The Juggling Act: Executive Functioning Help

One of the more common stressors that parents and students are experiencing with the new distance learning initiatives involves organization. Since students are no longer getting daily, face-to-face instruction, and academic and behavioral supports are likely inconsistent, many executive functioning skills that students would typically acquire and practice in school have been left by the wayside. To add insult to injury, at-home learning, as we’ve begun to realize, requires a great deal of time management, organization, flexibility, task initiation, prioritizing, and self-monitoring on behalf of the student. It is as though we have suddenly removed the training wheels and encouraged students to try mountain biking!

With rotating schedules, office hours, Zoom meetings, email check-ins, daily assignments, and weekly tasks for each subject area, not to mention that these are posted to various online platforms, it is no wonder that parents and students are feeling the stress of juggling so many components. There are strategies, however, that parents and children can begin to employ to help ease the stress and flex their executive functioning muscles!

 

  • Write out a clear, color-coded weekly schedule and post it where all members of the household can view it. Below is a sample for what an elementary or middle school weekly schedule might look like:

 

Monday/Wed AM
  • Review all course announcements, posts, updates (15 mins)
  • Write due dates for each subject area in agenda book (10 mins)
  • Daily reading assignment (20 mins)
PM
  • Zoom/office hours for English & Math (50 mins)
  • Independent work time (60 mins)
  • Review HW and email questions to yourself to ask during next office hours (30 mins)
Tuesday/Thurs AM
  • Check email (10 mins)
  • Daily reading assignment (20 mins)
  • Independent work time (60 mins; use agenda to prioritize)
PM
  • Zoom/office hours for Science & History (50 mins)
  • Check agenda for upcoming HW/tasks (10 mins)
  • Independent work time (30 mins)
  • Art, music, language, leisure activity (30 mins)

 

Friday AM
  • Review completed work; submit anything due (15 mins)
  • Daily reading assignment (20 mins)
  • Check email (10 mins)
PM
  • Zoom with study buddy (30 mins)
  • Independent work time (60 mins)
  • Organize materials for next week (20 mins)

 

  • To help with the initial creation of the schedule, parents should reach out to teachers about the approximate time that their child should be working on the course content per day. Of course, this will vary from time to time; however, the key to building a routine is to set the expectations and stick to them. This includes expected timelines for working during the day.
  • If parents believe that their child is spending too much time in front of a screen or is struggling to complete work in a reasonable amount of time, they should reach out to the content teacher.
  • Another important detail that parents and students will find helpful is to jot down where each course will be posting their updates and materials. Since some teachers are using Canvas or MyMCPS, while others are using Google Classroom or Padlet, simply finding the work can become a task in itself. To stay sane, keep a running post-it note inside the child’s agenda book or on the back of the weekly schedule. On the post-it should be each teacher’s name, course, preferred platform for instruction, and email address.
  • In addition to the post-it cheat sheet for finding materials, parents can help ease transition times between activities by bookmarking crucial websites with their kids.
  • To help with time management and prioritizing work, at the start of each week parents should encourage children to consider which tasks will be most difficult and/or time consuming. This allows students to begin to see how prior planning can help alleviate unnecessary stress from procrastination or task-avoidance.
  • By writing tasks and due dates in an agenda book, students are enacting executive functioning skills on several different levels. First, the act of writing out each assignment helps to solidify the information into one’s working memory. Secondly, the visual schedule of due dates helps students anticipate priorities and plan appropriately. Finally, when finished with a task, students should check off or cross out the completed assignment. This becomes a satisfying method for self-monitoring one’s progress throughout the week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motivation During Distance Learning

Staying motivated during distance learning is no small feat. At this point, students all over the country are tasked with adapting to a new normal when it comes to their education. Gone are the days when students have the constant support and guidance of their teachers—for now, at least. The face-to-face instruction has dwindled, as has feedback in real time and the opportunities to collaborate with peers in the classroom setting to which students have grown accustomed. To throw an even bigger wrench into the mix, many schools are utilizing a pass/fail grading policy for the remainder of the school year. Some students, primarily those in elementary school, are not receiving any grades for the work that they complete during the fourth quarter.

