As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to rage on, causing what appear to be mainly larger urban school districts to make the decision to close in-person learning, whether for several days/a week at a time or for longer periods, many students and families find themselves suddenly left without a solid, reliable learning plan in place. Some districts and individual educators are trying to do all they can with the virtual tools and other resources they have at their disposal, while some districts and individual educators are simply closing shop altogether. As one parent whose daughter's large urban school district recently closed for a week told me, "Some teachers are going above and beyond, while others are treating this like a vacation. They're not meeting with students virtually, and they've assigned no work." And a high school in a nearby district decided to cancel semester final exams altogether because of COVID-19.
Whether you're a student reading this, or a parent, guardian, other relative, or fellow educator deeply concerned and frustrated by this truly tragic situation of lost time and learning, I offer a number of resources, ideas, and strategies here, in no particular order, to help you design your own at-home learning plan when you find yourself not provided with one by your school system and/or teachers. The following suggestions can also certainly serve to enhance and reinforce the assigned learning from school if you are, hopefully, receiving regular instruction virtually.
BrainPOP - I make use of BrainPOP, a subscriber-based learning platform, quite frequently during my typical day in the classroom. I highly recommend it. With a very clean layout that is easy to navigate, the BrainPOP family of websites offers young learners video lessons on a wide range of curriculum-aligned subjects, as well as quizzes and activities that can be completed for deeper engagement with, and understanding of, the material presented in the video lessons. Check the BrainPOP homepage frequently for various specials and discount offers that run from time to time. You can purchase your own home-based subscription, or see if your school or district already has a subscription that you can use to log in with. A very high-quality, fun, and engaging learning tool.
Think about possible careers and professions - Check out this career readiness resources page I put together a while back, featuring previously-published posts here on this blog, as well as content from other sites. If you're thinking about entering a trade and you reside in Wisconsin, learn about the Wisconsin Apprenticeship System.
Explore volunteer opportunities - Check out this previous post I wrote about the many benefits of volunteer work. Volunteering can provide a wealth of opportunities for learning new skills, strengthening skills, making meaningful connections through networking, gaining new perspectives, sharing talents, and making a difference in the lives of others.
Prepare for the ACT and/or SAT - It's never too early to begin preparing for these tests. Check out this page I put together a while back with various resources, ideas, and strategies to help you prepare for these very important college admissions tests and ultimately get the best score(s) you can. If you start early enough, even years earlier, then your preparation work won't feel like a burden, you'll perhaps even improve your overall grades and performance in your classes, and you most likely won't have to worry about retakes! And yes, these tests are still relevant.
Learn a new language, or make the time and effort to strengthen and deepen your existing language skills - The ability to communicate in another language is a highly-desirable, and hence marketable, skill to have.
Research a country - Is there another country whose people, culture, cuisine, history, language, and economy capture your curiosity? Gather facts, photos, and relevant video links, and put together a nice presentation on your chosen country using a slide deck format like Google Slides or PowerPoint. Give a presentation to your family just as you would to your classmates or any other audience. This is a wonderful learning opportunity allowing you to build on a variety of relevant life and career skills, like research and fact-finding, conveying information and ideas, public speaking, writing, creativity, and educating others. For more fun ideas, check out this post on how you can travel the world without leaving home.
Let's plan a trip! - I took this idea from a wonderful social studies course by the same name (Let's Plan a Trip!) that I assisted in during my district's summer school this past summer (you can read more about that here). Similar to the above idea of researching a country, but with a slightly different focus. With this idea, you research one or more countries as if you're getting ready to actually visit them as a tourist. Where will you stay? How will you get there, and how much will this transportation cost you (for example, your flight ticket)? Who will you bring with you on the trip? What's your overall budget? What kind of activities and sightseeing would you like to do?
Learn financial literacy - Financial literacy is so very, very important. Learn how to save and budget. Learn how to plan for emergencies. Learn how to spend wisely. Learn about investing and preparing for retirement. Understand how the decisions you make today about money will impact the rest of your life, either positively or negatively. The earlier you begin learning these crucial lessons and begin implementing good strategies and habits, the better for you and your loved ones. The personal finance category here at my blog helps keep track of my posts about money, saving, wise spending and looking for deals, retirement planning, etc.
