By Katharine Davies Samway
If we have a computer, regular access to the Internet, and a cell phone with unlimited calls and texts, we may forget that our students may not have the same access to these tools, which are essential for online learning. In some cases, schools surveyed their students about their technological needs before the schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In other cases, teachers have had to use time during the school closure to identify students’ needs.
Teachers I’ve interviewed comment on the importance of surveying students and families in order to determine which technological tools they have access to. At Laura Alvarez’s K-8 two-way immersion bilingual school, teachers polled their students by phone, text, and email about their access to a computer and the Internet (as well as their access to everyday necessities, such as food). Alvarez estimated that she spent one-third of her time in the two weeks before spring break calling, texting, and emailing students and their families. She learned that most have some Internet access via a smartphone, but none of her 8th grade students had solid access to the Internet. A couple of her students had a cousin or aunt who had a computer, and some had computers at home, but weren’t sure how well they worked. Recently, the school has been distributing Chromebooks to students who do not have access to computers, using social distancing when doing so.
Continue reading “What About Students Who Do Not Have Access to the Tools that Are Needed for Online Learning?”
By Katharine Davies Samway, author and Professor Emerita at San José State University in California
Having an extensive vocabulary is very helpful in order to understand, enjoy, and appreciate oral and written language, as well as to succeed in school and the outside world. Vocabulary is often taught in isolation in a rather boring, uninspiring way for many students—being given ten words to define is one example. However, vocabulary development can be a very engaging and exciting experience. Word Consciousness is one such approach—it focuses on language in context and an awareness of and love for language (e.g., Graves & Watts-Taffe, 2008; Samway & Taylor, 2009; Scott & Nagy, 2004).
The following word consciousness/vocabulary development activities are very helpful for English learners (ELs), as well as for non-ELs. Importantly, students who do not have access to a computer and/or the Internet can complete these activities. I mention this because there has been a lot of talk about the importance of online teaching while students are likely to be out of school for weeks, if not months, during the coronavirus epidemic. However, many students who are immigrants and/or come from low-income homes do not have access to the Internet or computers that are necessary for online learning to occur.
Continue reading “Supporting EL Students’ Vocabulary Development While Schools Are Closed”
Over the last several weeks, many K-12 educators have pivoted, with little warning and minimal training, to teaching in a fully online setting. The challenge of transforming an established face-to-face learning situation into an online one in the midst of a global crisis is new, even for teachers who have planned and delivered digital curricula in the past.
On Friday, March 13th, I told my eighth- and ninth-grade students that school would likely be suspended for a couple of weeks. On Wednesday, March 18th, I convened online classes which, though I didn’t know it then, would stretch at least until the end of April. Between then and now, I have developed a rapidly-evolving repertoire of practices, guided by Jay Wiggins’ and Grant McTighe’s classic dictum of curriculum planning: begin with the end in mind, only with a twist.
Continue reading “Digital Classroom Routines: or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Teaching Online”
By Laura Alvarez, author, teacher, researcher, and professional development provider
As educators, we currently face an unprecedented challenge: continuing to provide rich learning opportunities when our physical school sites are closed. While most schools are going online, many students do not have internet access or computers at home. These inequities threaten to further exacerbate equity gaps for our students who have historically not been well-served by U.S. schools and who must rely on our educational institutions, including recently arrived immigrant students, or newcomers.
Continue reading “Teaching in the Time of Corona: Supporting Newcomer Students During School Closures”
When John F. Kennedy was on the campaign trail, he was fond of pointing out that the Chinese symbol for crisis is a combination of the words for danger and opportunity. In reflecting on the coronavirus crisis and its impact of American public education, let’s first honor the flood of complicated feelings that educators themselves are experiencing and perhaps feeling overwhelmed by: fear, sadness, anger, helplessness, distractibility, and most of all, uncertainty.
In juggling family needs and work expectations, everyone is feeling the anxiety that comes from a most unusual emergency. Nothing is the same as it was. Our relationships with family, friends, co-workers and students have all been disrupted by the self-isolation that is occurring around the country and around the world. The climbing infection and death rates can’t help but make everyone more than a little edgy, depressed, and fearful. As many states move public education online, there’s never been a greater learning curve for educators and school leaders who now must embrace a full-fledged focus on online learning.
Continue reading “Teaching Online During a Crisis: Danger and Opportunity Ahead”