 

For many students, grades are the reason that they show up to learn; grades reflect their abilities, knowledge, skills, and academic development. Without the specific evaluative piece, what is the motivation for putting forth their best effort? How can students be motivated when there is no distinction between an A and a C? If there is no difference between earning 100% and 70%, who is going to strive for excellence?

 

But fear not, we’ve got some ideas to establish motivation during these most unmotivating times!

 

  • One way to motivate students without using percentages, grade point averages, and grading scales is to change the goal of classroom teaching and learning. Instead of placing emphasis on scores and mastery of a skill, teachers can shift the narrative to encourage students to focus on exploration, curiosity, creativity, and ingenuity. If we educators design virtual learning activities that promote open-ended conversations, creative problem-solving, and tasks that translate academic skills into real-world applications, students begin to see the value in what they’re learning, not just the score that they receive at the end of the unit. Essentially, we have to provide student choice so that kids engage in the learning for the sake of learning, as opposed to the eventual grade. When the grade is removed as the “end goal,” students begin to see themselves as continuous learners. They begin to recognize what truly interests them and how they best approach problems and utilize certain skills. Gradeless learning means that students can focus more on how they learn.
  • With pass/fail grading, teachers and parents should solidify the message to students that, instead of focusing on grades and accumulating points, this time will be spent providing specific feedback and assisting students with clarifications and revisions, whether that be in algebra, history, English, etc. Since teachers now have a simpler means of grading, they can spend more time helping students to analyze and improve upon their errors or missteps. Feedback-focused scoring provides the best guidance for students to improve and removes the stress of the grade by placing the emphasis on improvement and growth, thus increasing the motivation to do better next time.
  • Show students how, by removing specific grades, they become more active learners. Their role becomes much more present and less passive because they are no longer just the recipient of the grade. By adopting this mindset, students become intrinsically motivated, as opposed to being motivated by the extrinsic focus placed on the grade.
  • Motivate students by comparing the brain to a muscle. Muscles are only strengthened by exercising them. Similarly, the brain needs to be challenged regularly to ensure that neural pathways are created and strengthened. Think of learning as a workout so that students see how skipping the “gym” only sets them back further in their learning.
  • Parents can help to challenge kids by asking them to assign their own quantitative score once their teacher has determined if they’ve passed or failed a certain task. Using a teacher-derived rubric, students can take the role of assessing their own work based on the specific criteria laid out. Grading their own work provides them the opportunity to take an objective look at what they have submitted—again, this is about growth and improvement for next time.

Following Directions

Since distance learning and online instruction has rapidly become the new normal for students all over the map, navigating this new forum has presented both teachers and students with learning curves. Through just the first few weeks of digital/virtual instruction, I personally have recognized an increased need for concise, explicit, and thorough directions on assignments. What I initially thought were clear instructions have often been met with various questions.

 

It sounds obvious—of course students need to be provided with specific directions on any given task. However, we teachers have been relying on face-to-face explanations, visual models and examples, and chunked verbal guidance without ever realizing what it would be like to take all of those supports away. Well, now we know. Even with video platforms like Zoom, Screencastify, etc., the ability to fully instruct, explain, and clarify is somewhat muddled. As beneficial as these tools can be for distance learning, these platforms simply do not provide the same level of guidance that face-to-face classroom instruction provides.

 

Now that teachers have begun to anticipate the various (numerous!) questions that students pose while distance learning ramps up, we can certainly recognize the importance of modifying our way of providing written directions.

