Relevant Learning in 2020

by Sasha Mills

Teaching and learning in 2020 has definitely been a memorable experience.
Patience. Flexibility. Adaptability. Change. I’m sure these words resonate deeply
with all teachers around the world!

With so much uncertainty and change, how do teachers maintain a safe space for
students to express themselves and thrive academically?

I have found it more crucial than ever to keep students (of all ages) connected and
engaged in local, national, and global events. In this article, I will share some of my
strategies and resources that I use in my virtual classroom to keep students
informed and engaged.

Why this matters? Students will…

  • sharpen their critical thinking skills
  • become global-minded
  • become independent learners
  • be more equipped and willing to take action on important matters
  • gain a deeper sense of collaboration
  • become problem solvers

Student voice matters. Within a safe and respectful classroom, students can explore
their thoughts and feelings in a healthy way that leads to healing and productive action!
With the bountifulness of content to teach- how do teachers fit it all in?

Connect Curriculum to Current Events

Book selections, well-planned discussions in Social Studies and Science are key strategies to keeping the learning relevant!  

For example, in 4th grade, students learn about the American Revolution.  What is a revolution?  What might a revolution look like today?  Students were able to bring up the Black Lives Matter Movement and explain how it is connected to the American Revolution and why it matters to us.  

Make Time for What Really Matters

The 2020 Presidential Election was a hot topic in my classroom.  It was very important to me to take the time to discuss the process of a presidential election in the United States (popular vote, electoral college, etc.).  Students had questions, concerns, fears, that they were able to release in our safe classroom community.  

Acknowledge Important Holidays and Memorials 

Hispanic Heritage Month.  National Bullying Prevention Month.  Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  World Kindness Day.  Veterans Day.  Explicitly teaching the significance of these events is critical in developing a student’s character and knowledge.  They will become more well-rounded and have a deeper respect and understanding of all people! Plan ahead for the upcoming winter holidays and events.  Your students will benefit greatly!  

BOTTOM LINE:

Allowing students to engage in discussions on the world around them should be a PRIORITY in education.  No matter the age, students will benefit from sharing their thoughts and ideas on the occurrences in the world.  They will learn to listen and value differing perspectives.  They will become open-minded, active, helpful participants in their communities.  These are critical skills—especially during these difficult times.  

Resources:

  • www.cnn10.com (kid-friendly worldwide news in 10 minutes)
  • www.seesaw.com (an excellent resource for virtual teaching)
  • www.getepic.com (free, online books for students)
Sasha Mills

Sasha Mills A native of Washington, D.C., Sasha earned her B.A. in Sociology from Spelman College. She began her teaching career in 2011 with Teach for America, and has taught kindergarten and 2nd-5th grade. During the summer of 2017, Sasha traveled to Peru to teach English to 3rd-5th graders. Sasha currently resides in Atlanta and is on her 10th year of teaching in Atlanta Public Schools. She is passionate about providing all students with high quality, equitable education.