Sunday 19 April 2020

Creative Ideas for Learning at Home

Learning at home during a crisis - like a pandemic - is about learning in your environment with the things your family has, in a non-stressful way

In an article by Chris Corrigan called “Learning with your kids at home: how we unschooled”  he suggests 4 things for parents to think about:
-       Don’t try to replicate school at home
-       Notice that you are all learning all the time
-       Kids learn at different speeds
-       Strewing and Conversation - flood your environment with interesting things, and then watch and be curious about what your kids are interested in.   

Learning at home is not the same as on-line learning or “doing school at home”.

I have had a few conversations with families this week and their comments have ranged from “there is not enough coming home that my child can do independently to there is way too much coming home”.  I have also heard a great deal of thankfulness for everything that every teacher is attempting to do and a lot of grace given to all of us in general!

One thing that was present in many of the conversations was there is too much screen time expected and too much on-line everything. 
Some quotes from parents: 
-       On-line reading: where students are asked to read a story and do an on-line test:  The question was “Can’t my child just read a real book?  And then say what she liked or didn’t like about it?  Or draw the plot or anything but this on-line test?” 
-       All math is on-line for all 3 of my children.  
-       We only have one device at home and it’s difficult to meet the school requirements which are mainly on-line

A “What If” challenge for K-8 Educators:
-       What if … I only used on-line for communicating with my kids and families and maybe 
one or two links that could be used to give ideas or support?  No actual work on-line?  
-       What if … I only sent home things to do that were … creative ideas, challenges or project-based learning using materials that students can find at home?
-       What if … I gave outdoor options for those students who are in an area where they can get out and explore?  
-       What if … I made sure there were a few choices that students can do totally independently?
-       What if … I looked at my plan and thought “Wow this doesn’t look like I’m trying to replicate school at home”


Claire Tamang at Naramata Elementary School created a website for her school that she is offering to anyone who would like to access it.  It is
On the website she has three sections:  
1.     Arts Education:  this includes 6 ideas for fine arts - found sounds, recycled instruments, nature weavings, nature mandellas, monster masks, cardboard city
2.    Grade 4/5:  this includes examples of projects - the first one is to “create a home or habitat for a creature”.
3.    Student Gallery:  where student creations are displayed

Nature Mandellas:
Instructions: Geometry and Fine Arts -  Get outside, collect some materials and get building.  Work together or make your own.  Stones, pinecones, flower petals, seeds - the sky is the limit.  (And, hey, if you want to use lego on your bedroom floor - that counts too).

Some questions to ask ourselves:  What competencies live in this activity?  Is it accessible to all?  Is it engaging? Can some or part of this activity be done independently?

Student Examples in the Gallery:  Kindergarten and grade 4


On the Grade 4/5 site on Claire’s website she has described a project to create a home or habitat for a real or imaginary creature. 

What competencies live in this activity?  Is it accessible to all?  Is it engaging? Can some or part of this activity be done independently?

Grade 4/5 Project from Uplands Elementary

David has challenged his students to create a game that involves social distancing.  They must think it through in terms of rules, materials, what to call it, and how they will package it for others.  David has received back some very creative games from the students.  They have represented their games in a word docs,  power point and in video. 

1. Invent a game with physical distancing  2.  Invent means something new  3. 6’ apart & and can’t touch the same object.
4.  catchy name.  5.  List of rules for fair play. 6.  Questions:  inside/outside; number of people; equipment/materials; scoring; how long; when over.
7.  kind of game:  board? Word? Math? Treasure hunt? Other?  8.  What kind of sport? How far/close/times… 9.  Display game - choices - pp/word/video/other

What competencies live in this activity?  Is it accessible to all?  Is it engaging?  Can some or part of this activity be done independently?

Other creative and nature-based activities 

that are great to share

Think about the competencies, engagement, accessibility and independence in each of these.

There is no doubt that we are living in a difficult time.  
All of us are responding in different ways.  All of that is okay.  
As we move into this next week - let's remember to find JOY wherever we can
and give ourselves  a lot of space and GRACE.  

Thanks to:  Claire, David, Shelley, Kirsten, Byng Elementary, Mill Bay Outdoor School

Monday 13 April 2020

Teaching and Learning in a Crazy Time - Blog 2

I had to laugh when I saw this tweet from Shelley Moore about social isolation.  I know many of us are feeling the effects of isolation but we just might not put it up on twitter quite like this!  Isolation is hard - and learning to teach and learn in different ways is a challenge for all of us.  Educators are life-long learners and we are working hard to embrace new possibilities, new ideas and to continue to share our learning in community with one another.  

