No matter how you go back to school, that summer feeling doesn’t have to end! Bring it to the classroom.
Educators have gone above and beyond to keep students comfortable and engaged over the last 18 months. It has been a heroic challenge to adapt to new parameters—from virtual classrooms to schedule changes—but it also created a serious need for a reboot. Thank goodness for summer break. Remembering the best parts of your summer can help keep your learning environment fresh and inspiring, no matter what it looks like.
A Little Less Pressure
Pressure has been building since early 2020, but it’s likely that some of that pressure has given way over the last couple of months. Summer feels like a break even when nothing seems normal. Look for chances to carry a bit of that relaxed feeling into the school year by using new tools that will help you assess student learning without an exam and offer those three magic ingredients: variety, choice, and agency.
3 Tools for Low-Pressure Learning & Assessment
1. Studio Activity Templates
Studio Activity Templates give you a head start on creating engaging activities that combine the best of our instructional strategies with the content you want. Or, start with one of our 1500+ ready-to-use activities to save even more time.
2. Studio Choice Boards
Studio Choice Boards allow students to follow their interests directly into engaging activities. From SEL and STEM to grade-band and topic-specific Boards (e.g., Earth Day and Celebrating Hispanic Heritage), students are sure to find something that sparks their curiosity.
3. The New Quiz
The new Quiz guides you through the creation and launch of custom quizzes. Embed quiz questions into a video timeline to gauge understanding, ask questions verbally in class and have students respond from their own devices, or build a standard quiz to get a pulse on where students are in their learning.
Learn more about how DE can serve as your daily learning platform. Check out our live and on-demand events or explore 30 Ways to DE!
Compassion & Space
While social-emotional learning (SEL) has always been a critical part of an effective and caring education, it is more critical than ever to acknowledge and address the social and emotional needs of children. Unfortunately, all students are coming to the 2021-2022 school year having experienced significant changes from their pre-pandemic lives. Some students have lost loved ones, housing, or a sense of safety and stability. While others may have struggled to understand the nature of a pandemic and its effects.
Hopefully, students have loved ones who helped them handle pandemic-related experiences over the summer. But educators can also support the social-emotional needs of students right now. While all students need individual attention at some point, whole-class activities can benefit everyone. Even spending a few minutes each day on breathing exercises or reflection journals can help students feel more centered and ready to learn.
The SEL Center in DE has tools for mindfulness at all grade levels, along with resources for stress management, Virtual Field Trips for self-discovery, and special series from the Child Mind Institute and other partners.
Laughter for Learning
Think of the sounds of laughter floating up from the street on a warm summer night or bouncing across the water at the pool. Most teachers know learning can be fun. Make sure your students feel the same way. Consider adding a game, a dance break, or even a content-related joke challenge to your schedule. You can keep it light and relevant. Consider connecting with the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) Community for inspiration, support, and guaranteed laughter!
Enjoy—no, treasure—the time you have with your students this year, whether it’s in-person (which most of us have been missing deeply) or virtual or some combination of the two. Whether you come back to school bursting with good news and hilarious stories or overwhelmed with changes and challenges, we greatly appreciate you and know that your students and colleagues have missed you. Take a deep breath and get ready for this year’s ride. It’s sure to be an absolute challenge and a beautiful opportunity.
About the Author
Jeanette Edelstein is an educator dedicated to making learning more engaging for students of all ages. She has been a classroom teacher, curriculum designer, and program developer. She was a founding teacher and the gifted and talented coordinator at Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts. Her curriculum projects include Hive Alive!, a collection of teaching resources about honey bees, Animal Planet Rescue, a disaster relief and educational vehicle that rescued over 1,000 animals, and CapsinSchool, an elementary curriculum based on the math and science of hockey.