Making the Most of Unexpected School Closures
Occasionally, circumstances that are out of everyone's control can prevent educators and students from attending school in-person. School closures due to community emergencies, inclement weather, and other unexpected events can’t be helped, but they can quickly put students behind.
However, with a little planning and the help of technology, school closure days don’t need to put learning on pause for students. Here are some multidisciplinary rules of thumb to ensure that learning continues on school closure days.
Educator Tips for Elementary School Closures
1. Communicate Remote Learning Expectations with Caregivers Ahead of Time
Younger kids need more support from the adults looking after them when school closes during a community emergency. Parents and guardians are almost always happy to do whatever they can to help with their child’s learning, but sometimes they don’t know exactly what that support should look like—so be sure to communicate expectations ahead of time.
As soon as possible, take an opportunity to explain to parents that you will be providing their children with ways to stay sharp during upcoming school closures and offer some tips on how they can assist in those efforts. With parents and other caretakers on board, you’re sure to see more of your students stay on track during their unscheduled holiday.
2. Keep a Bank of Non-Topical Emergency Activities
School closures can often be unexpected, and leave you little time to assign topic-relevant work that aligns with what is going on in class. Overcome this challenge by thinking about school closure days like sick days, and try reserving some of the activities you would keep in your emergency substitute plans for an emergency school closure instead.
These activities shouldn’t require any specific materials (think along the lines of worksheets, writing prompts, reading assignments, etc.). If you have some prior notice of your school's closure plans, let students help you brainstorm some ideas to generate buy-in, then share the list with parents along with any other planned school closure take-home resources.
3. Align Activities to Things Students Will Already Be Doing
Think about how your students will be spending their time during a school closure day and what their minds will be occupied with. Will they be watching movies or reading? Have them review basic concepts like main idea or character traits while they consume content. What about looking for offline games to play? If you play games with them in class, simply ask them to share those games while at home.
If getting out of the house is an option, outdoor pursuits are a great way to get students thinking about their environment and nature.
4. Keep It Light
Let’s face it—one of the joys of childhood is unexpected days off from school. So, asking your young students to stay as diligent in their work during school closures as they would be with their regular schoolwork may be a bit unfair.
Be realistic, keep everything in perspective, and stay on the lookout for activities that could double as play. Depending on the situation, anything outside is better than indoors and, unless your district has specific rules about what should go on during an emergency school closure, aim for activities that take roughly half the time you require for your regular homework.
Educator Tips for Secondary School Closures
School closures can quickly put middle and high school students behind, as they are working through a rigorous and tightly scheduled curriculum.
1. Implement Remote Learning Days While Students Are Out of the Physical Classroom
Schools across the United States can also take advantage of remote learning days during planned occasions like professional development days and parent conferences to continue instruction outside of the traditional school environment.
If you choose to implement remote learning days, your digital program provider should help facilitate immediate communication via features like in-program messaging for students and immediate notifications and data access for teachers. Teachers should also establish and communicate time periods when they will be directly reachable by students and parents/families to facilitate and support instruction.
2. Develop A Student Attendance Protocol for E-Learning Days
Do you expect everyone to be working online by a certain time so you can check your usage reports as a form of “taking role”? Are students intended to respond to a question via your social media page as a “smart start” activity and participation within a given time frame tells the teacher that the student is engaged? Whatever you choose, consider how technology can help support this practice.
3. Give Assignments in Chunks
Many teachers like to assign bundles of homework to be done over a certain time period, usually a week. If you are anticipating an upcoming school closure, consider adopting this approach.
Should students get stuck at home for a few days, they will still have the materials they need to keep their minds active and stay on track with the curriculum.
4. Preview Classwork to Keep Students Prepared
If you have some advance warning of your school's closure plans, spend a few minutes while you’re still in the classroom with students outlining what you would like them to be thinking about and investigating while they are gone.
Even the simple act of jotting down some pre-thoughts is a valuable use of time. Of course, if they do have access to the Internet, some deeper research tasks can be in order as well. All of this lays the foundation for students to hit the ground running when they are able to return to school.
Looking for online tools that can help you and your students overcome the challenge of school closure days? Check out Edmentum Courseware and Study Island for robust, state-standards-aligned curriculum and practice across core and elective subjects that students can work through at their own pace, anytime and anywhere.