School Closure Toolkit for Teachers

Author: Amanda Dorris.  

Teachers and parents across the country are taking on new and intimidating things this week. While exhausted from taking care of families, we are trying to provide some stability for the kids’ no longer in the classroom. Many of us feel unclear about our role in the delivery of online learning, and expectations seem to change by the minute. Uncertainty is what we all have in common right now. 

So, I am advocating we collectively take a big breath in and step back to consider the big picture of what we want and need to get out of this potentially lengthy period of school closures. My professional self and my parent-self tell me the same thing. 

We need to make this experience as student-centered as we can by empowering kids to:

  • let their curiosity and passions lead their learning
  • be creative and make things
  • connect learning at the kitchen table to the outside world
  • raise their voice
  • build and maintain relationships
  • direct their own learning

Some set-up is needed for meaningful distance learning to occur. Families will need support in order to be partners in their children’s learning and educators will need to provide both structure and flexibility for families who are juggling many priorities.

What parents want you to know: None of us want to admit it, but we may not have paid as much attention as we should have these last couple of monthsTeachers can help by telling us what the overall learning goals are for our child’s grade and what our kids were working on before the school closure. We need context before we jump in!  

Supporting Student Choice 

Our kids need to be engaged and excited about the learning they are doing at home. This means they need to be given lots of choices about what they study and how. Being at home without school bells, allows a unique opportunity to follow up on topics of interest and take an inquisitive mind down some meandering paths. 

  • New Modes of Learning
    This opinion piece from Harvard Graduate School of Education suggests ways for parents and teachers to use this time to explore topics they love and have learning experiences that could not have occurred in a traditional school setting.  

What parents want you to know: The home is not the school building. I know my son sits still at school, but at home, he is off in a million different directionsLearning will need to feel relevant and fun to bring kids of all ages to the kitchen table.   

Fostering Creativity and Production 

Schools across the country have been embracing the maker-space movementfostering problem-solving and creative thinking. As a parent, I plan to bring the maker-space home. Right now, kids of all ages could use positive feelings of accomplishment that come from designing and bringing something to life.  Projects could range from building a bridge from toothpicks to creating a new recipe or writing a song.   

  • At Home with MakerSpaces
    This short article outlines the simple materials needed to make a home Makerspace. It would be a good article to share with parents.

  • 7 Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Kids
    This article offers advice for parents on how to let your kids express their creativity. It would be a good article to share.

What parents want you to know: Projects will need to be based on things we already have at home. Feeling the need to acquire a certain item for a project will put stress on us and exacerbate inequities between families. Giving students open-ended challenges and the freedom to select their own projects will let them design based on materials on hand.  

Making Real-World Connections

It may seem hard to connect to the real world when students are stuck inside, but this can be done in many different ways. Virtual field trips and sites featuring live streaming, such as zoos or a weather station, can be tied to the curriculum. 

What parents what you to know: When the walls feel like they are closing in, our kids will need to feel a connection to the outside world, to go “outside” even when they can’t. 

Student Voice

Feeling heard will be particularly important for our kids when so many things in the world feel out of one’s control. Finding authentic ways for students to share their work may feel like more of a challenge than usual, but there are some creative options.

What parents want you to know: Many of us don’t know much about some of the technology tools you may be asking kids to use for publishing. This is a great opportunity to set up projects that encourage us to learn together as a family or to have our kids teach us a new skill.

Strengthening Relationships

Building strong relationships is critical for kids who may be feeling isolated. There are many ideas for using technology to connect kids with each other, such as posting videos of work or meeting in a virtual classroom. Students who have less access to technology will need ideas to stay connected like sharing with a class partner on the phone.

What parents what you to know: To strengthen relationships at home, learning projects might include ways for kids to share their learning with parents and for parents to share their own skills and stories with their kids. All sitting at a table with separate laptops for hours will not feel like being together. And we all need “together” right now.

Empowering Students and Parents

Kids who feel like they are driving their own learning will stay engaged. Family members new to the role of learning mentor will need practical advice on how to stay involved and express interest while letting students be the drivers. This can be an opportunity to really pull them into the learning process and build partnerships between students and their parents that will carry into future years.

What parents want you to know:  Being a learning coach is a new role for most of us. We will need concrete suggestions on how to engage with our kids and the content they are learning. Our students may also need concrete ideas on how to engage with us as they may not have previously shared much about school specifics.

Ed-Tech Resource Lists: 

Technology will help teachers and parents providemeaningful home learning experience for our kids, but we can’t let it be the driver. If we have first taken the time to consider the type of student-centered learning experiences we want for our kids, then we can choose the technology that will support our goals.

  • Commonsense Media How to Find Great Learning Resources for Your Students During School Closures
    This resource is organized in a very useful way. It categorizes apps, websites, and other ed-tech tools by their purpose. It includes a section on getting ready to start virtual learning, communicating with parents, collaborating, using video, and studentled and interest-based research.

