Turbulent Times

By Nancy Boyles

Soon after the world shut down last March and students fled the classroom to stay safe at home, teachers recognized the heightened need to address children’s social emotional (SEL) needs. These were strange, scary times: Were the kids okay? How were they faring away from their friends and teachers and the familiar routines of school? It was a scramble to reimagine school overnight, but teachers quickly saw the value of using picture books with SEL themes as part of their online instruction. Excellent, I thought. What a great way to connect thinking and feeling.

But in practice, it’s easy to fall into a few pitfalls that can lessen the impact of reading SEL-related picture books with students. Here are three tips to maximize the power of picture books to connect SEL and literacy whether teaching online or face-to-face in a classroom.

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Routines to Teach: Fall of 2020

By Mike Anderson, Reposted from Leading Great Learning

Last week I had the privilege of teaching two online workshops for teachers about getting ready for the upcoming school year. They were both so much fun! We played games that teachers can use with their students (either in person or online), shared strategies for co-creating rules with students in K-12 classrooms, reconnected with our deeply held positive beliefs about why we teach, and so much more.

One of the most practical activities we did was to co-create lists of routines we might need to teach this fall as we begin facilitating learning with students. One of these workshops was with Bedford, NH educators, who are heading back in a few weeks with a hybrid model. Students will be in school some days and at home others. The other workshop was held through UNH Professional Development and Training and was attended by K-12 educators from around New Hampshire who are heading back to a variety of settings.

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The Spanish Flu versus COVID-19: Critical Thinking Activities for Social Studies

By Christine Boatman

As a social studies teacher, I am always curious about how future historians will view current events. Lately, I’ve found myself particularly interested in how the COVID-19 pandemic will be analyzed by generations to come—and, seeking a precedent that might provide some clues, I’ve found myself drawn to how history remembers the Spanish flu of 1918. This semester, I’ll be using this comparison to help my students contextualize current events by investigating a historical event. Furthermore, the three activities I’ve put together for this purpose will help my students develop their critical thinking skills. We will be investigating stories of individuals impacted by the Spanish flu, exploring primary sources related to the Spanish flu, and, finally, my students will write an account from the perspective of an individual living in 1918, based on these primary sources.  (Please note: it is important to take into account the ages and individual experiences of your students when planning these activities, and to be sensitive to any adverse reactions.)

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Quick Reference Guides from Norton Books in Education

As schools resume classes this month, teachers and students are engaging in online learning to an unprecedented degree.  To help educators meet that challenge, Norton Books in Education has recruited experts in remote instruction to address the nuts and bolts of teaching online.  The practical tips below are excerpted from five Quick Reference Guides to be released this fall:

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