Several weeks into sheltering in place, we ran a study group for teachers around how we can help parents and caregivers during this challenging time. I was blown away by how many people attended! The principal, coaches, and teachers from many different grade levels joined us. It made me realize the importance of this subject and how I can offer some helpful advice to make it all feel a little easier.
- Setting and Working With Schedules
Some caregivers attempted to recreate the school day structure at home and quickly discovered this didn’t work. When working with a schedule, we suggest keeping it as loose as possible and allowing plenty of flexibility.
Helping Parents Create Schedules With/For Their Kids:
- Give time frames and then let kids arrange them how they like (provided they have access to the devices they need at those times). Yes, this may be a time where kids are using screens more than usual. This is okay, especially if they’re completing their school work.
- If they’re home with their kids and working or taking care of the house, they can set kids up with an independent learning or play activity while the parent or caregiver is busy.
- Set up reasonable bedtimes and waking times to ensure plenty of rest.
- Encourage kids to help with household chores. This will help them learn responsibility, and they may even discover new talents. As an example, my 12-year-old niece has been making dinner for her family, and asked if she could be responsible for dinner all week because she enjoys cooking so much!
- Try to incorporate some movement during the day, even if just 5-10 minutes. Here are some easy at-home exercise ideas.
- General Communication
You’re probably already checking in to make sure kids are doing well. Many teachers tell me there are still students they’re trying to track down.
- Try a weekly newsletter/email/video meeting, perhaps the same day and time each week so parents can plan accordingly. It could be a letter, audio, or video message from you. Aim to keep it short and to the point, even if it’s simply one tip of the week.
- Ask parents and caregivers for feedback. Find out how it’s going for them, what’s going well, what’s not, and how you can help.
- Supporting Their Kids With Reading and Writing
- First, think about what you’ve communicated so far, and how. Did you talk to parents at the open house about how important choice, independence, and complimenting their kids on their reading and writing are?
- Are parents familiar with the reading and writing workshop approach? Have you explained the main tenets of it? The core principles being choice, independence, feedback, and process over product.
- To further communicate the tenets of the workshop approach choose a medium— newsletter, video, or audio, and then share up to three or so simple tips to help their child with reading and writing at home.
- Dealing With Reluctance
When kids don’t want to write:
- First, empathize with them, so they feel heard and understood.
- Next, set a reasonable goal and work towards it with predictability each day.
- Think about what time of day they’re trying to write and make it predictable.
- Then ask yourself, “Have I given them enough choice?”
- Sometimes we’re limiting the choices which can be helpful, but it might narrow it down so much for a kid that they don’t have enough choice.
- Allow them to write any familiar genres.
- Give them strategies to come up with topics — caregivers shouldn’t be choosing for them.
- Ask kids what kinds of books they want to make, and get curious about who they can have read them.
When they’re having trouble with spelling:
- Watch this video on the TCRWP YouTube channel — share this video, this video, or make something similar.
- Give a mini-lesson reminding kids of these spelling strategies or pull these from the phonics units if available.
- Make sure emerging writers have these important charts like the ABC chart to help them stretch out words and look for letter sounds.
When they need reading support:
- Help kids get the right books online. Use their reading level, and/or create a series collection on Epic or a similar website.
- For nonfiction texts, you can also turn on the “read to me” function if a book is hard to read.
- Teachers can create virtual book bins, and then kids can go in and indicate the ones they want to read that week.
- Helping Kids Who Are Feeling Sad or Confused.
- Stories can be healing, so suggest some healing stories to read or listen to.
- If kids feel uncomfortable during video calls, make sure kids and families know they can turn the video off.
- Resources for parents and caregivers
- Books and resources for kids:
This is a period of incredible adjustment. Remind caregivers not to worry about spelling and if some schoolwork is incomplete — lots of grace and patience! Now, more than ever, everyone needs more honesty and vulnerability.
We’re here to support you in this. If you need additional support or have questions, get in touch with us.
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