For many parents the switch to homeschooling has been an unexpected twist mired in confusion as teachers have sent home packages of worksheets and links to online activities that their children are expected to complete, without providing explanations for how parents should teach their children and guide their learning. While the past three months may have been survivable, there is a very real chance that the next school year may start out the same way (and perhaps continue online indefinitely) and then the question becomes: how can you as a parent transform yourself into a teacher capable of delivering well-thought-out and meaningful lessons so that you aren’t simply handing your child busy work? Though it may sound daunting, by following the simple steps below, it can be done!
Step 1: Prepare for the Week
Before planning for the week it’s always helpful to review the materials and links that have been sent home first; in this way you can ensure that you are familiar with what your child is expected to learn and can allot time accordingly. For instance, your child may be expected to hand in a research project by the end of the week and in seeing as this will be a fairly large task, one could break it down in smaller sections to be completed each day. Additionally, in going over the assignments beforehand you can also ensure that each day has a balance of different subject areas – for instance, one math activity per day, one reading task per day, etc. While it may be difficult for younger children to assist with planning for the week, you may wish to consider involving older children with the scheduling of their assignments.
Step 2: Ask the Teacher for Clarifications
While going through the assignments for the week, you may wish to take the time to note any questions you might have so that you can ask the teacher for guidance before being faced with the challenge of helping your child through an activity you are uncertain of because there is nothing more frustrating than your child having difficulties and you not knowing how to help them.
Step 3: Introduce Assignments
Often times a teacher will simply provide you with a list of assignments for your child to complete, and as a parent you assume your child will be able to dive right in and finish them without assistance. The issue is that at school whenever an assignment is given, the teacher usually warms the students up first with some lead-in questions, a brainstorming session or a quick review of skills needed to complete the task so that when they set down to work they understand the expectations and are clear on what to do. To help your child at home, you can plan to do the same and include a 5-minute warm-up before they begin each task, which can include any of the following:
Step 4: Go Over Objectives
If your teacher hasn’t provided you with a set of expectations for the assignment, it’s a good idea to ask them for a copy of the rubric they will be using to evaluate your child. While this isn’t necessary for a worksheet where answers are either right or wrong, it’s helpful for you to know how your child will be marked on a writing assignment or project so that you can remind them of expectations before they begin to work. For example, when assigning a written task, a teacher may be looking for correct punctuation, that a certain number of sentences to be included in the story, for the accompanying pictures to be coloured, and so on.
Step 5: Conclude Assignments
For every assignment your child completes, it’s always nice to offer a conclusion of sorts as it gives them a chance to reflect on their work and their new learnings. Concluding a lesson doesn’t have to be a lengthy affair, 5 minutes will suffice and can be as simple as any of the following ideas:
And there you have it! By applying these simple steps to your homeschooling routines, busy work can be turned into meaningful lessons as you and your child go forth on a learning journey together!
Are there any other tips you would like to share? We’d love to hear them!
With the onset of the pandemic and the abrupt switch to remote learning, schools instinctively continued to view parents as “parents” and teachers as “teachers,” which on the spur of the moment may have seemed like the logical thing to do and may have worked as a band-aid solution; however, should part-time or full-time learning from home continue to take place next year, redefining and renaming the roles must be considered for it to work long term. And why is that? If the roles aren’t redefined, then the danger is that the work being sent home will continue to be viewed as “homework,” which in a traditional sense functions on the premise that students have been taught the concepts they need to know in order to complete the assignment prior to bringing it home and therefore parents need only offer a little support here and there. With our new reality, this is no longer the case and so simply sending home links to websites and a package of worksheets isn’t going to cut it. Parents can no longer be viewed simply as parents; instead, they now need to be viewed as “co-teachers” and as such will need to be supported accordingly, which means providing them the planning tools to be able to teach lessons from home because for the average parent this isn’t a skill set they necessarily possess. That said, this begs the question of how to design a parent-friendly template that would allow one to take control of their daily schedule and guide them with methods for teaching their child vs. simply providing busy work, and the answer is by following the 4 simple steps below!
