Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Easy-to-Implement Home Instruction Ideas

When I was in college a bazillion years ago, we were asked to develop a learning packet for home-bound students.  It included readings (which can now be a link to an online source!), activities that could be completed at home with readily available materials, written assignments, and miscellaneous other methods for evaluation (which today can be an online test).  It took several weeks during my methods class to develop that device and I wondered when I would ever use it.  Well, as it turned out, I did have a student who was put on home instruction during my first year teaching.  The work I had put into the learning packet in college, sure came in handy when I was overwhelmed with first-year worries like brand new lesson plans, grading (by hand!) all of my students, and preparing what I needed for the day's lesson.

Many schools now are planning for ways to provide home instruction as a reaction to the coronavirus.  While that's certainly an effective way to prevent the spread, it places an additional burden on already-overworked teachers to come up with lessons that their students can accomplish at home for days or even weeks until the crisis passes and the students can return to school.

Here are some ideas that may help you:
  1. Look for online versions of your textbooks that are provided by the publisher.  You may already have that possibility in place.  If so, great!  Use it to list daily readings, activities, and assignments that they can return to you by email or in a packet when they return to school.  Some companies are offering free subscriptions during the coronavirus crisis: FREE subscriptions.
  2. Search for prepared projects that encompass your curriculum.  This will be easy for your students to complete because they would probably have been completing them on their own in the classroom, anyway. No, these are usually not free, but they can come at a minimal expense for the ease of implementation in your remote classroom! For example, I have a few social studies packets at my Teachers Pay Teachers store: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/All-american-Teacher-Tools  
    •  I have a packet for every state in the union plus the District of Columbia.  Each PowerPoint presentation and accompanying activities can be done individually or as a team (in class or at home with friends).  They are appropriate for grades 3-6.  Here is one example (look for your own state): Ohio History and Project-Based Learning Packet
    •  I also have a complete learning quest for each of the ancient civilizations: Rome, Greece, and Egypt.  These, two, can be done individually or with a small group and are appropriate for grades 5-9: Ancient Civilizations Bundle
  3. Look for explanatory PowerPoints that make learning fun and easier for students who need that extra help.  Math is particularly difficult if there is no teacher present to steer the wayward student in the right direction.  I have developed PowerPoints for each of the topics in the 6th grade Engage New York math modules. Here is the first one on ratios, which is free to show you how I simplify the topics for your students: Ratios.  Engage New York does have their own explanatory videos, but I found that they can be as confusing as the topic which was presented in the text.
  4. Use Google docs to coordinate grades, groups, and assignments.  Your district may not have this already in place, so encourage everyone to participate in this easy way to communicate with students and their parents.  Speaking of parents and other caregivers, make sure they understand that their children absolutely need to complete the assignments you offer while you are separated from them or they will fall seriously behind in their work.  
  5. Learn from the Homeschool network how to present the curriculum without a brick and mortar school as a base of operations.  Here is one link to get your creative juices flowing: Time 4 Learning.  I'm not saying you need to buy into their expensive system, but you can get some ideas from them on possible themes, projects, and independent learning.
  6. Finally, coordinate with other teachers, either in your school or around the country who are teaching the same topics as you are.  Look on Teachers Pay Teachers for free resources and download them for you students to access using whatever at-home platform your district is using.  
Above all, make this a fun learning experience for your students and keep in constant contact by providing feedback on the assignments they may be returning to you every day.  They probably don't want to be stuck at home, either.  And they won't be motivated to participate in a learning program where there is no teacher to direct them back to the task at hand.  Offer them interim rewards for finishing an assignment.  Show them what might be waiting for them when they return from "quarantine" to offer completion incentives.  And remember that your students rely on you for their education, whether you are standing in front of them, or offering remote assistance through written assignments or even a Skype-like platform.  

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