Covid-19: Keeping children busy

Some schools have given work to their pupils to complete during the Covid-19 school closure and others haven’t. If your child has been given work to do, this may have been completed in a day, it may still be ongoing, or it won’t be completed at all. Each of these scenarios is perfectly acceptable.

What can you do if you’re looking to keep your child busy? If you’re a teacher, you’re in the privileged position where you have the appropriate qualification to teach your child from home. If you’re not a teacher or you don’t fancy trying your hand at teaching your child during the closure, there is plenty of busy work that can be done. You’ll need the following:

  1. Preferably a desktop computer to work from. I prefer this over tablets as I assume the long-term use of tablets could lead to issues with posture, or the neck, depending on how the child is seated and how the device is held. Sitting at a desktop computer in an appropriate chair with a good posture will be easier to stick with in the long-term, in this teacher’s humble opinion.
  2. Some colours – any will do: crayons, colouring pencils, markers, etc. Make sure you have plenty of paper.
  3. A printer. It’s not that important whether or not it’s a colour printer.
  4. Internet access. Twinkl.ie has given free access for a limited time to help parents with keeping their children busy. There are plenty of PowerPoints, amongst other content, on a variety of topics that will keep children fascinated if they are interested in doing a bit of research on topics that interest them.

If you find yourself with no work from the school (unfortunately schools had very little notice of the closure) then you may consider allowing your child to pursue their own interests through an academic lens. Try not to impose project work on them that they have very little or no interest in, instead let them choose a topic that they can relate to, then let them do the research, put it into their own words and put together a project or an oral presentation on the topic. It’s an enjoyable way to practise their existing literacy skills. Don’t forget to remind your child about the importance of not plagiarising! It’s also a good idea to remind your child about proofreading/self-correction.

If you have a recording device (most smartphones have a voice recorder), consider encouraging your child to keep a log, or record a podcast, or both. You can use Audacity to edit the sound files and it’s available free, here. Just make sure to check your child’s content if he/she decides to publish the content. Keeping a log or recording a podcast is an excellent way for your child to practise their oral language skills, while practising their digital skills.

I won’t provide a list of educational websites here because a quick Google search would serve that purpose. However, you’ll easily find websites that have a massive amount of maths games and literacy games. Encourage your child to explore these.

It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but try not to let your child neglect Gaeilge. If you have cúpla focal, use them and encourage their conversational use with your child.

Don’t forget about your child’s physical education. Exercise will provide your child with the balance required so that they won’t get fed up with their academic activities. You can set up a free account with GoNoodle and allow you child to explore these physical activities. Chances are your child is already familiar with this website. If your child has a bicycle, now is a great time to do a bit more cycling, provided a safe ‘social distance’ can be kept from other people.

Read. Read read read. This is an unprecedented opportunity to get loads of reading done. It would be a shame if this opportunity was wasted. If you don’t have a great selection of books, check out Libraries Ireland. The page I have linked will show you how to access a vast selection of ebooks, for free.

Try to give each day some variety. It’s unknown as of yet how long schools will really be closed for, so it’s best to get into good habits now. And when you finally see your child’s teacher again, give them a knowing nod.

The ‘Learning Styles’ Myth

“Despite the overwhelming lack of evidence that they [learning styles] have any effect on outcomes, apparently almost 90 per cent of teachers believe that different people have different learning styles, and that if we want them to learn a thing we have to present it in the way they learn best.” (Didau, 2015, p. 42)

The above comes from David Didau’s book What if everything you knew about education was wrong? (well worth a read, by the way). When push comes to shove, it is not the preferences of an individual learner or a group of learners that determines how content is taught, it is the content itself. The visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (VAK) individual learning styles approach is just not helpful at all. Continue reading