Work on SMART goals - Use this precious time to write and begin work on career-related, education-related, health and fitness -related, and life goals using the SMART goal format.
Khan Academy - (www.khanacademy.org) Launched by Sal Khan, a Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) –educated former hedge fund analyst, the Khan Academy is a free online education platform, with instruction by Khan himself, all by video. The Web site features an extensive variety of courses and tutorials in areas like math, science and engineering, computer programming, arts and humanities, economics and finance, test prep, career exploration, the college admissions process, and a lot more. Within the economics and finance course offerings, Khan has a subcategory devoted to entrepreneurship, featuring exclusive interviews and conversations he conducts with top entrepreneurs and business leaders.
TED Talks - (www.ted.com) Featuring brief talks via video by a plethora of business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, writers, philosophers, scientists, and subject matter experts of all kinds, TED bills itself as “Ideas worth spreading”. From its Web site:
TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.
Documentaries - Every so often, I enjoy borrowing documentaries on DVD from my local public library on a variety of subjects. I'll also check out the offerings from time to time on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the History Channel. If you love the game of baseball, and its fascinating history and legendary characters, I highly recommend Ken Burns' Baseball. I've loaned out a couple of times now another documentary by Ken Burns called Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, which not only explores current therapies to combat this dreadful disease, but also takes us through the history of cancer fighting and the pioneering doctors and scientists whose groundbreaking work and ideas have gotten us to where we are today. Through documentaries, I've learned about Milwaukee's Italian-American community, the 2008 financial crisis, the lives and times of captains of industry, the education system, the history of American cars, and, now that I work in schools and usually with a number of special education students throughout the day, various learning and emotional and behavioral challenges. Most recently, I've enjoyed a couple documentaries on Netflix by The Minimalists.
Make sure to work your local public library into your learning routine - Speaking of libraries, are there book clubs or reading programs you can join? Makerspace opportunities? Upcoming speakers and presentations that capture your interest? Art contests? Possibilities and opportunities are virtually endless at the good ol' local public library.
Conversations - That's right, conversations. Simply talking with others. Interested in exploring a particular career? Wondering how college life is like and what the college admissions process entails? Looking to take up a hobby? Curious about how a particular product is made or how a process works? Fascinated about what it's like to serve in the military and wanting to learn more? Wanting to meet new people and get more involved in your community but not sure where to begin? You can get some answers to these and other questions by striking up conversations with people you already know. Examples include your parents and siblings, your friends' parents and siblings, teachers, coaches, classmates, neighbors, your employer and co-workers, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents.
Newspapers and magazines - Keeping up with events and developments in the broader world around you can potentially prove beneficial for you in numerous ways. Having a decent working knowledge base of news and trends in technology, the economy, government and politics, business, trade, education, and world affairs can position you ahead of the competition in the workplace.
Explore AmazingEducationalResources.com - This website, now listing nearly 2,000 resources, was first launched in the early days of COVID-19, back in March-April 2020 or so. My blog is listed on the site, too. You can search by grade level (Pre-K on up to Adult Learning) or by category/academic subject. You'll discover a large, assorted variety of learning games, lesson plans, video content, ideas, and activities to engage with. Most resources listed in this powerful and growing directory are free, while some you'll have to pay for. Other resources may offer a combination of both.
Worksheets, worksheets, and more worksheets - There are many websites out there offering worksheets, workbooks, complete lesson plans, learning activities and games, etc. Here are some sites I'm familiar with in my daily work, and can, therefore, highly recommend: Education.com, MathWorksheets4Kids.com, TLSBooks.com, Math-Aids.com, and WorksheetWorks.com. Some of these sites are free, while others are subscription-based at very reasonable prices.
Television - Not all TV is brain-rotting. In fact, some of it can have quite the opposite effect. Check out this list of The Top 15 Educational TV Shows for Kids of All Ages.