 

  • For tasks that are going to require multiple steps, teachers need to present students with each individual step separately. This also means that each step will likely require its own set of directions. For example, an English teacher chunking a five-paragraph essay for students should provide specific instructions and requirements for each paragraph, separately.
  • This could mean creating a unit checklist; drafting a week-by-week calendar with steps labeled for certain days; or creating a sample of each separate paragraph with each sentence highlighted to demonstrate key components.
  • Introducing an assignment in steps also allows students to ask more specific questions when necessary. Instead of receiving a bunch of emails saying, “I’m confused about the essay,” students can specify exactly which step they need clarification on.
  • This level of micromanaging an assignment might seem excessive, especially for older students. However, providing step-by-step instructions while chunking a multi-step task will be crucial for student success during distance learning. This is especially true for students with different learning needs or executive functioning deficits.
  • It would also be helpful for teachers to include suggested time management tips for assignments as well. A top complaint that parents are voicing is the amount of time their children are spending trying to decipher their assignments.
  • Teachers should consider including the amount of time that each task should take in the instructions. That way, students who may plan on taking an hour to complete a 20-minute assignment can adjust their workload appropriately.
  • Use specific language in the directions that you would like students to use in their assignment. For instance, directions for analyzing a videotaped science lab should include content-specific language that students need to know as part of the unit. For example, teachers should bold or italicize the terms hypothesis or variable so that students key in on important aspects of the task.
  • Add specificity to your standard rubrics. What teachers thought was a clear rubric is likely lacking since we are unable to verbally explain grading as we typically would in class. If the history essay rubric requires “mastery in voice and structure,” teachers should clarify what that should look like.
  • For instance, the rubric might need to include guiding questions for each category. Do you maintain present tense throughout? Do you introduce your body paragraphs with sound claim statements? Do you utilize unit vocabulary throughout?
  • This level of specified directions may seem tedious at first, compared to our normal way of orally explaining tasks in the classroom. However, front loading assignments with ultra-clear directives will allow your students to not only comprehend the task, but also regain a sense of confidence in this new method of teaching and learning.

Making Remote Education Work for Students with Special Education Needs

It is increasingly remarkable to think that just a few weeks ago, students and teachers were still in class, working towards end-of-quarter goals. So much has changed as Covid-19 has spread across the nation, shuttering schools indefinitely and leading students, parents, teachers and administrators to ask: What do we do now?

 

Learning never stops—it just changes course.

Many students were sent home with assignments to complete and deadlines to meet. Others are accessing online materials and connecting remotely with instructors. In some places, students are even taking a short break from the standard curriculum to explore educational videos, podcasts, interactive games and virtual museum tours.

 

The remote education opportunities are seemingly endless—that is, until special learning needs are added to the mix. Then navigating this “new normal” can seem downright impossible.

Although federal law mandates that school systems provide equal access to education for students with learning disabilities, no one seems to know what that means in our current situation. Across the nation, school districts are grappling with how to provide remote education to as many of the seven million impacted students as possible, without defying the law and potentially losing critical funding. Yet, with mere weeks to prepare, how can schools possibly replicate the services of diverse therapists—occupational, learning, behavioral, speech, physical and vision—as well as adaptive specialists and aides? It is not feasible.

 

Learning Essentials is here to help.

With our team of certified, advanced-degreed tutors, Learning Essentials is the premier special education tutoring company in the DC Metro area. We “get” these students and their diverse needs. We have the education and experience to assist students with learning disabilities and differences during this massive transition. Our learning strategies and multi-sensory methods are proven, and our team is equipped to offer fully online support for all learners.

 

As administrators, teachers, and parents struggle to create and implement in-home supports for special needs students, Learning Essentials is ready to step in with solutions. We can suggest modifications to learning content, accommodations for optimal learning environments, and techniques that can guide parents and support students in accessing the curriculum in these unprecedented circumstances.

 

Ready for help? Contact Learning Essentials today for a free consultation. Let us set the best course to keep special needs students on the path to learning.

Building Resilience in Trying Times

The current Coronavirus pandemic is like nothing we have seen before. We as a society are essentially constructing the track as this train barrels along, which can be unnerving, to say the least. For families with children, the burden may fall even harder in the midst of this global crisis. One tinge of a silver lining, however, is the resilience that will come as a result of persevering through these difficult circumstances.