There have been some great stories this past week - some funny, some frustrating or sad, some overwhelming, and some with surprizing joy and delight.  All have been trying to figure what it actually means to ‘teach from home’, and support kids and families virtually.  

I loved this tweet from a teacher in New Jersey.  “What my students see vs reality”.  Educators who are teaching from home with young children of their own - we all admire you. Your days must be very long and very full.

This week's blog looks at three areas:
1.  Learnings:  some learnings from our colleagues
2.  Connecting:  educators, students and families
3.  Sending Home: a few more examples of what teachers are sending home - some structures and formats

SD67's Guiding Principles that anchor our practice:

• is it sustainable and realistic?
• not a burden to families
• relevant and meaningful activities in a home environment

• Can all students access the activities?
• Do the students have devices we are asking them to use?
• Are there access points for all students?

• are we connecting with our students and families?
• Do we know how our students are doing?  And how the family is doing?  There are many stories we need to listen to and have empathy for - loss of jobs, financial difficulties, trauma, stress

• Do we have a collaborative approach within and across schools?  Shared expectations/understanding of how we are moving forward.

1.  Learnings:  some learnings from our colleagues

It has been a huge learning curve this past few weeks for us, the students, and the parents.  I was struck again by how open educators are to this new reality, expressing freely the kinds of things they are learning, grappling with, and continuing to figure out.   

• I feel like a brand new teacher and it has been very overwhelming.

I feel like a brand new teacher and it has been very overwhelming. I think about how overwhelmed I am and then I think of my students and the conversations that we have had this week and how they are also feeling overwhelmed and worried. . . 

• I am not comfortable with this manner of teaching, social-emotionally. 

I was at school Tuesday and Wednesday handing out school supplies and food hampers to families.  I was very discombobulated and teary this week. . I am not comfortable with this manner of teaching, social-emotionally. 

• I have learned how important it is that I continue on this path of supporting their overall well-being right now

Through our conversations I have learned how important it is that I continue on this path of supporting their overall well-being right now and that any learning that I offer really needs to be just an opportunity for learning ... 

• I am learning to move slowly

I am thankful that I have spent so much time learning about the kids I teach.  I am so glad that this is NOT the first time I am talking to families in person. I am learning to move slowly ... I am giving myself permission to use my old house phone and calling my families to just say Hi!

• Lately I have been thinking a lot about the idea; ‘when you change the rules you change the winners’.  

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the idea; ‘when you change the rules you change the winners’.  I have been thinking about what it means to be ‘successful/winner’ in a traditional school setting and how our district does an incredible job of levelling the playing field so that all students (and teachers) are able to succeed. However, with our recent lifestyle changes and drastically altered learning environment I am wondering who are the new ‘winners’ in this situation.

• I am so fortunate to have such an amazing team to work with, and we are in constant contact.

The biggest message I would want to spread is this cannot be done alone!!  I am so fortunate to have such an amazing team to work with, and we are in constant contact.  A day does not go by that I do not video chat with at least 3 of my colleagues, and the support they give me is unbelievable!!  Collaboration creates joy and wellness among us all!! 

• I learned that when I offer opportunities for the whole class to check in via a community circle that they ALL want to be a part of that, they miss connecting with each other.

• I have been on a steep learning curve this week

2.  Connecting:  educators, students and families

Over and over this week I heard how connecting with the students in a multiplicity of ways was the highlight of the week, not just for the kids, but for the teachers - and in some cases the families.  It was also striking how creatively the gatherings took place.

One kindergarten teacher had a zoom party with her kindergarteners and their families. 

We had a class Zoom Party last night and 16 of my kids and their families tuned in and it was just a riot! We chatted from 6:30 – 7:00ish last night. I put out a feeler on time earlier in the week and thought that since many families are still working that a quick check-in after dinner and before bed would be best. Families agreed. The kids absolutely loved it so I think we will build that in every week or two. 

The kids said hello to each other, repeatedly, for the first 5 minutes or so and then I asked families to mute their microphones and if they couldn’t figure it out I did it and then gave each kiddo a chance to share. They gave me a wave or held up a certain number of fingers or a certain letter in sign language (as we have a student who signs and we are learning with her) when they had something they wanted to share. There were a few technical difficulties but everyone hung in there pretty well. Then they said goodbye for another 5 minutes and we called it a night.

