Teacher-Approved Resources for Students During School Closures

When I picked up my third and fifth-grader from school last week, they eagerly explained the packets of work their teachers had sent home with them in case of school closures. When the Governor of Illinois later announced that all schools in the state would be closed for at least two weeks, for many students, those packets became the foundation of learning that will take place at home.

I teach eighth-grade science, but my children are much younger, so the everyday resources I use with my students didn’t meet the needs of my own children, but I knew I needed to find other activities outside of the packets shared by the school. This meant that I had to do some searching to find resources that were appropriate for their grade levels. I noticed that when Illinois joined the list of statewide school closures, social media became flooded with educational lists, websites, and subscriptions aimed at providing academic material for students.  This was a bit overwhelming even as a teacher, especially in a time when stress and anxiety are already high. I started digging through these materials, and noticed that there were so many, it was hard to know where to start, and not all were created equal.

So I decided to change my focus a bit to look not only at what was available, but at the needs of my children. Being a teacher definitely helped, and I realized how arduous of a task identifying age appropriate educational materials could be for the majority of the parents and guardians out there who are not career educators.

For those parents, a good starting place is to consider what their children were learning in school. I used my son’s class newsletter posted on my refrigerator, which reminded me he was being introduced to fractions. The weekly email from my daughter’s teacher reminded me that she was working on converting fractions into decimals as well as working on determining the area and perimeter of different shapes. Knowing that my children would both benefit from reviewing fractions, I was then able to search for fraction activities, which helped to refine my search.

Luckily, there are a lot of great, easy resources parents can use during school closures that will help their students learn at home without asking a parent to become an instructor overnight. The Collaborative for Student Success compiled a list of Math Resources, complete with videos and website recommendations such as Khan Academy and Learning Heroes. There are also other resources that contain comprehensive learning activities, schedules, and more that parents can use to make the most of their child’s time at home. These are just a few:

Scholastic: Daily activities to choose from for kids of all ages.

Learning Heroes: A curated collection of materials and online resources for students in reading and math.

Khan Academy Daily Schedules: Daily learning schedules including ideas for independent activities, podcasts, and educational online games by grade level.

While online learning is a great way for children to receive immediate feedback, there are also plenty of screen-free ways to encourage children to learn too. My children love to play a Scholastic board game called Fraction Pizza, where the goal is to put fractions of a pizza together and the first one who makes a full pizza wins. We also practice fractions during snack times as Goldfish crackers are divided into piles or we determine what fraction of their fruit snacks are purple. These small moments are a great way for them to engage in math in a hands-on way.

As we all navigate this trying period of quarantines and school closures, it’s important that we all simply do our best. Learning doesn’t have to look like a traditional classroom to be valuable, and even small moments can be valuable learning opportunities. No one expects parents to become educators overnight. The resources out there are meant to support parents in giving their children meaningful educational activities, not replace the instruction they receive in the classroom. Even with all of these resources, your child’s most valuable learning resource is you. Listen, laugh, and learn together, discuss the unprecedented times we are facing and sneak in a few fractions along the way.

Note: Bolded text links to provided resources. Please click bolded text to be directed to additional resources.

Jennifer Smith is a National Board-Certified Teacher and currently teaches 8th-grade science at Monticello Middle School where she also sponsors the science club and oversees the STEM lab. She also teaches middle school language arts and geography online for Illinois Virtual School. Jennifer holds a BA in Elementary Education and an MS in Education from Eastern Illinois University as well as an MS in English from Illinois State University. She was a 2014-2015 Illinois Teacher of the Year Finalist, the 2016 Illinois Middle School STEM Teacher of the Year, and the 2019 AACT Middle School Chemistry Teacher of the Year.