The 3 Most Important Things To Do If Your School Closes


We are floundering in uncharted territory. Our nation is struggling to make education work as COVID-19 forces schools to close.

Who thought at Back-to-School Night that a global pandemic would affect our health, our future, and our day-to-day?

Bonus: Download free Math Choice Boards here.

What To Do Now

It's too late to go back and be proactive. What we need now are ideas to support kids and their learning when we can't be together in school as usual. Here are 3:

1.  Protect your own family first. People must get to work to support their families, but not at the risk of teachers' lives and their families. Go to school for as long as you believe it's safe. When it's not, stay home.

2.  Plan hard copy and online lessons now, even if you haven't been instructed to. I was expected to prepare a week's worth of substitute plans at the start of each school year. It took a crate to hold them, but OMG, they were a lifesaver! When my kids or I got sick unexpectedly, I just asked my team teacher to pull them out for the sub.

     If you have digital capabilities, start creating lessons now. If you'll do strictly paper lessons, gather materials that support your curriculum. Whether you use digital or paper lessons, keep these parameters in mind:

          A.  Keep assignments simple; many kids will be with babysitters, grandparents - or alone - with no one to ask for help.

          B.  Explain everything; without immediate access to you, kids and parents can get confused easily.

          C.  Know that you won't grade some of the at-home work. You can't know who is getting help or how much.

          D.  Avoid teaching new material, especially for young children. Even with digital tools, the give-and-take of being with our teacher is invaluable.

          E.  Focus on engaging review work, not busy work. We want kids to think, practice, and grow, but not struggle. While it's great for schools that have amazing technology, the reality is many schools aren't set up for that. Much of what teachers send home will be paper-and-pencil.

          F.  Families are stressed now. Being out of school, possibly quarantined, maybe even sick, is tough. Schoolwork may not be a priority. Make the work do-able.

          G.  Depend on fun, creative, low-stress activities. Consider journal entries, reading a book, color-by-code puzzles, and creative writing.

          H.  Avoid overwhelming families. Schedule each day's work for them, plainly marked. If they work ahead, fine.

          I.  Homes aren't always equipped like schools. They may not have 1:1 devices, construction paper, markers, rulers, and other tools we take for granted. Be careful of the requirements for each assignment.

          J.  Give special attention to your students with special needs, accommodations, IEPs, and 504s. It will be impossible to give them a routine school experience at home without you. Reach out to the administration, colleagues, EC specialists, media specialists,...all of the people who can help you prepare appropriate lessons.

          K. Communicate clearly with parents and allow them to communicate with you.

3.  Prepare to spend some time each day devoted to school. Return parent emails, call or email your students, work on plans for your eventual return to school. It'll keep you in a routine and feeling productive.

In A Perfect World

If this happens again - heaven forbid - we'll be ready. We'll:

Be Proactive - Providing safety, health, and remote learning for entire school systems is unprecedented. It's a bigger problem than a single teacher can solve. Before the next school year, policymakers and administrators will carefully set protocols in place. They will address equity for special needs students, children who don't have food or supervision when they don't go to school, students who don't have wi-fi or devices for online lessons, and standardized testing.

Plan - With policies and protocols in place, teachers will work with colleagues to create both online and hard copy activities for at-home learning. We'll revisit assessments and grading. We'll send encouraging messages to our kids. We'll be ready to go if the worst happens.

Prepare - We'll have papers copied, packets packed, and online assignments ready to access. We'll practice with kids for online access and activity completion. On Back-to-School night, we'll tell parents about our plans.

I hope there's not a next time. But if there is, it'll be smoother sailing!

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Budget Hacks For The Most Effective Lesson On How Germs Spread


     I'm always looking for elementary science activities that are:
  • easy
  • affordable
  • engaging
  • hands-on
  • pretty much student-led
  • something we can use in real life
     One of the best is to buy that glow-in-the-dark stuff, Glo Germ. You paint it on kids' hands, have them wash, then look at their hands under a black light. They quickly see how hard it can be to get their hands clean. When you connect the Glo Germ to real germs, it makes a lasting impression on them.

     We did this in my science classes until the cost stopped me. I wish I'd known then about these budget hacks. It would have allowed us to benefit from the activity without the budget.  
       

The Experiment

     First, use a cotton swab to spread some of the Glo Germ on each child's hand. Use a clean swab for each child so you're not dipping contaminated swabs back into the bottle.
 


     Next, let kids see their hands under the black light. If you're doing a written piece, have kids record their observations.
     Have kids wash their hands. Don't emphasize washing really well yet. 

     Look at their hands under the black light again. They'll gasp at how much glow is still left! 

     Make the point that the Glo Germ is behaving like germs, not making us sick, but staying on our skin. Send them back to wash their hands and check under the black light again. 

The Extensions

     1. You might want to extend the lesson with hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. Do they clean our hands any better or worse?

     2. An even more impactful extension of this experiment is to see how far one person can pass germs.  Start by swabbing one student's hand with Glo Germ. He's student #1. Have student #1 touch student #2. Student #2 touches student #3 and so on. Each child checks their hand under the black light. We were 10 kids in before we had trouble finding the glow!

     Emphasize that germs are passed from person to person in the same way.

The Budget Hacks

     What to do if you have no budget for Glo Germ and a black light? We can still make it happen! 

     You need 2 things: a germ substitute substance and a way to see it on kids' hands.  Consider these pairings:

     We ended by reviewing some ways we've learned to wash hands properly. One suggestion is scrubbing for the length of time it takes to silently sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself. We also had a frank discussion of places we pick up germs: the bathroom, doorknobs, other peoples' possessions. It was a  real learning experience all around!

     I'd love to know how these hacks work for you! Enjoy your science and stay healthy!



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