It was the highlight of my week just to get to see their faces and connect with them all. Highly recommend it!

A number of Middle School teachers met with their students individually and also as a group.  

Teacher 1:
Today, I did my first virtual community circle…I was not sure how it would go…but again, to my surprise it went super well!!  19/22 students attended and stayed for the entire meeting, which lasted an hour.  I ran it very much like I would in the classroom, and the kids were super respectful of each other.  They were a little shy in the speaking part, but they had the option to pass, and only one student passed, everyone else shared 😊.  My resource teachers all joined in, I thought it was great!  Students had the opportunity to ask questions, and I was able to clarify my expectation for the upcoming weeks. 

Teacher 2:
Our week went well. I got to video chat with 22/23 kids in small group meetings and was able to mirror my screen to show them where to find certain activities and resources on Teams. They are very excited and it’s been so nice connecting with them. They’ve all been really lovely conversations. They responded to the weekly question “where have you shown/seen courage” and their answers have been thoughtful and insightful.

Teacher 3:

Teacher 4:  In this story the teacher had been buddying one of her grade 8 classes with a near-by senior’s residence.  She is recognizing the need for the social connection not just for herself and her students, but also with the seniors.

Apart from my academic courses I have been looking into resuming the senior buddy program through pen-pal letter writing and videos.  Ms. * and I are in the process of organizing this for Trinity Care and SLMS.  I have also reached out to a contact at Southwoods Retirement home so that other colleagues can do this with their students as well.  

3.  Sending Home: a few more examples of what teachers are sending home - some structures and formats

It is great to see what others are doing and how the weekly plan is changing as we understand more what works, and as we get feedback from students and families.  Here are a few examples from this week.

Kindergarten: note again that the teacher invites families to choose from the activities.  It is an invitation.

Kindergarten choice board:  The teacher again invites families to do as many of the activities as they would like to do.  She has included wellness, physical well-being, social and emotional wellbeing, literacy and number sense.  

Grade 1:  This teacher sent home ideas for the week in a choice board as well.  She had suggestions for literacy, numeracy, and physical and emotional well-being.  She is slowly introducing her families to both outdoor learning and also the resources.  

Grade 2/3:  This teacher has also displayed the learning opportunities in a choice board.  Here the wonder is:  What are some of your family traditions during Easter?   

Middle School

The Middle School examples are lengthy to post in their entirety.  Here a few pieces from a group of teachers working together at one middle school.

Word of the weekCOURAGE

Please join us for our community circles if you can:

Opening Circle – Positive welcome into the week:  Tuesday 9am 
What is something that you enjoyed about your long weekend? What is one goal that you have for this week? It could be around your learning opportunities or how you want to connect with your family and friends or maybe you want to make time to go outside every day. 

Closing Circle – Optimistic closing to our week: Friday 9am
Thinking of our word of the week, what is one way that you have shown courage over the past month?

The tasks are formatted under these headings:

AREA               Please Do                    Can do             Could do

Tasks are given in 4 areas:  Advisory, Literacy, Math and PHE
The advisory and literacy tasks have to do with their key word Courage
The Math has to do with graphing to do with the virus
PHE tasks are all about health/well-being - exercise, cooking, and other ideas for well-being.

Here is the journal description provided for the students.

Journal theme: What does courage mean to us? (The graphic organizer will be provided separately on Teams)

Please do:
1.     What does the word courage mean? Brainstorm all the ideas that you have for what this word could mean and write them in square 1
2.    Ask at least 3 other people what they think courage means, write down their thinking in squares 2-4
3.    In square 5 write any new thinking that you have after your conversations.
4.    In square 6 come up with your own kid friendly definition for the word courage.
If you’re up for more:
  1. Build or draw your definition of courage.  Use any materials you would like.  Take a photo of your creation and upload to teams. I will put my example where they should be uploaded.
  2. Make your creation visible to your community - post on your window, create something in your yard

Thanks to educators in SD67, Oliver, West Vancouver and Maple Ridge 
SD67:  Sydney, Pam, Corrie, Janice, Allison, Julia, Anna, Nicole, Kelsey, Melissa
Out of district:  Melia, Jeanette, Sylvia