By Teachers, For Teachers
It is certainly no secret that distance learning presents many challenges to teachers, students, and their families. We are living through a time that would have been unimaginable just a few months ago, but here we all are, adapting to it, making it work, and some even thriving. In my personal experience during the past two months of “distance teaching”, the majority of my students have enjoyed the project-based learning assignments most. Home learning projects for students which include parent participation can be a great way to create a fun learning environment during a time where students are really missing school.
Who says learning can’t be fun at home? You can create a nature scavenger hunt where families go out into nature to find various items. Creating a Google Slideshow and assigning it to the students through Google Classroom is a simple way to have students organize photos from the scavenger hunt.
This is an activity that can be used at multiple grade levels from elementary through high school. An elementary assignment would be much simpler as you can put items such as a tree or a bird, with extension questions in the Slideshow that would build upon knowledge such as, “What gas do trees release into our environment?” On a high school level, you could put more specific items on the scavenger hunt such as an oak tree and a woodpecker and create more complex extension questions. This assignment encourages being outdoors, and it is something the whole family can enjoy together.
STEM projects to do at home are also a great option and can also be used for any grade level. One example of a STEM project that includes the whole family is creating Origami Projects. The STEM teacher at my school created a Google Slideshow with origami projects to choose from along with instructional videos on how to create each one. These projects varied in complexity with classic projects such as a crane to a complex Ninja Star. Families could create these fun projects to do at home together and even make it a competition such as “Whose barking dog was the best?” Extension questions on the project can be geared toward the grade level or level of the students, and a Flipgrid video is a fun way to include the family and share with classmates how all the projects turned out.
A way to include the family in an ELA activity would be to bring a story to life. Encourage students to take an assigned reading and create a play with the family. Have family members go through closets and dress the part as best they can and then perform the reading as a family. As Flipgrid has become a best friend of many teachers during distance learning, have the students record a small portion of the performance to share with classmates and teachers. This activity can be extended as students can do this for any book they wish to, and you can find scripts online to perform. This activity is probably best for elementary and middle school students but could also be used by drama departments to continue performances virtually.
A project that could be used for any subject area would be to have the family create a song! Students could choose any topic they wish such as the rainforests in Brazil to fractions in math! There are so many different types of learners this activity would reach. Students and their families create a song to teach about a particular topic. Creativity is encouraged, and some ideas are creating backgrounds, creating a dance to go along with the lyrics, use props in your performance, etc. This assignment is cross-curricular and includes many of the arts!
Another activity you could have students participate in is to be a teacher for the day! Challenge students to teach their families about a concept that they have learned throughout distance learning. Students can create a Flipgrid and show parts of their lesson, as well as discuss their feelings on the assignment and successes and challenges they had throughout.
An assignment that supports social-emotional learning and can be just for fun and optional is a “See a Dance, Share a Dance” series! I use this with my class, and create a dance video of the day on Flipgrid, and students and their families create their own. There are different themes such as “Throwback Thursday” where you can use a dance like the Macarena and “TikTok” where students perform their favorite (school appropriate) TikTok dance! This has brought a lot of fun and smiles to our online classroom.
Keeping families included in the online learning process really brings school, families, and community together, and an education project is a great way to do that. Making everyone feel supported through this experience is of utmost importance, and families, whether they have young kids or older kids, love to feel involved. As a teacher, it is difficult to recreate the wheel and find assignments that are meaningful and valuable to student learning, yet able to be completed at home. As Albert Einstein said, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Teachers are teaching in new ways, students are learning in new ways, and we are all evolving in our thoughts. We are all lifelong learners, and it is showing more and more through this elearning experience.
Jessica is a 5th grade teacher and holds an M.A. in Administration and Leadership from Georgian Court University, NJ.