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Parents, take a deep breath

UMass experts simplify home-based learning

With school-age children across the nation staying home due to the coronavirus pandemic, parents have been thrust into the role of teacher. But finding the right online resources while trying to help with remote lessons from classroom teachers (and often while juggling working from home) can feel overwhelming. Hold off on hitting the panic button!

We’ve got ideas from two faculty members from the College of Education. Sharon Edwards ’71, ’85MEd, ’97EdD is a lecturer in the Department of Teacher Education & Curriculum Studies; and Robert Maloy ’69, ’71MA is a senior lecturer in the Department of Teacher Education & School Improvement.

Edwards and Maloy offer some educational home-based activities for various age groups.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

It doesn’t take technology or expensive materials to help children learn. Simple items like water and a bucket or bathtub can go a long way. Fill a tub, sink, or bucket with water and gather household items for an experiment on floating. Children can hypothesize about which objects will float and which will sink. Discuss their reasoning, and then see which predictions are correct. Help them record their results in a chart.

Early Elementary School Students

Create a “writing box” using a plastic storage container, cardboard box, or basket and fill it with pencils, markers, and paper. Go with your child to look out a doorway or window or check out the backyard and draw or write down what you both see. Talk with them about the plants, insects, or animals they find. Putting ideas into words or pictures helps children build writing, critical-thinking, and motor skills.

Upper Elementary School Students

Children in this age group are becoming more inquisitive. Employ their math and science skills by having them make paper airplanes. With their limitless imaginations, children can experiment with their airplane designs and speculate on why different paper weights and folds impact launch and flight. Fold and launch airplanes together, record their flight data, and talk about what you both learned. This activity uses your child’s computational-thinking skills by having them take organizational steps to start an investigation and discover solutions.

Middle School Students

To help support the growth of your child’s reading skills, create a word chart that will stretch their thinking and increase their vocabulary and understanding of words. Draw a four-square chart and put an oval in the middle. In the oval, write a word that your child wants to learn or one that is new to them. Label the four squares: definition, essential characteristics, examples, and opposites. Work with your child to find a definition, and then they can fill in each of the four squares. This activity helps them analyze and synthesize information to deepen their understanding.

High School Students

Invite high school students to write stories, poems, or create comic books. Writing a fantasy story about the pandemic is one option that may help them process their feelings. They can also bring science and math concepts, historical events, or other content from their classroom curriculum into their writing to deepen their understanding of various academic topics.

Remember, you don’t have to overdo it. Edwards and Maloy want to remind parents that they are their children’s first teachers. “From the beginning, parents have been the vehicles, the support systems, and the partners for our children to learn to walk and talk, and do many other things,” explains Maloy. Edwards notes that creative learning can prevail at home and children can achieve intellectual growth naturally during daily life.