The rush to remote and online learning due to the pandemic created a barrage of reactive approaches from schools, with the assumption that teachers have the time, materials, and knowledge base to create high quality elearning for students of all ages. Many teachers are overwhelmed with the sudden responsibility of "sending" and setting up home instruction, and for many schools, the initial wave of learning at home was defined by packets of worksheets and other things meant to "engage" students.
As weeks passed, most school systems are providing PD for teachers to learn new apps, presentation platforms, and many new ways to "teach" online. Of course, access is a concern as many families do not have the tools or connectivity to engage their children with the variety of online opportunities to continue learning. One good question, however, might be, "What are we teaching?" While this may be an easier question to answer for content area work like math or science, literacy and other performance-based disciplines, such as reading and writing, can be much more complicated to send home, especially at the elementary level. Another question is who should establish and lead collaborative sessions with teachers within a school to maintain some cohesion with the curriculum and instruction that hopefully was in place before schools closed?
The instructional approach in a reading and writing workshop is based on short mini-lessons, student choice in reading or writing topic, extended time to read or write, with individualized coaching and feedback from teachers. The goal of this type of curriculum and instruction is to grow strong readers and writers who actually like to read, write, and think, who also function with a sense of independence and agency. This can be challenging to implement with online learning. Getting teachers to work together to agree on a simplified and "teachable" unit of study might be work worth doing to help maintain a more cohesive, yet imperfect, approach to curriculum and instruction. Parents must also have some understanding of how the lessons will go, and what their kids should be doing during their reading and writing "work" at home.
The attached template contains a unit of study for informational writing for grades 5-8, and the padlet link provides potential resources to use with the online lessons. Teachers can certainly use different resources, especially if they have mentor texts that will meet the needs of their students. The unit is more generalized across grades to make it accessible for several grades, and to give teachers license to adapt based on their students.
To see how the unit and the resources can work together, open the attached unit first, and then open the padlet resources to see the intended sync. This is a Writing Workshop unit from Teachers College Units of Study, but the process of collaborating with teachers to create such a unit on any topic might help schools increase the cohesion and level of quality in these challenging times. Leadership can help to set up this type of work, and teachers will take it from there!
I'm working with schools to help get some of the units sketched out, and then encouraging teachers to take it from there, possibly recording lessons to make the work their own. Curriculum leadership is still important, even in the midst of this dystopian novel we're experiencing!