 

Instead of ruminating on the issues…

Try free writing for 10-15 minutes every day. This form of expression is proven to alleviate stress and anxiety, much like meditation. Expressive writing gives us the opportunity to sit with our thoughts and work through our emotions on paper. Additionally, this process encourages us to work through a difficult time by reclaiming some sense of power—writing allows us to feel a sense of control over how we choose to react in written form.

 

Expressive writing is also a platform for reflection. Through writing, we are able to take time to come to grips with the struggles around us and consider how we can enact change, even if it’s just change within our own attitude or outlook. Finally, expressive writing provides a record of trials and tribulations—later on, if another crisis arises, it provides a resource of strength for us to refer back to for guidance.

 

Instead of wallowing in despair or perseverating over what we’re missing…

Acknowledge the current circumstances and practice acceptance of what we cannot control. It is easy for children and teens to feel as though this health crisis is single handedly ruining many aspects of their lives—socially, emotionally, academically, romantically, psychologically, etc. They may feel as though life is on hold during this pandemic. However, resilience comes from confronting and overcoming hardships. Therefore, learning to accept the hardships or obstacles is the first step in building this level of grit and resilience. As the saying goes, “We must accept the things we cannot change and find courage to change whatever is within our control.”

 

Instead of focusing on the negative…

Help children build resilience by emphasizing gratitude. It is easy to become bogged down in trying times, especially when an unparalleled global crisis is occurring. However, by prioritizing the positive and examining all of the good happening around us, we begin to recognize our strength.

 

Are playdates out of the question? Yes. Is graduation up in the air? Yes. Is prom likely cancelled? Yes. But is your family taken care of? Do you have your immediate needs met? Are you healthy? Are there other people suffering more right now? YES. Resilience and gratitude tend to go hand in hand because, through this crisis, we will learn that we’re stronger than we thought, and we have this strength to be thankful for.

 

Instead of falling into a rut…

Use this difficult time as an opportunity to do things there was not time for in the past. Parents can help bolster a new sense of discovery for their children by encouraging new or abandoned hobbies. Learn a new language, help work on the car, explore which vegetables would thrive in the yard, write poetry, watch cooking competitions, pick up an old guitar, foster a pet. The list continues as far as we can imagine. It is up to parents to encourage new ways of learning, engaging, and experiencing the world during this time of great uncertainty. Resilience can be cultivated by keeping busy—but it is up to us to choose how we use this time.

 

Providing Realistic Reassurance

Whether you are an educator, a parent, or a family member, you are likely fielding a lot of questions regarding the “what ifs” of the current state of things. The more complicated side of these questions is that we ourselves don’t have many answers to these questions—in fact, we’ve got questions of our own! One thing we can do for children and teens is to talk through their concerns as a family. The conversation may not always result in complete understanding or resolute answers. However, the importance is to ease fears and mediate concerns.

 

Missing milestones 

A major concern for today’s high school students is the fact that this unplanned, mid-school-year hiatus jeopardizes way more than just instruction and learning. Testing centers have been shut down; colleges and universities have sent students home, closed campuses, and moved to online learning for the second semester. For students who have been planning to tour campuses, take entrance exams, and narrow their final college search this spring, the current state of things makes those plans nearly impossible. Furthermore, the typical high school rites of passage that students look forward to throughout their entire education, such as spring break trips, prom, graduation and graduation parties, are more of an impossibility now because of COVID-19. How can parents begin to soften this blow?

