This has been the worst winter since I moved to Atlanta eight years ago. We have six-week terms, and during these last six weeks, we lost two days to extremely cold temperatures (by Southern standards), three additional days because of the "snowpocalypse" that buried Atlanta, and now I'm home again due to Winter Storm "Pax" that will likely shut us down the rest of the week. That's nearly one-third of our term lost!
Adding to my dilemma, our calendar builds in week-long breaks at the end of each six week term. So we won't be back in school next week either. It's a serious wrinkle in my plans.
I talked to my fourth graders about this yesterday, and we worked out a plan so they could continue to work from home during these inclement weather days. It's a really rainy, dreary day anyway (we're at the "wintry mix" stage of the storm), so it's not like they'd be outside sledding today. I also suspect that many parents are welcoming the activities at this stage of the winter!
Here are my suggestions for telecommuting with your class during winter weather.
Building a Virtual Classroom
1. Choose a mix of activities that can be shared with parents. I knew early last night that we'd be off today, so I found some activities that aligned with what we're studying right now. While many of the activities require computer access, I purposefully included some that do not. For example, we're building weather instruments out of household items, writing stories, continuing our reading, etc. But we're also using some online resources.
2. Take advantage of online instructional videos. Two of my favorite free resources are LearnZillion and Khan Academy. I selected videos that align with the math and ELA content we're working on now.
3. Stay accessible through your Learning Management System. We use Edmodo in our class, and it's a great tool for turning in assignments and having class discussions. I'm checking in throughout the day to answer students' questions and participate in the discussion questions I set up there earlier.
4. Take advantage of the resources students have at home. I teach in a 1:1 iPad classroom, so we're constantly on iPads. There are lots of flash-based games that we can't run on our iPads, however. I'm fortunate that all of my students have computers at home, so I'm incorporating more of those activities for students to complete. I'm also choosing some really fun and engaging simulation games that we just don't ever get to in class. Two examples:
Law Craft - For the record, all of the games at iCivics.org are worth checking out. In this particular one, students work to craft a law and take it through the legislative process. They have to build support by making concessions, work out the details through committees, and ultimately get the president to sign it. It teaches a lot about how a bill becomes a law.
5. Be flexible - I can't really help students troubleshoot tech issues on their home computers, and I can't make them do the activities at home. I'm not making any of the activities mandatory, but they're still available. I'm hoping that with the good mix of opportunities, parents and students will take advantage of the resources I'm offering. But I won't punish a student who doesn't. If even a few kids do the activities, it's better than writing off the weather days as a complete loss.
Preparation is Key
It would be impossible to implement this plan with fourth graders if a lot of our technology norms and routines hadn't already been established. My students are familiar with my class website, Edmodo, and my expectations. Integrating technology in the classroom makes the transition to our virtual classroom seamless.
How do you handle inclement weather days with your class? Do you have any plans resources to keep students engaged while they're away from the classroom? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments!
On an unrelated note, I have been MIA from the blogging world since October. As I've mentioned before, I've started working on a PhD in addition to teaching full-time and managing my toddler, so I've been insanely busy! I have an amazing student teacher this semester, however, so I'm starting to delegate more. I'm hopeful that will free up a little more time and energy so I can get back to blogging and reading all the stuff I've missed. Perhaps these weather days will also assist with that!