  • Learning Keeps Going
    A coalition of education organizations has curated strategies, tips and best practices for teaching online during the coronavirus pandemic. The site includes a resource database. They are also hosting a weekly webinar.  
  • The Distance Learning Resource Center
    This resource from Learning Reimagined provides lists of virtual learning resources that are learner-centered. Resources are divided into learning resources; and resources for parents, teachers, and communities.  
Resources To Get Started

Some set-up is needed for meaningful distance learning to occur. Families will need support in order to be partners in their children’s learning and educators will need to provide both structure and flexibility for families who are juggling many priorities.

What parents want you to know: None of us want to admit it, but we may not have paid as much attention as we should have these last couple of monthsTeachers can help by telling us what the overall learning goals are for our child’s grade and what our kids were working on before the school closure. We need context before we jump in!  

Student Choice Resources

Supporting Student Choice 

Our kids need to be engaged and excited about the learning they are doing at home. This means they need to be given lots of choices about what they study and how. Being at home without school bells, allows a unique opportunity to follow up on topics of interest and take an inquisitive mind down some meandering paths. 

  • New Modes of Learning
    This opinion piece from Harvard Graduate School of Education suggests ways for parents and teachers to use this time to explore topics they love and have learning experiences that could not have occurred in a traditional school setting.  

What parents want you to know: The home is not the school building. I know my son sits still at school, but at home, he is off in a million different directionsLearning will need to feel relevant and fun to bring kids of all ages to the kitchen table.   

Creativity Resources

Fostering Creativity and Production 

Schools across the country have been embracing the maker-space movementfostering problem-solving and creative thinking. As a parent, I plan to bring the maker-space home. Right now, kids of all ages could use positive feelings of accomplishment that come from designing and bringing something to life.  Projects could range from building a bridge from toothpicks to creating a new recipe or writing a song.   

  • At Home with MakerSpaces
    This short article outlines the simple materials needed to make a home Makerspace. It would be a good article to share with parents.

  • 7 Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Kids
    This article offers advice for parents on how to let your kids express their creativity. It would be a good article to share.

What parents want you to know: Projects will need to be based on things we already have at home. Feeling the need to acquire a certain item for a project will put stress on us and exacerbate inequities between families. Giving students open-ended challenges and the freedom to select their own projects will let them design based on materials on hand.  

Real World Resources

Making Real-World Connections

It may seem hard to connect to the real world when students are stuck inside, but this can be done in many different ways. Virtual field trips and sites featuring live streaming, such as zoos or a weather station, can be tied to the curriculum. 

What parents what you to know: When the walls feel like they are closing in, our kids will need to feel a connection to the outside world, to go “outside” even when they can’t. 

Student Voice Resources

Student Voice

Feeling heard will be particularly important for our kids when so many things in the world feel out of one’s control. Finding authentic ways for students to share their work may feel like more of a challenge than usual, but there are some creative options.

What parents want you to know: Many of us don’t know much about some of the technology tools you may be asking kids to use for publishing. This is a great opportunity to set up projects that encourage us to learn together as a family or to have our kids teach us a new skill.

Relationship Resources

Strengthening Relationships

Building strong relationships is critical for kids who may be feeling isolated. There are many ideas for using technology to connect kids with each other, such as posting videos of work or meeting in a virtual classroom. Students who have less access to technology will need ideas to stay connected like sharing with a class partner on the phone.

What parents what you to know: To strengthen relationships at home, learning projects might include ways for kids to share their learning with parents and for parents to share their own skills and stories with their kids. All sitting at a table with separate laptops for hours will not feel like being together. And we all need “together” right now.

Student-Ownership Resources

Empowering Students and Parents

Kids who feel like they are driving their own learning will stay engaged. Family members new to the role of learning mentor will need practical advice on how to stay involved and express interest while letting students be the drivers. This can be an opportunity to really pull them into the learning process and build partnerships between students and their parents that will carry into future years.

What parents want you to know:  Being a learning coach is a new role for most of us. We will need concrete suggestions on how to engage with our kids and the content they are learning. Our students may also need concrete ideas on how to engage with us as they may not have previously shared much about school specifics.

Ed-Tech Resource Lists

Ed-Tech Resource Lists: 

Technology will help teachers and parents providemeaningful home learning experience for our kids, but we can’t let it be the driver. If we have first taken the time to consider the type of student-centered learning experiences we want for our kids, then we can choose the technology that will support our goals.

  • Commonsense Media How to Find Great Learning Resources for Your Students During School Closures
    This resource is organized in a very useful way. It categorizes apps, websites, and other ed-tech tools by their purpose. It includes a section on getting ready to start virtual learning, communicating with parents, collaborating, using video, and studentled and interest-based research.

  • Learning Keeps Going
    A coalition of education organizations has curated strategies, tips and best practices for teaching online during the coronavirus pandemic. The site includes a resource database. They are also hosting a weekly webinar.  
  • The Distance Learning Resource Center
    This resource from Learning Reimagined provides lists of virtual learning resources that are learner-centered. Resources are divided into learning resources; and resources for parents, teachers, and communities.  

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