Hidden Sparks Shares Guidance for Schools That Are Reverting
to Virtual Learning Due to COVID Precautions

With many of the region’s Jewish day schools temporarily transitioning back to virtual learning as a result of students testing positive for COVID-19, Hidden Sparks has released five tips for teachers to support students in mainstream Jewish day schools.

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, MS, has developed these tips for 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, disengaged students can simply walk away from their computers. 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 students’ homes 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 help ease the impact of the transition between in-class and virtual learning. The seminars are part of Hidden Sparks Without Walls.

On Wednesday, October 21, veteran behavioral specialist Jeanine Fitzgerald presented to teachers and parents on “Helping Children Cope: Putting Humpty Back Together Again!” On Tuesday, October 27, Dr. Rona Novick, dean of Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and Hidden Sparks Co-Educational Director, discussed with parents “My Child’s Worries About COVID – Typical or Excessive.” The series will continue with a Wednesday, November 4, presentation by Azrieli Associate Prof. Dr. Laya Salomon for teachers on “Developing the Art of Asking Powerful Questions in the Classroom.” For more information or to register, please visit www.hiddensparks.org/professional-development-programs/hidden-sparks-without-walls.

“The challenges of virtual learning are enormous for all students, especially the struggling learners. 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,” said Hidden Sparks Executive Director Debbie Niderberg. “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.”

Founded in 2006, Hidden Sparks is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping teachers and schools educate struggling learners. Since its inception, the organization has impacted a total of 47,450 students in the United States and Israel by working with 3,875 educators in 110 day schools. For more information, please visit www.hiddensparks.org.

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