As our state and the world begin to grapple with the new normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic, all of us in the education community immediately think of the kids. Often we first think of the basics: do they have food, a safe place to stay, adults who can look after them? Do they feel safe, loved, and cared for? For so many of our students, school is their safe place, so times like these aren’t a welcome break or a minor inconvenience; they are a life-altering disruption.
Although we know how critically important those first-order needs are, it’s hard not to think about what comes next. How do we ensure that kids are learning? How can we prevent the equity and opportunity gaps that already exist from widening into chasms? While there is no perfect solution, lots of folks are compiling resources to support with distance learning, so we wanted to gather a few to support an issue about which we care deeply: early literacy.
TNTP has compiled some curriculum-specific guidance for providing students with as rich a learning experience as possible at home using the strong materials many districts already have in place. Included below are tips for transitioning to online or virtual learning, if that applies to your current circumstances.
TNTP has also compiled a list of standalone resources for all subjects, as well as information about virtual platforms that can be used to facilitate distance learning, such as:
- Zoom: Currently free, easy to use with a computer or smartphone, lots of great features (e.g. whiteboard, screen sharing, chat). There is a learning curve, though, and students would likely need training on how to use it.
- Google Classroom: Free; highly recommended by many educators; accessible by computer, phone, and even game consoles. Many schools already have Google accounts for students, which makes this easy to access. See the guide for teachers and guide for administering assessments.
- Teacher-directed phone calls: Allows teachers to connect with students 1:1, no internet required. Teachers could create a Google Voice phone number for students to call and text. Calendly is a useful tool to quickly schedule 1:1 check-ins.
At the end of the day, our top priority is ensuring that students are safe and supported through this disruption in schooling. Even as educators and leaders across Tennessee try to care for and educate their own children through this public health crisis, we know they are also working tirelessly to ensure that all students have the resources they need to continue learning and growing. Take time to thank them for the work they do every day to make sure that our students are safe, supported, and learning.
Courtney Bell is senior director of research and innovation at SCORE.