Recently, I wrote a post about deficit thinking, which I admit needs some polish as I refine my thoughts around the idea. Even though there is a lot to add and adjust in that post, I had no idea how the couple weeks I’ve spent thinking about deficient versus strength thinking have prepared me for this week. What a change! It seems more than likely that we will learn much more about how different the world will operate in recent days to come.
But here we are. My guess is all schools in the country have closed or will be closed shortly by now. It seems the state of Kansas already called off in person teaching for the rest of the year. It has been amazing to watch how so many educators have turned into virtual learning facilitators in mere days. It is clear that educators are dedicated, passionate and adaptable beyond what even I, an educator myself, thought about our profession. I’ve heard and seen posts by many parents about struggles with their children that have already shown up in households committed to social distancing.
Parents: Educators adapt to these situations everyday with 25+ learners in the room. And they lead your kids to wonderful moments of learning. We care so much about your kids’ education and this will continue to be demonstrated as teachers offer resources and services to help you transition to iso-learning. Imagine 25 children at your home each day who each have different needs. That is what elementary teachers do everyday. Secondary teachers invite a whole new group of students into the room 5-7 times a day dependent upon their local schedule. On top of this, teachers fulfill district and state mandates in meetings, trainings and continuing our own education so that we can combine the art of teaching required to manage the needs of so many humans with the science of teaching and best practices for our students.
So what should you do with your kids? Every family will have different needs just like that classroom full of learners have everyday in the classrooms to which we have become accustomed. The following principles continue to return to my thoughts in the days of late.
- Be present, flexible and adaptable. This is a world changing event. Our kids will reflect on this time when they become adults as they consider the reasons to why the world will have become the way it has. For me, jumping into a school routine immediately seems a mistake. Be present with your children. They will have questions as we do not return to school, places of worship and the entertainment activities we frequent. Our children need us to be present and in the moment for them as this moment continues to change each day.
- Change the expectations for learning. We won’t be able to recreate school, nor should that be our goal in my view. Even so, we have a chance to create individualized structure and learning opportunities for our kids. And you know your kids individual challenges and strengths better than anyone. Lean into those and explore learning with your child. What are your own strengths as a learner? What are your weaknesses? How do you employ strategies when you struggle in learning? Do you even think about the strategies you employ in reading, diagnosing a household maintenance project or communicating to your family? While we employ social distance to protect the health of our neighbors we have a unique opportunity to connect to our kids as learners and to reflect on our own learning successes.
- Foster reading habits. Tonight as I was washing dishes and cleaning up our evening meal our oldest daughter wanted me to read with her. She came down more than once to check in with my progress. She even took out and emptied our compost bin into our compost pile so I would have one less task to complete. As I prepared to vacuum the dinner area her mom came downstairs from the bedtime routine with her younger sisters. Mara told her mom she was going to read with me. Her mom replied, “But don’t you want to read Harry Potter with me for a long time?” Mara looked at me with a torn look at first but she quickly decided that reading Harry Potter with mom would be worth giving up her time with me. Make reading a community event in your household. Read aloud, schedule choice reading, read in front of your kids, talk about what you are reading and then tell your kids they can read quietly to themselves as an extension to their bedtime routine after you leave. We have an opportunity to foster reading habits during this time that we’ve never had before. Read!
- Carefully consider schedules. Schools are large communities. They must operate with schedules and routines to create the best learning environment for the largest number of learners as possible. There is some evidence that routines and schedules at school can actual interfere with time devoted to learning. That doesn’t mean that it is a bad thing for our kids to learn how to operate within a community at school. But we have an opportunity at the family level to meet our kids learning needs in a completely different way. Once this has passed, schools will employ the amazing educators who are at home wondering about your kids right now to re-establish school routines and schedules. Don’t make a schedule just to have a schedule. Consider your goals in this time. Consider your child’s needs. Adapt and be flexible. There will be some skills and learning that we will be able to improve more simply because we have less needs to attend in our households than an average classroom must address.
There are numerous resources online for you to access during this time, this website included. My classroom centers around reading and acquiring Latin. Perhaps you don’t care for your child to learn Latin at this time, but many of the strategies listed below can be adapted to native language or another second language. But there are a few things I want to make clear about my site so you know exactly what happens on my end when you use my site.
I started this site in 2017 with the goal of creating a place for me and others who find it useful to access activities, materials, research and reflection useful to create a world language classroom centered around comprehension. The underlying principle to this site is that we acquire any language by reading, listening to and understanding language that we have a reason to understand. There are many reasons to want to understand language. This creates learner centered progression with language, whether native or as a second language.
Outside of time needed to write, organize and create content for this site there are monetary costs associated with running a website. You will see that there are ads on this site from the WordAds program by WordPress. This program generates ad revenue for the site. So far I have spent more money than the WordAds program has generated but I do have a goal of at least bringing the site to a neutral monetary position for me personally.
Secondly, you will find a disclosure on this site. This site uses 3rd party applications to track how and what users access on the site. I use that information to make decisions about content and organization of the site. I also use the amazon associates program on this site as a 2nd source of revenue. You will find under the must read books page links to reviews of books I have read with affiliate links connected to the product on http://www.amazon.com. If you use those links and purchase items on Amazon this site will earn advertising fees or commissions that vary dependent on the product you purchase. This applies to all purchases that you make on Amazon after clinking one of the affiliate links on this site. Each post that has affiliate links is labeled with a clear disclosure at the top of the post. Even with both sources of revenue, I have spent more money to maintain this site than I have earned, but I do have the goal of using the amazon affiliate program to bring this site to a neutral monetary position for me.
