Distance learning doesn't necessarily mean webcam learning. Consider getting the whole class on the phone, and imagine you're all sitting around a campfire at night. Look for ways to turn "campfire stories" into an educational endeavor that can span subjects and grades:
- Prior to the phone call, have all students prepare a poem or short story to read aloud.
- Take turns having one student pick a number. The remaining students (and you, the teacher!) go around asking yes/no questions. For example, "Is the number even?" "Is the number less than 100?" "Is the number a fraction?" How fast can you guess the number?
- The above game works when teaching about taxonomy or properties of objects, too. Have one student choose an object they can see, for example a notebook or toy, and have classmates go around trying to identify it by asking yes/no questions.
We live in a world more connected than ever. What are your students passionate about? Video games? Have them build a video game. Music? Have them record a song. Soccer? Have them organize a fantasy league. In fact, it doesn’t really matter what the project is, it just has to be something they care about.
This year more than ever, you can guide students through a low-floor, high-ceiling form of learning. Consider these tasks that can take anywhere from an hour to a year:
- Write a book.
- Start a business.
- Invent something new.
- Change a law.
If older students have a passion for, say, jewelry-making and a goal to sell their creations on Etsy, they can spend one hour doing some surface-level calculations on costs and revenue. Or they can spend all year raising funds, calculating profit (or loss), working with an adult who can supervise the money, and distributing their 2021 Q1 and 2020 Q2 quarterly press releases to you and their classmates!
Prioritize Social-Emotional Learning
A high-tech digital classroom where students are sharing ideas is still only an aspiration for many students. But education is so much more than math and language standards.
Use this unique school year for assignments that encourage students to stay healthy and focused—goals most anyone can relate to right now. Assign activities that include time spent playing outside, going on walks, or participating in outdoors activities that are safe for the environment. Alternatively, look for activities that require the student to stay inside and be mindful, such as journaling, reading, exercising, or meditating.
If you're interested in research-backed ways you can prioritize SEL this year, check out the blog our research team wrote back in June, 10 Social and Emotional Learning Strategies for Responding to COVID-19.
Teach Around Entertainment
How do your students seek entertainment? Do they play video games or watch television? Consider having students invest time in learning a video game, then have them critically analyze different aspects of the game, such as how it is engineered, what story it tells, and whether the game reveals gender bias. Or have students try to list all of the sets, props, actors, and film crew members needed to calculate the budget for their own TV show. Then have them write it!
In particular, teaching around entertainment can lend itself well to a passion project. For better or worse, the need for standards and assessments hasn't gone away. However, all of our assumptions about how and where to assess have relaxed in many places, at least for one school year. There is optimism to be found there. You may not be able to stop a student from playing their favorite game all the time, but you are suddenly empowered to teach around it.
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Connected learning can still happen, even when connecting to the internet is a challenge. Our core content is available offline via our app, HMH Go.