With COVID-19 spreading around the world, it’s important to do what we can to keep each other safe and healthy. But it is also important to stay hopeful and keep moving forward. Even though schools are closed, learning doesn’t have to stop. In fact, it's important that it doesn’t.
Although this situation is unfamiliar, we do know that when school is out during the summer, students show the biggest slide in reading and math. For struggling readers, this slide is even bigger. With the uncertainty mounting, it is important to have a plan in place to prevent these learning slides during school closures.
As you work to put together a plan for your students, here are some ideas to keep in mind.
Help students create a reading list that matches their interests and their reading level
Reading improvement comes when students read material that is just above their current reading level (and aligned with their individual interests).
To help students find books at their reading level, do the following:
Use a reading program or test that measures each student’s Lexile® measure, and then have them search for books at that level on the Lexile website.
If your school doesn’t have an online program or test for measuring a student’s Lexile measure, you can pass on the five-finger rule to parents and guardians. They should have their child read 100 words from a book and raise a finger for every word they don’t know. If they raise five fingers, the book is probably too hard. If they find one that is right for their level, you can find the book’s Lexile measure and have them use that score on the Lexile website to find books that interest them.
Parents can use their child’s Lexile measure to help their child create a reading list. They should have their child pick a few books that match their Lexile level and their interests and a few books that are a little above their Lexile measure.
For Reading Horizons Customers
Have parents instruct their child to use the Reading Horizons Discovery® Reading Assessment (grades K-3) or the Reading Horizons Elevate® Reading Library Assessment (grades 4+) on the respective software programs to determine each student’s Lexile® measure. Once students receive a measure, have them enter the score on the Lexile book finder to find books to read during school closures and quarantine.
Create Virtual Book Clubs
Just because students can’t socialize at school, social ties can still be used to motivate students. As referenced in the book Contagious by Jonah Berger, researcher Koreen Johannessen, a clinical social worker at the University of Arizona, found that the best way to create social change was to make the desired change observable to the public. Social proof creates social change.
In an online forum or virtual classroom, you could have a few of your students present books that they have read or are interested in reading to the rest of your class, take a class poll on book options, or choose three popular books you think a lot of students would be interested in and do a virtual book preview. After the books have been presented, have students volunteer to create virtual book clubs around different books that they’re interested in. Encourage older students to create Facebook groups, Google Hangouts, or use Marco Polo or What’s App to discuss the books they read.
Have students share their favorite boredom-busting activities
With schools and most social gatherings and outings being canceled or closed, students are bound to get bored. Again, in an online forum for your class, you could share and have students share what they are doing to mitigate their boredom. Pinterest could be a great resource for providing your students with ideas for art projects, DIY projects, and recipes to try out.
Here’s a list of ideas you can pass on to parents:
- Practice a musical instrument
- Play with a pet
- Read a book
- Play a card or board game with a parent/guardian or sibling
- Draw a picture
- Write in a journal
- Bake a treat
- Go for a walk or hike
- Do a jigsaw puzzle
- Do a word search or Sudoku puzzle
- Knit a scarf
- Cross-stitch a picture
- Build a fort
- Sew a clothing item or blanket
- Make jewelry
- Watch an instructional video to learn to paint or cook something new
- Paint your nails
- Ride your bike
Find more ideas here.
Have students create virtual learning groups around their interests
Teaching away from the classroom may feel more constricted, but there are a lot of tools that can be used to teach students math, history, civics, science, etc. There are so many free resources and ways to connect that students can easily find a way to discuss, share, and engage in their interests.
Khan Academy is a completely free resource that has hundreds of courses covering a broad array of academic topics ready to go.
General Courses (a great way for students to keep learning math skills)
For students who love history or politics: Presidential Podcast
For students who like to question the facts: Revisionist History
Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+
Most students are bound to spend time watching TV during this time; however, by utilizing the apps mentioned above, you could encourage students to create virtual discussion groups or write short reflection essays about documentaries and other educational content found on most streaming services.
Duolingo Language Learning App
The Duolingo App is a great free option for students to practice a foreign language at home. Students can choose from a wide variety of languages, and the daily reminders and leaderboard are effective at keeping students engaged and motivated.
Keep your students writing
Encourage the creatives in your class to rewrite the ending of one of their favorite books or movies (if they don’t like that idea, they could also do an internet search for hundreds of creative writing prompts).
For students over 13, they can join Camp NanoWrimo to help them set goals and join an online community of writers.
Keep Stress Levels at Bay
At this time, many people are stressed—students included. Stress not only makes it difficult to learn or to focus but when constant, it can be unbearable and affect your health. Whether you or your students need some relief, here are a few ideas you can pass on to your students' parents/guardians.
Depending on where your students live, taking a walk outside or going for a hike may be a great option to relieve stress and get some energy out, in areas where this is not an option, there are thousands of exercise videos online. Yoga, Zumba, martial arts, etc.
2. Reverse nostril breathing
Reverse nostril breathing is a practice that will either get your students laughing (good for relaxation) or feeling relaxed and refreshed. Before starting, they should use tissues to clear their noses and also use some soap or hand sanitizer to clean their hands. Students should start by closing their eyes. Using their thumb or pointer finger, they’ll press one side of their nose closed (press on the side of the nose, not the nostril) and breathe in through the nostril that is still open. Students will then breathe out through the same nostril that’s open before switching their hand to block the nostril they just breathed out of. They will then repeat on the other side. Do each side 10 times. Here’s a video if these directions are confusing.
3. Unplug from social media and news
It's good to know what is going on, but it can also raise stress levels. No one should completely avoid the news, but, if stress is getting high, it would be wise for a student, parent, or teacher to take a break for a day from the news and cell phones.
Encourage parents to download a free trial of the HeadSpace App, turn out the lights, have their child close his/her eyes, and complete a 3-, 5-, or 10-minute meditation session.
5. Journal Writing
Writing in a journal can be a great way for students to release their stress. You should encourage students to honestly write about what they are feeling, but, also to write about what is still good in their lives and what they are grateful for to boost their moods. It may be interesting and helpful for students to share some of their thoughts with each other to share coping strategies and to gain perspective from their peers.
6. Laugh for the sake of laughing
In Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, he discusses different ways creative people open their minds. My favorite: laughing clubs! Encourage parents to take 2–3 minutes and have their kids laugh for the sake of laughing. Stand in a circle, set a timer, and have everyone start fake laughing until it becomes real. People can act silly if they want, but for me, simply fake laughing for a second quickly turns into real laughter.
Online PD for Educators
On top of the above activities, as an educator, you can complete a lot of free PD while at home during this time. Here are a few free resources that Reading Horizons offers to educators.
Podclassed—a podcast about hot topics in literacy and education
Webcasts—recordings of expert presentations about reading instruction (educators can download a certificate of attendance after viewing each presentation)
Reading List—books about teaching reading