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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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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Teaching for Social Justice

By Lorena Germán

Social justice is not a book that you teach. It is not a unit you explore with students. It is not a week-long, school-wide celebration during which you acknowledge diversity. These are all too often superficial attempts at having in-depth conversations that require nuance, time, and pause. While well-intentioned, this type of teaching may lead educators to think they’ve done the work because they spent an hour or day teaching one idea in a one-dimensional way. However, social justice is not a topic or a content area, but an ongoing action and fight for a better quality of life for all. Therefore, it requires actionable and tangible steps.

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Creating a Pollinator Garden at Your School

By Pete Barnes

Many teachers are, understandably, in survival mode this semester, hoping just to make it through the pandemic and return to “normal”. But for those with the bandwidth to think beyond the present chaos, planning a project that will get kids outside, help the natural world, and beautify the school campus may be a welcome relief. A pollinator garden does all of these things with minimal financial and technological resources, and is a great project for schools that are conducting as many classes outside as possible in order to limit potential spread of the virus. Science, math, and language arts concepts can all be taught in the garden, but students will most remember making the earth a more liveable place.

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You are the Instrument: Teaching Mindfulness and Personal Practice

This post is adapted from the book Teaching Mindfulness to Empower Adolescents by Matthew Brensilver, JoAnna Hardy, and Oren Jay Sofer (W. W. Norton, March 2020).

Life is often intense, but in this moment, it can be overwhelming. As educators, parents, indeed as humans, we find ourselves in a grueling and extended period of instability and challenge. Coronavirus, economic hardship, political strife and the transition to online learning are all unfolding in a context of a national grieving and reckoning with the country’s racial history. For many, it feels like the tectonic plates of our lives are shifting and we are not sure where to find our balance.

Given this context, our leadership role as educators becomes even more important. Our capacity to act as a keel in the lives of our students is vital. How can we serve this function and how might mindfulness help?

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Cultivating an Anti-Racist English Classroom

By Sharon Kunde

The English classroom is a crucial space for us, as teachers, to cultivate anti-racism. In ELA class, students learn which stories and points of view matter—they are taught which voices and narrative styles are legitimate. While strides have been made in the past years and decades to remove racist content from our English curricula, this is not enough to constitute an anti-racist curriculum. In order for our curricula to be truly anti-racist, we must rethink our entire system of literary study.

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Just-In-Time Skills: Creating Videos for Scaffolding

By Jonna Kuskey

Make room, Steven Spielberg. I’m going into the movie business. 

Well . . . sort of. 

As the old adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and the pandemic that forced us to move quickly to online learning forced me to make movies.  With a big box office budget of zero dollars, no big-name actors, and no brilliant CGI, I made videos to teach concepts or explain assignments so students could access the information wherever and whenever they needed or wanted. (Thank you, free version of Screencast-O-Matic!)

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