How to Take Learning Offline during Remote Learning

By: | 11/24/2020
Categories: Distance Learning, Instruction

If you’ve been teaching remotely and have reached the point where even thinking about looking at a lit screen makes your eyes feel dry, you’re not alone.

Not long into the global COVID-19 pandemic, researchers began reporting a phenomenon called “Zoom fatigue,” which is described as “. . . the tiredness, anxiety, or worry resulting from overusing . . . virtual platforms.” People are also suffering from “cybersickness,” (i.e., digital motion sickness), computer vision syndrome (i.e., digital eye strain), and plain boredom with the virtual world.

At Curriculum Associates, we’re big fans of printed materials. Yes, many of our programs are online (e.g., i-Ready Assessment and i-Ready Learning), but we’re still making print products like Ready Mathematics, Reading, and Writing because print still matters!

If you’re looking for ways to engage students offline and facilitate instruction that doesn’t require technology, read on!

Tech and Equity

It’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking remote learning equals online learning. But educators can’t define remote learning so narrowly—not when school districts across the country are still struggling to ensure that all their students have devices and internet access.

Providing print learning opportunities can be a matter of equity.

  • Curriculum Associates has free downloadable practice packets for Math and Reading on our At-Home Resources page. They’re available in English and Spanish.
  • We curate fun activities and resources from educators on i-Ready Central® Ideas. i-Ready, our assessment and personalized learning program, might be in the website title, but many of the activities we share can be used even if your district doesn’t have our programs.
  • If your district can, consider sending younger students at-home activity kits with materials like crayons, notebooks, glue, tape, and other supplies they would have access to in the classroom. By providing each student with the same kit, you’re ensuring that everyone can participate in offline activities.

Activity Choice Boards

At the beginning of remote learning, second grade teacher and Curriculum Associates Extraordinary Educator Nélida Pagán realized her students’ attention lagged at the end of the school week. Based on feedback from students and parents, she rearranged her teaching schedule and decided to devote Thursdays and Fridays to “choice board” activities.

A choice board (a.k.a. learning menu) is a visual collection of learning activities that students can choose to do. Whether your choice board is a handwritten list on plain white paper or a color-coded, virtual bulletin board, it should offer a range of activities that reflect your students’ diverse interests and learning styles as well as clear instructions and expectations.

Some example activities to get you started are:

  • Assets-at-Hand Games: Challenge students to create original math and/or reading games only using items that most students will have in their homes, like cardboard, pencils or crayons, plastic bottle caps, etc.
  • Fan Fiction: Have students write a “fan fiction” story starring characters from a recently read book. Create a “library” space in your online classroom where students who want to share their work can post their stories and engage in discussions with readers.
  • Idiom Interpretations: Ask students to draw literal interpretations of idioms, like “It’s raining cats and dogs,” “In a nutshell,” “On the same page,” etc. Encourage English Learners to illustrate idioms from their first language, and then share the expressions with the class.
  • Origami: As students fold paper into hearts, swans, boxes and more, they’ll explore mathematical concepts (e.g., spatial relations, mental imagery, geometry, etc.) and create works of art from scrap paper.
  • Hunt for Polygons: Have students borrow a phone and spend some time taking photos of shapes they discover in their homes. After the photos are posted on the class website, student photographers can ask their classmates to find the shapes in each image

Paper and Pens

  • Letters: Have students participate in a pen pal program in which they correspond with a senior citizen through old-fashioned paper letters.
  • Journals: We’ve heard from several teachers that they’ve asked students to keep journals (the paper kind) during remote learning. Keeping a journal has many benefits for students. It helps them build writing skills, process feelings, and keep a record of this historical moment.
  • Six-Word Bios: Challenge students to capture the essence of fictional characters, world leaders, famous mathematicians, etc. in only six words.

Need inspiration? Here’s an example bio for Snargg, a character from Curriculum Associates’ i-Ready program: Blue alien space dog. Eats everything.

For even more inspiration, explore the Six-Word Memoirs® project website.

If you need to record students’ work, ask them to take pictures of their letters, journal entries, etc. and send them to you. Create space on your class online platform (e.g., ClassDojo, Canvas, Google Classroom) where students can share their writing with their peers if they want to.

Print Books

We didn’t know how good we had it when students could simply walk to the library or classroom bookshelves to pick out a print book to read. However, it is still possible to give students offline reading and math assignments.

  • Check to see if your local libraries are offering contactless pick-up and drop-off for print books. Students will have to go online to request the titles they want, but after that, it’s pure paper.
  • Encourage greater interaction across a grade with grade-level book clubs. Discussions will be online, but the reading can still be print.
  • If a book is popular enough, there’s a chance a student can borrow a print copy from a relative, friend, or neighbor. Ask families to follow book “disinfecting” guidelines before sharing or opening a borrowed book. The Northeast Document Conservation Center recommends that shared materials be “quarantined” between readers and advises against using chemicals, UV ray exposure, etc. on print materials.
  • Finally, educators who want to support students who don’t have access to a device or the internet can do so by including print materials in their instruction. Explore the possibility of purchasing print supplemental instruction programs like Ready Mathematics, Ready Reading, Ready Writing, and PHONICS for Reading to supplement screen-based learning.

Interested in other reasons why print matters? Explore additional resources on the Curriculum Associates website.

Six Word Memoirs® is a registered trademark of Six Words, LLC.

Teacher and students sitting on the floor.

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