I have been a fan of iCivics, the site founded by Justice O’Connor in 2009, since 2011. Since then, the site has continued to add fun, quality activities designed to help students learn about being responsible citizens. As a response to our current educational environment, iCivics has introduced a free, quest-based resource called, “iCivics Game Odyssey,” that will encourage students to, according to the site, #shelterinplay.
To begin, students will download the Odyssey map, which will be on a Google Slide that they will copy so they can edit it. As they complete each quest, they will be able to add the badges they have earned to the map. The quests, which are also each accompanied by interactive Google Slides activities, are connected to iCivics games. New quests are scheduled to be added each Monday. If used as an assignment, teachers can have students turn in their completed Google Slides copies at the end of each quest, and the map once all badges have been earned.
There is a link on the Odyssey page to weekly planners for middle school and high school teachers who would like to use the lessons for class. (To access these, you will need to register for a free iCivics account.) Although 6-12 seem to be the targeted grade levels, I think that upper elementary students would also enjoy these activities. There is no requirement for this resource to be used by schools, so parents can feel free to provide this as an enrichment activity for their children and even play along with them.
When my daughter was younger, she would often plop on the floor next to our golden retriever, Mia, and read to her. I would have suspected that Mia was just being a good sport, but her additional voluntary presence during our nightly bedtime stories seemed to suggest that she actually enjoyed read alouds. Each evening, my husband or I would set ourselves up in the beanbag chair on the floor by our daughter’s bed, and Mia and our bulldog, Clancy, would lie down on either side of us, muzzles in their paws and eyes wide open, as we made our way through Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, and the Chronicles of Narnia. (It should be noted that, at the time, Clancy’s greatest joy was devouring books in a very literal way, so it was quite the feat to get him to calm down and actually listen to one being read.)
Pet Partners, an organization that helps to train therapy animals and match volunteers with organizations, recognizes the magic of reading to your pet. In response to the pandemic, which may have placed more responsibility on parents to encourage their children to read at home, Pet Partners has begun a new program called, “We Are All Ears.” With a reading log, printable bookmarks, and a bingo card students who may find reading to be a chore can make it more fun by involving their pet snake, hamster, bird, dog, cat, etc… The program is free, but you can also purchase a t-shirt if you like.
I’ve seen lots of pictures on social media of people thankful for their pets during the quarantine. Now you can give back to your pets while practicing literacy at the same time.
One of the many podcasts that I listen to is Radiolab, a program that makes science easy to understand for non-scientists. I was happy to find out from one of their Tweets that there is now a “Radiolab for Kids” site, where they have collected programs from their archives that would appeal especially to children. One of the many episodes is, “Mapping Tic Tac Toedom,” which I’ve embedded below. In this broadcast, the hosts try to figure out who in the world knows how to play Tic-Tac-Toe – a game that seems ubiquitous to Americans, but do people in other countries play it?
If your child listens to the podcast, and is interested in learning more about Tic-Tac-Toe, I recommend the Wikipedia entry on “Tic-Tac-Toe Variants,” which offers suggestions for different versions such as “Revenge in a Row” and “Random Turn Tic-Tac-Toe.”
My students enjoyed playing Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe, and you can find directions for that here: “Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe” (as explained by “Math with Bad Drawings”)
They also really liked the video, Tic-Tac-Toe Game That Goes Horribly Wrong, which I would use whenever we were about to do a unit on inventing games so they could see what happens when people just assume you know the rules to a game.
Other great listens on Radiolab for Kids? Try learning about animal minds, super cool science, or zombie cockroaches among other things. Chances are, even the adults will learn something new!
Scratch programming is one of the most versatile tools for creativity that my students have ever used. I am constantly in awe of the ideas people come up with using this free coding platform that is available to anyone online. One of the most recent suggestions that is perfect for those of us going a bit stir crazy during the quarantine is to “hack your window.” Basically, you take a picture of any of the windows in your residence, use the Scratch drawing tools to delete the panes, and add what you would like to imagine seeing outside your window. This post from Eduard Perich gives specific instructions for creating an animated scene.
If you are not familiar with Scratch, or would like to start by just seeing what others have done along this theme, here is a link to the Scratch studio where creators are sharing their programs. You will notice that there are submissions in many different languages, which could be fun for translation lessons!
Knowing many of my former students, they would probably enjoy the entry, “Don’t Let the Corona Get In,” which I’ve embedded below. It’s a game where you have to try to click the images of the coronavirus before they get too large and overcome you.
One way to help students learn quickly in Scratch is to allow them to copy a program and remix it. You can do this by clicking on any shared program, choosing, “See Inside,” and then making a copy. You will need to be logged in to Scratch in order to do this.
There are many, many resources out there for getting started with Scratch. This is one of the basic ones, but keep in mind that the platform has been updated since then so some of the screen shots may look different than the current version. You can also do a search of this blog for ideas to use with Scratch and/or Scratch Jr.
I also like the: Artful, Global, and Agency by Design Thinking Routines that are included on this page. For example, I’ve added one of the Global cards below. Imagine applying these questions to the current pandemic, and what answers you might receive from your students! Some might find literal beauty in the microscopic image of the virus, while others may see the beauty of human nature being revealed as people jump in to help their communities.
If you are preparing curriculum for distance learning, I hope that you will consider adding some of these to get a more detailed understanding of the thoughts your students are having while they learn.
I recently mentioned the Smithsonian Learning Lab in this post , which features some great lessons for Women’s History Month. Now, the incredible educators at Smithsonian have a page of links to resources they have specifically curated for distance learning during this time of quarantine. It includes information on how to use the Learning Lab, links for learning more about COVID-19, and resource collections with a national audience in mind. In addition, there are D.C. specific lessons (which are separated by grade level, and can certainly be used whenever they fit in any curriculum), lessons for caregivers to use with children, and resources for tweens and teens. The last two categories also include games and maker activity links.