  • Put things into perspective for your teens by showing them the realities that other people are living. If kids are preoccupied with the notion that they’re missing out on major high school events, we need to give them a reality check. By reading up on the death tolls, financial struggles, and hunger and homelessness that this pandemic is causing around the world, our teenagers are able to see that, despite these cancelled events, their lives are extremely blessed. Discuss the importance of gratitude and how, while it’s okay to be disappointed about missing these milestones, it should not become all consuming considering how much we have to be thankful for right now. Furthermore, remind teens that sulking about does nothing to change the outcome—happiness is a mindset.
  • Talk about how, even though the events themselves may be up in the air, the meaning behind these special rites of passage can never be lost. For instance, the importance of graduation is what it represents, not the ceremony itself. As a family, focus on the achievements and how, regardless of formal celebrations, the accomplishments still remain.
  • When high school students get upset over these missed opportunities, parents can also provide comfort by stating the obvious—everyone is going through these same losses, too. Your teen needs to remember that she isn’t the only one missing out on prom or not getting her driver’s license right away. While most adolescents find it difficult to see beyond themselves, they can find comfort in the fact that these circumstances are not unique to them—thousands of other high schoolers are experiencing these same feelings of disappointment.
  • When in doubt, highlight the great things that your teen has ahead of him. Yes, this is a largely confusing and disappointing time. However, this is going to pass. We can help ourselves get through these trying times by remaining positive and always looking for the silver lining.

Checking In Virtually

Now that the school year has come to a screeching halt for many students, digital learning and online instruction is becoming the norm. However, in addition to content-specific questions and online discussion threads, educators can also take this time to remotely check in on students’ well-being.

 

It goes without saying that this is a crazy time full of many uncertainties. For children and teens, this global pandemic can be even more troubling, especially since the adults—the ones with all the answers—seem to have no answers at this point. One way that teachers can lend an ear, even if digitally, is to post daily check-ins using a platform like polleverywhere and Google Classroom.

 

With Google Classroom, students are likely already enrolled in their teachers’ courses and may be set up to receive messages from Google when teachers post. Therefore, the process for getting started with daily check-ins is fairly seamless. Teachers can simplify the process initially by creating a Google form that asks students to choose an emoji that represents how they are feeling today. This process takes mere minutes to set up and can provide key insight as to how children are doing at home during quarantine. Educators have many options within Google forms in terms of answer responses. For a simple poll, teachers can ask the following questions:

  • Using the rating scale, rate your level of comfort/understanding of the poem I posted yesterday.
  • Using the drop down options, select the emoji that corresponds to your mood right now.
  • Did you have enough food to eat today, yes or no?
  • Based on our digital packet, which concept are you finding to be the most difficult? Select all that apply from the drop down menu.

 

If teachers want to get more of a detailed response from students, they can select the “short answer” option in Google forms when asking for responses. One idea for teachers to check on students’ emotional well-being is to utilize the short answer function. Ask students to list their pit and peak or rose and thorn of the day. In essence, teachers are aiming to identify what is going well at home and what students may be struggling with more specifically. Google also provides options for teachers to provide an example of their own response. This allows students to see that everyone is in this together—we are all experiencing highs and lows while schools are closed.

 

Furthermore, educators can then use this data to reach out to students or families directly who may be struggling more significantly. Whether due to a lack of resources or the emotional impacts of isolation, teachers can relay these concerns to school administrators and/or community members to provide necessary resources and aid to families based on their needs.

 

Another way to utilize these web-based platforms is to open assignment threads to allow students to post back and forth to one another. Some English teachers are finding that they are still able to practice book talks and literature circle conversations during the school closures using these features.

 

A word of caution, since teenagers will be teenagers, especially when cooped up at home—teachers should set clear guidelines for participation. Make sure students know that their posts will be viewed by all members of the Google classroom and that the instructor (teacher) has the option to revoke any individual’s posting privileges if necessary. Finally, ask parents to join in the classroom discussion threads, posts, polls, etc. Google Classroom has an easy option to “invite guardians” through MCPS, so with one click, parents can join in the discussion as well!

Stop the Spread…of Rumors: Tips for Parents

For parents, there are few things more heartbreaking than seeing your child in pain—especially when the infliction is emotional, not physical. There are no ice packs, bandages, or pain relievers that can alleviate emotional pain and distress, which means that many parents are left feeling helpless when their child comes home from school having been the subject of the rumor mill.

