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Jewish Day-School Educator Training Group Releases Five Tips for Teachers Returning to Virtual Learning

Hidden Sparks shares guidance for schools reverting to virtual learning due to COVID precautions.

(Courtesy of Hidden Sparks) With many of the region’s Jewish day schools likely transitioning back and forth this year between in-person and virtual learning as a result of positive coronavirus tests or COVID-19 exposure, Hidden Sparks has released five tips to help teachers support students in mainstream Jewish day schools.

The staff of Hidden Sparks spent the summer months studying the impact that virtual learning has had on students and how teachers can rise to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Hidden Sparks’ Social Emotional Learning Coach Lily Howard Scott, M.S. has developed these tips to ease the transition back to virtual learning:

#AloneTogether: Create space for students to connect – Many children will feel disheartened and disconnected from each other and their schoolwork once they’re sent home to learn, so jumping right back into the standard curriculum may alienate them further. Build-in time for students to reflect on the transition to remote learning, to share their questions and to connect with one another.

Keep things fun – In the context of remote learning, a disengaged student can simply walk away from their computer. Whenever possible, weave in games, such as a virtual scavenger hunt: “Take 30 seconds and bring something back to your computer that sparks joy. Go!” (These scavenger hunts can be connected to the academic curriculum—a math teacher, for instance, might ask students to grab any object that can be split into thirds, such as a piece of paper or a cookie.)

Get kids moving – For younger students, create hand signals (I agree, silent cheer, and mind-blown, to name a few) that allow children to participate physically even if they aren’t speaking. Also consider asking kids to stand behind their computers and participate in silly one-minute movement breaks a few times each day.

Create a remote learning classroom charter – Ask children how they want their new remote classroom to feel (not deadly-boring? fun, even? respectful?) and record their answers. Then as a group, develop a list of agreements or rules that will help cultivate such an environment. Many of the agreements will be online-learning specific, related to the use of the chat-box, muting/unmuting, and the like. This charter will enable both you and your students to anticipate remote-learning management issues before they occur.

Remember how difficult virtual school can be on families, and be flexible – It’s frustrating to pour your heart into a lesson and receive partially completed work (if any at all) from some students. But remember that your Zoom portal into a student’s home only reveals a sliver of their quarantine reality. Siblings may need to share devices, an internet connection may be unstable, and parents may be struggling to balance work commitments with ensuring that young children sign on to meetings on time. Before you reprimand students, try to learn more about their particular circumstances and then consider how you might differentiate or support accordingly.

Over the coming weeks, Hidden Sparks will be offering free programming to assist teachers and parents to ease the impact of the transition between in-class and virtual learning. The seminars are part of Hidden Sparks Without Walls.

Veteran behavioral specialist Jeanine Fitzgerald recently presented “Helping Children Cope: Putting Humpty Back Together Again!” for teachers and parents. On Tuesday, October 27, Dean of Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and Hidden Sparks Co-Educational Director Dr. Rona Novick will discuss “My Child’s Worries About COVID—Typical or Excessive” with parents. The series will continue on Wednesday, November 4, with a presentation by Azrieli Associate Professor Dr. Laya Salomon, “Developing the Art of Asking Powerful Questions in the Classroom,” for teachers.

“The challenges of virtual learning are enormous for all students, especially the struggling learners,” said Hidden Sparks Executive Director Debbie Niderberg. “It has been equally challenging for educators as they grapple with this relatively new teaching method to try to make the virtual learning experience as engaging and stimulating as possible for their students. We have learned much over these past few months that teachers can benefit from. These sessions harness that thought-leadership and provide recommendations and tools that participants can immediately adapt to their classrooms.”

For more information or to register, please visit: https://www.hiddensparks.org/professional-development-programs/hidden-sparks-without-walls/

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