- The benefits of pre-planning and having contingency plans.
- Kevin’s Top 10 digital resources and websites that he uses with his own students.
- 5 Bonus resources!
Wow, what a week! With the increased spread of the COVID-19 and recommendations from the CDC, many schools are temporarily moving to distance, remote, or digital learning.
On Thursday, I found out that my school would be transitioning to a remote-learning model until Spring Break, which begins on March 30th. As my school’s Curriculum and Instructional Director, I was told about the closure about 40 minutes before dismissal.
I wasn’t allowed to share the information, especially with my students, making it very difficult to say goodbye. As each student left my classroom to go home, I wasn’t sure about the next time I would see them.This will undoubtedly be a time for our staff and students to learn and grow. Click To Tweet
Preparing Ahead of Time
Students were leaving school on Thursday in hopes of returning to school on Monday. My school closed on Friday to prepare and train teachers in the event that we needed to close in-person instruction. We used Wednesday and Thursday to begin preparing the kids for the possibility of the school closing. I reviewed log-ins for websites, digital citizenship expectations, and how to hand in work electronically.
Teachers also sent students home with all of their workbooks, textbooks, and hard copies of materials they can use to prevent excessive screen time. Our younger grades will be using SeeSaw as the primary communication tool between teachers and their students, while the upper grades will use Google Classroom.
We’re fortunate that students and teachers use these two platforms daily, so no emergency training was needed. Our librarian also made sure every student went home with a public library card, regardless of whether they previously had one or not. While the libraries may close, there is a ton of digital content that students can use their cards to access.
I am so glad my school had a school-closing contingency plan set in place. The plan was there for any circumstance that might cause the school to shut down for an extended period of time (fire, earthquakes, etc.).
It was helpful that we didn’t need to scramble to create a plan. We had a task team look at the plan and tweak it before presenting it to the faculty. On Friday, our director of technology and her team were able to review technology procedures and give additional training on platforms like the Google Suite and Zoom.
Most of the day was dedicated to planning out two weeks of curriculum.[scroll down to keep reading]
On Friday we were also able to gather materials to mail home. To avoid excessive screen time, my fifth grade team sent home the paper copies of some of our most important assignments. We wanted some work to still be completed traditionally. And to be honest, some things are just easier to be done paper to pen.
On Monday, our staff will be able to come to campus or work from home to prepare to roll out Tuesday’s lessons.
Helpful Resources for Distance Learning
Below are my TOP 10 websites and digital platforms I use with my students. It has made me happy that many of these educational companies have now waived the fees they charge for their premium services.
While the list of great resources is growing by the minute, below are the websites I can vouch for and use in my own classroom. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions you have regarding the digital sources I have listed.
I am not endorsing nor am I being paid to share these resources.
Kevin’s Top 10 Websites & Platforms for Distance Learning
1) Scholastic. scholastic.com has released 20 days of lessons organized by grade level. These lessons ROCK! I am using some of their virtual field trip videos next week to send my students to museums. All the content is currently FREE.
2) Flocabulary. flocabulary.com is another favorite. Flocabulary (recently acquired by Nearpod) is a library full of songs with tons of academic content. My class watches several Flocabulary videos a week. In addition to the songs, there are teacher handouts and pre-made assessments.
3) EPIC Books! Getepic.com is EPIC! Their digital library covers all subject areas. Students can choose from over 35,000 children’s books. It’s extremely user-friendly.
4) Quizziz. Quizziz.com is always free and is one of my favorite sites. Kids love it too. Teachers can create digital quizzes for their students. I use this every week with my class.
5) Social Studies Weekly. socialstudiesweekly.com has opened its entire digital library of content to educators for free. Your students will love the hands-on curriculum. They can highlight, take notes, and complete learning strategies right on the publication. They also can cut up and incorporate their publications into multiple assignments and activities. Every issue is aligned with state and national standards.
6) Dreambox. dreambox.com is an INCREDIBLE math resource, which is currently free for parents who have students home due to school closures. In my opinion, this adaptive math platform is the best. While there are games, math is at the forefront. Teachers receive data on how students are doing. The Dreambox suite is aligned with state and national math standards.
7) Mystery Science. mysterysceince.com is now providing teachers and parents with free science lessons students can EASILY do with a parent. Their content is fantastic (and is even better because it’s now FREE).
8) Newsela. newsela.com is currently going through a makeover. I have always loved Newsela, but it’s better now than ever!
They, too, have opened up their premium services for free. There are passages on almost every topic you can think of. The Newsela database grows by the day. Every article is published on 5 or 6 different reading levels geared towards grades 3-12. My students use Newsela weekly.
9) IXL. IXL.com also has opened its entire library of content to teachers for free. Their material covers math, language arts, socials studies, and science for grades K-12.
10) Pear Deck. peardeck.com integrates with several digital platforms seamlessly. I promise you this is not an ad, but I love Pear Deck! As a believer in active learning, Pear Deck helps teachers deliver inquiry-based questions. This is a great resource to present digital learning slideshows that can be used in real-time. It works great with the Google Suite, especially Google Slides!
5 BONUS Sites for Distance Learning
11) Kids Discover. kidsdiscover.com is a collection of NF magazines. I’m so happy they are offering their online service for free right now. I use non-digital Kid Discover Magazines often. They are great for reading, social studies, and science. I haven’t used the online platform yet with my students, but I just checked it out and loved it. The teacher resources are impressive.
12) Khan Academy. khanacademy Khan academy has had a huge makeover. It’s more than just math videos. Every lesson has practice questions and a quiz that follow the video. Everything is scored by the computer and is adaptive. Signing up is super easy as it pulls your roster from Google Classroom. While it covers multiple academic areas, their step-by-step math lessons are perfect a distant learning model.
13) Pen Pal Schools. penpalschools.com/This is pretty cool. Can be used for writing and for longer term projects. There’s some STEAM, problem-solving and digital collaboration mixed in too.
14) Story Online. storylineonline.net Read aloud videos for students. This is great resource for younger students. All content is currently free. Time saver.
15) Wonderopolis. wonderopolis.org This is great to include in your morning meeting messages. Wonderopolis a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. Each day, we pose an intriguing question—the Wonder of the Day—and explore it in a variety of ways.
This will undoubtedly be a time for our staff and students to learn and grow. I’m confident that my fifth-graders are ready for the challenge! To be honest, it’s only been two days, and I already miss them. I wasn’t able to give them a proper goodbye. My fingers are crossed that we will be able to return to school in mid-April after Spring Break.
Please stay healthy and safe.
ABOUT KEVIN BUTLER
Kevin has taught elementary school for 17 years. He holds a BA in Child Study, an MA in Education, and holds an additional 90 graduate credits in the areas of math, literacy, and social studies. Kevin began his teaching career at the age of 22 in New York at a high-performing public school on Long Island. Six years ago, he relocated to California to consult and teach at a startup charter school.
Currently, Kevin teaches fifth grade and is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at an Independent School in Los Angeles. His instruction focuses on creating authentic learning experiences while engaging his students in active learning. In addition to teaching, Kevin enjoys collaborating with teachers, speaking at educational conferences and presenting his Creating the Experience workshop. He also blogs and hosts a podcast titled Lights, Cameras, TEACH.
Kevin is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.