Sunday, February 2, 2014

Online Calamity Lesson Plan Advice

It's been an extremely cold winter here in Central Ohio and more snow than usual.  I live in a school district that covers a lot of land mass, once a farming community turned suburban with farms scattered throughout.  Our county and townships do not have enough man power or vehicles to get the roads cleared sometimes.  We have had 6 snow days, one too many.  

A few years back the state of Ohio came up with an idea to help districts out if they  missed more than the allotted five calamity days.  The idea was to post lessons online for families to do.  What a great idea everyone thought!  Who really wants to take a day or more away from spring break or extend the school year?  We were asked to post lessons online for the students to complete.  This was awkward at the time.  How would we know where our teaching would be?  How could we make these assignments meaningful?  How could we guarantee they would have materials at home needed to complete the assignments?  How could we guarantee the student would do the work and it wouldn't become a family event?  We all followed directions and posted assignments.

And this brings us to today.  This message is posted on our district's website for families.

"State law permits districts to use five calamity days per school year before requiring any missed day(s) to be made up. Wednesday’s closure makes for Day 6. Rather than readjust the school calendar for spring recess or add days to the end of the school year, we’re providing online assignments to serve as make-up for the loss of instructional time."

Let me share with you how this played out in reality.  The district worked really hard to post calamity day assignments.  Not all assignments were viewable and it appeared the site crashed with so many people using it or things not being loaded correctly.  Parents are being asked to print at home work sheets and articles.  As a parent for one student I had to print 11 sheets of paper.  Assumptions are made homes have computers and printers.  This does not include my two older students who are in charge of their own calamity day work.  My one daughter said 3 subjects are not view-able still and it's been 5 days since they were posted.  The Governor of Ohio is asking and it looks like extending calamity days by adding 3 more days.  My district put out a statement these assignments are still required and are being taken for a grade.  My three daughters returned to school.  They were welcomed back with nightly homework and reminders about the full day of learning they are now to make up.  The two older daughters are very smart and have identified their calamity day assignments as out of context and busy work. Sometimes it's really hard to be a parent and have your profession be education.  

I want to share some advice with my readers in case you too extend your calamity day allowance, since many of us are having a harsher winter than usual.

1. If you have previously created calamity day assignments go back and update them.
2.  If you teach one subject area remember you are one of several teachers for that student.
3.  Remember, anything they produce or fill out for you is going to need to be graded by you.
4.  If you must have them print something try to make it in black and white or tell them to print it in black and white.  Color printing is more expensive.
4. The assignments don't have to equal the amount of time the student spends with you.
5.  Make the assignment engaging.
6. Since the work is to be done at home, foster conversations between the student and parents.
7.  Create a simple check off sheet for parents to return.

Here is my calamity day 6, revision.  I hope you might find it helpful and I hope you don't have to create online assignments also known as blizzard bags of work.  Our students will be fine.  I'm hoping all of this just takes an hour.

Replay a Family Math Game
Practice counting to 100.

Read a picture book you have at home and identify the characters.
Spend 15 minutes on Raz Kids (each child has a subscription)

Practice spelling your word wall words.
Word Study
Practice reading your word wall words.
    Look for things in your home you could describe as smooth or rough.  Make     a collection of things and share with your parents.

Social Studies
-       Discuss your responsibilities at home with your family.

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