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What are ways to keep children learning in a non-academic setting, especially while quarantining?

With school being online, children being in daycare, the lack of summer camps, clubs, and other activities, it's becoming harder to help children continue to learn in a fun way. Many students, including myself, have found it difficult to learn from online classes: the material just doesn't stick.

I'm currently working in a after/before school program that is possibly being transferred into an online program. Because of this, many of the activities I had plan had to be scrapped as they require us to meet in person.

The activities that run through my brain right now seem like busy work or have is obviously a learning experience and may not be fun.

What are some fun ways you've engaged students that kept them learning?

#children #help #education #teacher #school #july20

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Thomas’s Answer

Ways to keep children and teens engaged and learning is by challenging them every day with critical thinking questions. Questions can cover any subject area (Math, Science, Writing, Spanish, Art, Home Economics, etc.). Having them read one chapter a day will keep them engaged as well. Make these activities fun for them! Include card games, dominoes, brief educational videos, music lessons, educational webcasts with classmates and educators, etc. The list goes on! There are plenty of unconventional ways for them to learn what they need to learn. I do believe more traditional ways are the best way to learn (I say that because I’m a 90’s brat).

Ultimately, continue to treat them as students! Create a school-like setting for them at home; and make physical activity/education a priority. Take them for a hike. Teach them to swim. Go bike riding. Go fishing. Teach them a new sport. Get active!

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Ted’s Answer

I don't know the age of your students/kids, but in general, this is a time where hands-on, real-world skills are easier to develop than book skills for many kids (and adults). Quarantine has forced all of us to rethink how we meet our basic needs for food, exercise, entertainment, human connection, and more. You may want to encourage students to start a self-directed project at home, like planting a garden, cooking healthy meals, developing a personal workout plan, doing independent reading, writing letters to their elected officials, working their way through an online coding course or learning a new piece of software -- anything they can do on their own time that has intrinsic benefit to their day-to-day life would be valuable.

What kind of accountability do you have as a teacher? Are you responsible for making sure they meet certain learning standards? You probably want to ensure a certain level of rigor to the activities so they (and you) can demonstrate that they're really **learning something**.

When I was a digital arts teacher, I had each student start up their own blog on Wordpress.com or Blogger.com and post all their completed assignments to their blog. (Nowadays you might do this to a class chat, discussion board, or LMS space if you have one). They would have periodic assignments to make art, but then we'd also assign reflective writing where they talk about their creative process, describe the research they did, and envision next steps. This works great when you have all the students "doing their own thing" creatively, because even though one kid might be planting a garden and the next is learning to make hip hop beats on their computer, they can both practice metacognition about their learning. They can both take photos and learn to document the process so they can "teach" others how to develop that skill.

Another great activity is to engage students in a "two way journal" - basically a private letter back and forth between you and them. I saw this used in second-language development courses where students are just learning the basic mechanics of English and need practice and confidence to write. This can be a good way to support students mental/emotional health during this time, keep them writing, reading, thinking, and staying positive. Ideally the kids write a paragraph or two per journal entry and the teacher writes back a few sentences acknowledging their ideas, asking probing questions, and giving suggestions for future learning/reading/writing.

If you're working in an after school program, it's great that you want to keep it educational but don't forget that the families will be happy just to have their kids be safe, engaged, and occupied so the parents can get work and chores done! This is a tough time for everyone, and the most relevant learning comes when we develop new skills to help us navigate this weird chapter in history!

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Sarah’s Answer

Think about what things your child/children are interested in. Do they like to paint, sketch, fingerpaint, coloring books, soduko, word scrambles, crossword puzzles, board games, dancing, gymnastics, outdoor chalk, Play-Doh, clay, dress up, make a tent under a table, be somebody else like a pirate or princess, basketball, football, soccer, baseball, watching learning shows, computers... programming, hacking, tv both for educational programs and entertainment only programs, helping others, cooking, cars, STEM projects, reading, reading followed up with questions about the books, sign language, a foreign language, scientific experiments, geography, history, health, the body/amatomy and medicine, learning how to wash dishes, dust, vacuum, clean a room, take out the garbage, clean a car inside and out, mow and edge the lawn, plant a vegetable or flower garden, learn how to weed; this list is just a start to discovering what your child might find interesting. Make your own list for each child suited for their likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Each day:
1. Pick one educational learning experience (i.e. start teaching multiplication, start learning about world war 2),
2. one life lesson (i.e. pick a chore like trash/teach to cook noodles),
3. and do at least one fun experience every day (i.e. fingerpainting or make a tent under the kitchen table.
Keep to a schedule as best as you can by getting up at the same time each morning and going to bed at the same time each night. Set a time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Stay flexible though...children need their time to be roughly the same daily as a guideline, but there should be flexibliity, like if the child really is enjoying making a painting, just let him continue for as long as you can before moving onto the next experience. Take your cue from your child in most circumstances. You'll be surprised at how fast the day can go if you do these things, and how much your child enjoys their day, and especially how much they're learning. All of these things can be manipulated for online learning.

Great ideas! Tea, How will you be communicating with these children in your program once it switches over to online? As well as the brainstorm of ideas Sarah presents, the idea of structure is important. Is there a certain time each day when your ideas could be accessed by the children? And is there a certain time each day when the children could interact with you via internet? Jane Hernandez

Once you move on to online learning, you need to set up a bit more structure. Follow the online curriculum and let your children know they have a schedule to follow just like traditional school. Each of the online teachers will have their own way of teaching and what they expect for homework. I use online school the same as traditional school and at the end of the work day I let them have 30 minutes to get a snack and relax then have them start on homework. Also during the workday I offer simple snacks like cheese sticks or fruit slices. It helps keep them focused when they're not hungry. Keep in touch with the teachers at the end of the day. Ask them any questions at this time and then check for their answers before you start with your children in the morning. Online is awesome. Sarah White

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Hoang’s Answer


Thanks for asking a relevant conversation-starter.

I found that effective virtual learning are often highly interactive and dynamic. For example, some virtual activities, such as breakout rooms, Kahoot, surveys, educational games, and fun trivia can increase participation.

Virtual format makes it easier for participants to disengage, so including interesting, funny memes, gifs might be helpful

Hope that helps.

Hoang recommends the following next steps:

Virtual Trivias
Interactive materials