 

This aggravating adolescent tendency is practically a rite of passage. We’ve all been the target, or heard about, or maybe even helped to spread a rumor about one of our peers at some point or another. Truthfully, some people never fully grow out of the “lure of grapevine,” if you will. Regardless of your own experiences and memories, your child’s adverse experiences involving hurtful rumors will be an entirely new beast. Therefore, we’ve compiled some strategies for parents to help if and when the unfortunate situation arises.

 

  • Remind your teen that those closest to her will not be swayed or drawn into the hurtful gossip. Tell her that anyone who pays mind to or contributes to the rumors being spread either doesn’t know her or doesn’t truly care about her. Put these notions into perspective by providing your own example of a time when someone mischaracterized you. Explain that another person’s negative opinion, especially a person that doesn’t know you well, should be considered irrelevant. Add to this by explaining that your dignity and  self-worth cannot be diminished by another person.
  • Simply denying a rumor does nothing to squander it—in fact, denying may only make the situation worse. Tell your teen not to waste her energy on trying to convince her peers of what is true and what isn’t. Reaffirm the fact that the people who really know her won’t give any attention to ridiculous rumors. In addition, explain that her protestations only add fuel to the fire. Instead of fighting the rumors, do not give them any attention at all. Easier said than done, but ignoring gossip is the best way to remove yourself from these hostile situations.
  • If social media becomes more of a platform for antisocial interactions, talk to teens about restricting their privacy settings to avoid derogatory comments and/or any issues involved with sharing or reposting photos. Parents need to remind teens that, for all of the positive connectivity that social media can bring, the negative aspects can certainly overshadow the benefits. If your teen comes across inappropriate comments, messages, or responses, remind him to ignore, block, or report the information. Do not interact with or respond to the person, regardless of the circumstances. Again, the point is to remove yourself from the drama, not to fuel or fight the fire.
  • Parents can also use their own experiences with rumors and gossip to help teens find the silver lining in these difficult peer situations. Explain to your child that, while this moment may be particularly difficult, the trials and tribulations are going to strengthen them for similar circumstances in the future. During these difficult times when our character is brought into question, we truly begin to reconcile our own self-perceptions, apart from others’ opinions. The gossip may be difficult to overcome in the moment, but it will eventually strengthen your exterior.
  • When rumors and gossip cross the line and become harassment or defamation, parents need to step in and involve the appropriate parties at the school. Keep a record of texts, posts, emails, comments, etc., to document the extent of the bullying. Persistent, harmful rumors can certainly fall under the bullying/harassment category, meaning that disciplinary actions can be taken against students that are spreading or perpetuating these harmful rumors. Make sure that administrators, guidance counselors, and any other adult who is close to your child is involved in the conversation. When it comes to safety and mental health, it’s all hands on deck.
  • Finally, if you notice major changes in mood or behavior, especially regarding energy levels, motivation, social interactions, academic performance, eating/sleeping patterns, etc., take swift action. Gossip and harmful rumors, while mostly fleeting, can occasionally cause issues with self-esteem, depression, and even suicidal thoughts or actions. Because of this level of potential severity, it is crucial that parents monitor their teen’s demeanor and talk frequently about issues among peers.

The Art of the Apology

An interesting thing happened recently when I asked my students to write an apology note to the substitute for treating her disrespectfully—they had no clue what to do. As I distributed paper and demanded that they begin, I quickly realized that my students were not being intentionally uncooperative. They truly didn’t know how to approach a genuine apology letter. I was appalled, to put it lightly. This woman, who in my absence, had tried her best to help my 7th grade students with the work I had left, was ignored, defied, mocked, and ridiculed, yet the class had nothing to say? Was this due to a lack of social awareness? Had they never heard a formal apology before? Was their reticent response just a new level of entitlement? I was not prepared to teach them about the art of a formal apology—I’d wrongfully assumed that they knew how to tackle this task.

Cut to a quickly thrown together, yet comprehensive, mini-lesson on the key components of an apology.