Step 1: Communicate Changes and Brainstorm Ideas
First things first, it’s one thing for you as an administrator to accept a change in the traditional role of parents, but this needs to be communicated with your staff as they also need to start viewing parents as “co-teachers,” and begin treating them accordingly. In addition to discussing the role switch, it may also be a good idea to discuss which information should be included on your school’s parent planner. For the purposes of this article, supposing that the following elements have been deemed important by staff and therefore areas will need to be allocated on the template to include:
In addition to this, the staff has also decided that it would be easiest to work off of one collaborative template per class, meaning that teams of teachers could add lessons on a single template thus eliminating multiple planners going home on a weekly basis.
Step 2: Design Your Parent Planner
With the information collected by the staff, the next step would be for you to design your template, and based on our imaginary scenario, the parent planner below was developed.
The template begins with the Zoom schedule on top, and then moves onto dividing lessons by days. In keeping things generic, any subject area teacher could complete their section by noting an approximate duration for the lesson, lesson objectives, where the materials can be found (homework package, links, etc.), and guiding parents through the beginning, middle, and end of a lesson. And with this information, imagine how empowered any parent would feel!
Step 3: Brief Staff on the Implementation of the Planner
Once your parent template is complete, it is worth reviewing it with staff and running through a mock-up so that they are clear on expectations for filling it in. In addition to clarifying expectations, guidelines should also be set about weekly due dates for having them completed. For example, they may need to be handed in on Thursday, thereby giving you time to review them on Friday morning so they can be sent out before end of day on Friday.
Step 4: Brief Parents on the Purpose of the Planner
It goes without saying that before introducing anything new to parents, they should be briefed on the planner that will be sent home for them to use as a guide when teaching their children. One could even take things one step further and offer a video as a tutorial with tips for using the planner it! It is also worth keeping in mind that it may take a few weeks for parents to feel comfortable following the plans, but once they get in the rhythm of things, there’s no telling where their newfound knowledge of how to structure a lesson may take them!
No one could have predicted the upheaval that we have recently been faced with, however we can prepare accordingly for next year, and if we are able to get staff and parents working together within the roles of teacher and co-teacher, imagine the impact that could be made!
Collaborative planning isn’t easy at the best of times, but in the face of COVID-19 it has been become even more difficult as educators are finding themselves working from home part-time, if not full-time. To top it all off, regulated teacher timetables have gone to the wayside as teachers are free to schedule Zoom calls (or equivalent) with students as they see fit during the day. With all these obstacles in the way, and an upcoming school year that is looking to be much the same in the fall, what measures can be taken to ensure staff are still working together as a team and that specialist subjects and language/learning support are incorporated within the structure of remote learning? And the answer is: by providing staff a means of planning together without necessarily having to meet face-to-face, which can be done using software such as Google Docs that would allow one to create a shared template, like the one below.
The idea behind the above template is that mainstream and specialist teachers would complete their sections first, which would include noting their Zoom call schedules for the upcoming week and filling in their respective subject-area planning boxes, requiring them to list objectives, at home learning activities and links to documents/websites that will be provided to learners. These teachers would need to complete their portions of the planner by Thursday, thereby allowing Language and Learning Support staff a day to differentiate/scaffold learning activities for their students and to schedule their Zoom calls accordingly. And one could end things there as the goal of teacher collaboration would be met, but what if one were also interested in encouraging transdisciplinary planning? Could this be accomplished using a similar template? But of course! With an additional note reminding teachers to link subjects together (see modification highlighted in yellow below) and a staggering of the days when each teacher completed their portion of the planner – for example, mainstream teachers by Tuesday, specialists by Thursday (thus giving them two extra days to look at what mainstream teachers have planned) and Language/Learning support by Friday – it could easily be done!
Our suggested template is a generalized and basic way of organizing staff and lesson ideas; the information you would like to include in yours is entirely up to you as long as you have provided a means for all team members to view each other’s plans and add their own on a single planner. Ours was also designed on a weekly basis, but the time frame you choose can also be adjusted.
Unusual circumstances call for unusual measures, and although creating a collaborative planning template for your grade level teams can never replace the value of face-to-face meetings, it would still provide staff with way of working together and presenting a united front to parents. Mainstream/homeroom teachers would be able to share weekly plans that not only highlight their expectations but those of specialists and support staff – and how beneficial would that be!
Have you designed a collaborative planner for your staff? We would love for you to share your ideas!