In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents of Ontario’s K-12 students have found themselves trying to teach math, reading and other subjects at home.
With the latest news from the province, students will be learning at home until at least May 4 through a new teacher-led program.
Finding appropriate resources and advice can be a challenge for parents trying to support learning at home.
To help the parents of students they tutor each week, the team at the Brock Learning Lab (BLL), which is part of the University’s Faculty of Education, have posted resources on its Facebook page when schools first closed in March. This informal outreach with a small group of local families has now become a toolkit of online resources available to families across the province.
Undergraduate Concurrent Teacher Education students provide weekly literacy tutoring to local children and youth at the BLL as part of a Literacy and Reading Development course. Once Brock’s classes moved online, these students contributed to the development of the toolkit as part of their online lecture.
“Since our students have been working closely with their clients, we felt this was a great opportunity for them to apply their theory to practice by applying their knowledge of their client, evaluating an online learning activity and creating a description for parents,” said Paul Ferrara, Learning Lab Administrative Coordinator and Interventionists Coordinator.
The resources build on the tools offered on Ministry of Education’s Learn at Home website.
The toolkit of almost 40 carefully selected resources covers a range of subjects and grade levels. Families can access the toolkit on the BLL website.
“Our Lab staff are Ontario Certified Teachers with teaching experience across grades K-12 in a variety of subjects,” said Ferrara. “Along with our undergraduate students and interns, our staff at the Lab review all of the resources making sure they are accessible and appropriate based on a variety of factors.”
These considerations for the resources include being available online, being accessible for students with exceptionalities or students who are English language learners and being easy to use.
There are also resources to guide parents in creating routines to promote learning at home and helping their children regulate their emotions during this stressful time, with most of the resources offered being free or have free features.
Tiffany Gallagher, Associate Professor in Educational Studies and Director of the Learning Lab, suggests parents review and create a list of credible online learning sites. She also suggests disabling pop-ups.
“Bookmark these sites for your child to access independently, depending on their age,” said Gallagher.
She also recommends choosing a variety of websites that will appeal to your children’s interest.
“For example, if your child loves learning about animals, access sites such as kids.nationalgeographic.com that offer rich images and accurate information,” she says. “Additionally, be mindful of how much time your children are spending online; use online activities to supplement outdoor and other activities.”
The toolbox project was also supported by the work of graduate and undergraduate BLL interns who have been working on finding and evaluating multimodal activities that are available for tutors working with children and youth.
Tips for building math and literacy skills while kids are home:
The BLL suggests taking opportunities to reinforce everyday math skills that apply the major areas of knowledge from the math curriculum. For example:
- Identify patterns in your home (like in fabrics) and represent these patterns on paper or digitally. Search online for similar patterns in the natural world.
- Calculate how to double a recipe and the quantities of the ingredients when cooking or baking.
- Reinforce number sense principles such as counting by five’s or 10’s and comparing more vs. less quantities.
- Play math games such as Sudoku or logic puzzles on mathplayground.com or prodigygame.com
- Estimate and then calculate the materials needed for home improvement projects.
- Do a virtual redesign of furniture and other objects in the home by drawing and deconstructing their shapes. Classify the shapes and use spatial awareness by shifting the placement of objects.
- Work on financial literacy by setting grocery budgets and shopping in advance using online or paper flyers.
- Research world populations and calculate density and proportions of those affected by COVID-19 if appropriate for your child(ren).
- Create tables and graphs that summarize data we are hearing in the news. Calculate statistics, such as averages or modes, using data sets that continue to be updated in reports.
Literacy skills such as speaking, listening, reading and writing can be reinforced in digital and print-based contexts at home. For example:
- Search your local public library website for online resources and access to e-books and magazines.
- Listen to audio books to help your child model fluency and expression. Try to use educationally vetted sources such as storylineonline.net
- Create short videos or podcasts as greetings or updates for family and friends.
- Write jokes and riddles together and share them with family and friends.
- Keep a collaborative family journal in digital, including photos or video, or paper format and describe your activities as well as your feelings about staying at home during the pandemic.
- Consume news reports from a few different sources such as television, radio or internet and compare their messages and point of view.
- Search for “fake news” stories on the pandemic, identify the misinformation and then replace/rewrite it with the accurate facts.
- Play word search and word creation games such as Boggle or Scrabble. These can be found online if you don’t have these games at home.
- Choose a favourite popular or rap song and download or transcribe the lyrics. Re-write the lyrics using the same rhythm and rhyming patterns but a different message.
- Set up a blog for kids using a credible platform such as wordpress.org or weebly.com/ca and discuss the purpose of a blog and view samples of good blog posts. Be sure to set secure privacy settings and to discuss digital citizenship and the public nature of online blogs and comments.