  • Begin with the actual apology, “I’m sorry…” DO NOT follow up or continue your apology with the word “but.” This simple subordinating conjunction completely negates the actual apology. It implies that you are not fully remorseful, and even worse, writing “but” indicates that you believe you have an excuse for wronging the other person. Tell students to explain themselves at a later time if necessary; it shouldn’t be part of the apology.
  • Take responsibility and genuinely own your mistake. Admitting your error is half the battle when delivering an apology—until you acknowledge your misstep, any apology will be considered insincere.
  • Owning your mistake also means explicitly stating what you did to hurt the other person. This requires children and teens to be reflective and to truly consider how their actions had a negative impact on the other person. Stating your mistake shows the other person that you have acknowledged their feelings and put yourself in their shoes to identify how you may have hurt them.
  • Offer a solution to the mistake—this could mean promising to do better next time or perhaps to try your best not to repeat this mistake again. Sometimes the solution comes easily; however, it is also kind to ask the other person what you could do to mend the situation. If their response is reasonable, follow through on that request.
  • Ask for forgiveness. This can be difficult because it requires kids to leave themselves unguarded and open to rejection. They may worry that the other person will claim that they can’t forgive at the moment—this is okay. Asking for forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’ll always get it, but putting the ball in the other person’s court after apologizing is pretty much all we can do.

Remote Learning: Making Use of Time at Home During School Closures, Part II

As discussed in part one, the COVID-19 pandemic is like nothing today’s younger generation has ever experienced. Mass school closures may initially seem like a cause for celebration for many students. Yet the fact is that this pandemic, now deemed a national emergency, will have lasting effects. This is especially true for school-aged children and teens, who will now be missing out on hours upon hours of instruction and learning. In addition to setting up routines at home to maintain some semblance of normalcy, families will want to get creative when it comes to in-home learning as well.

 

Foreign language study

Just because schools are closed, that doesn’t mean that students’ language acquisition should hault indefinitely. Apps like Duolingo allow students to brush up on their foreign language skills, or begin to learn a new language altogether. The app is free and easy to use due to intuitive, game-like format.

Parents can also help bolster foreign language acquisition by selecting age-appropriate foreign films or movies with subtitles for the family to watch together.

Want to ditch the screens? Plan a bilingual scavenger hunt around the house using post-it notes. Label household items incorrectly and challenge your kids to correctly place the post-its using their language skills. For instance, if el baño is posted on the basement door, kids would need to move it to the bathroom door before moving onto the next sticky note.

 

Social studies 

For obvious reasons, many spring field trips have had to be cancelled, leaving students disappointed. One possible solution to these cancellations is to try virtual tours of the museums, galleries, landmarks, etc. Of course, the experience will not be entirely the same, but the sense of learning through exploration is still there. In addition, many locations utilize interactive platforms for students to truly immerse themselves in the information. Engaging options include Guggenheim Museum, The MoMA, The Louvre, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, The NASA Space Center in Houston, a moon tour via Google Earth, and any number of zoo cams around the world.

 

Now is also a great time for indulging in some documentaries for additional explorative learning. Beyond the content itself, which will undoubtedly provide information, older children and teens can identify and discuss persuasive techniques and other specific documentary film tactics. It may be beneficial to discuss the subjectivity that often emerges within the genre and how that impacts us, the viewers.

 

Science at home

Simple science experiments help to pass the time while introducing kids to the many engaging aspects of science.

  • Add heavy cream to a jar, tightly seal, and shake vigorously (for a span of 10-30 minutes) until butter begins to form. Kids will be amazed to watch as the cream solidifies. They can also flavor their homemade butter with sea salt or a drizzle of honey!
  • Create your own invisible ink using lemon juice and a q-tip. Kids will be amazed to see their secret messages when they hold a paper up to a lightbulb or other heat source.
  • Take a blind taste test, but with a tricky twist! Ask your child to hold his or her nose while tasting the everyday items, such as peanut butter, honey, salsa, chocolate chips, yogurt, etc. They will be amazed at how difficult it is to identify some of their favorite foods when their sense of smell is impaired!