If you look at reviews of Latin reading materials under the self directed reading page you will notice that those reviews do not include affiliate links. That is by design to remove any bias that may be created in a review that contains affiliate links. So now that you know how this site operates below is a list of activities with links to my original blog posts about them with a short reflection about how the activity may support reading and how you might adapt it to use with your child during this time period of iso-learning. I hope to add more activities during this time and will update this post with more links to the specific activities I think will be helpful for families learning at home.
Block Out Poetry – This is one of my favorite ways to create student centered text as a pre-reading activity. Find or copy a text that you can print out. Grab a sharpie or a writing utensil that will block out the text when you use it on the text. Give the reader a theme and instruct him or her to block out any words that do not connect to the theme for the reader. Read the remaining text as a poem. Discuss the meaning and any patterns that arise from the new text. Save these as you create them for text to re-read later on. At some point, read the original text and use the ideas from the block out poem to extend thoughts in discussion about the original text.
Circling – Use this strategy ad hoc anytime you are reading with your child. If your child asks about a word or you think he or she could use more understanding about a word or phrase pause the reading for a circling session. Ask your child questions that involve the word or phrase. Keep it simple and repeat the question with a slight change. Continue by adding a personalized question. Repeat what your child says using the word or phrase. Continue as long as they seem engaged and they process each message with the targeted word or phrase. Be careful to use this sparingly with each reading session. Overuse will cause it to become stale and the learner will tune out the questions making the strategy less effective.
Difficult or Easy? – Make a list of tasks which can be connected to a reading or not. Ask your child to determine which are difficult or easy. Record their ideas and then discuss. Are the patterns between the tasks they find difficult? How about those they find easy? Use those patterns and connections to discuss and increase the depth of conversation. What ideas does your child have to approach the difficult tasks?
Dramatic Partner Dialogue Reading – This is a student favorite activity. Take a piece of dialogue from a text. Assign roles for you and your child. Read through it once. The 2nd time add a condition like in a loud voice, in a high voice, with your hands or as if your feet are on fire to complete the reading. The more silly you are willing to do the more fun this becomes! Continue reading with conditions as long as it is fun. This is a great way to have a reader re-read text without realizing that is what they are doing.
Find the Sentence – A series of activities for your child to find information and express what they understand as you read a text. You can add specific items for the listening to connect to or use more open instructions and focus on what your child creates as a way to create a discussion that extends the reading.
Four – Square Story Map – Use a template for your child to take notes about a story or reading after they have read the text. If your child does not write much yet, complete the task orally and record their answers for them.
GooseChase Scavenger Hunt – This requires you to allow your child to use technology but use the GooseChase app and create a scavenger hunt for your child to complete in your isolation space. I like to create instructions that lead students to take pictures of items. When they finish you can use their pictures for discussion to extend the ideas in the scavenger hunt.
Covid19 Pandemic Journal – I think we owe it to our kids to document this time period. This will define the remaining of their childhood and their early adult years. Our family will use the linked file as a way to document what we are feeling and doing. This also gives us a simple discussion starter each day.
Popcorn Partner Reading – Need to make reading time with your child novel and new? Either with a timer or set amount of text to read, pass the reading aloud back and forth with a popcorn reading. The listener can ask questions as a transition between each pass of the popcorn.
Salad Bowl – I use this in the Latin classroom as a community building activity to review and consolidate vocabulary learning at times throughout the year. At home I think this would be best used as a follow up to something your child is reading. If your child reads aloud to you, consider words they ask about or words you wonder if they know as you listen. Make a list and write each word on an index card. As a family, one person draws a card and attempts to use other words to get others to guess the word on the card. You can’t use word forms of the original word. Keep score if you want, but more importantly, discuss the meanings of the words with your child as a follow up after each round.
Story Choice Boards – You may need to make a copy and adapt my template as it is designed for students studying Latin. Or do a google search and find other templates. Create a board with options for your child to extend a reading with a variety of activities. Be thoughtful as you create the choices. This is an activity that you can tailor to your child’s needs.
True/False Partner Reading – Another reading activity to create a novel approach to a reading session with your child. Decide who will read aloud and who will listen. Choose to read based on a timer or a set length of text like a paragraph. The listener must create either a true or false statement about what he or she heard. The listener shares the statement and the reader determines if it is true or false. Discuss as needed and then switch roles.
Word Cloud – A simple pre-reading activity. Type or find a typed text to copy into one of the many word cloud generators. Create a cloud of words where the more frequent words are larger. Make predictions about the text, create sentences using certain sized words, or play a partner race game if you have multiple readers. If unknown words come up can you use a circling technique to help your child connect to the word?
Word Sort Tables – This is a fantastic pre-reading activity. Look at a text that your child will read. Consider what themes might appear in that text. Choose a list of words that are somehow connected to those themes. Instruct your child or with your child create a table of words that are organized based on categories that your child chooses. It is most effective if the reader organizes the words by meaning instead of form. Discuss how the words are related in each group and make predictions with your child about what the text might be about.