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How Teachers Are Finding New Ways to Teach on Snow Days

For those living in a cold climate, snow days are an unavoidable part of the school year. While snow days won’t lead to many complaints from kids, these freebies can take a toll on learning and the school calendar—especially in a state like Maine, where some regions receive nearly 50 snowy days per year.

School snow days mean that students are not in class. Some schools find ways to make up the lost time, such as significantly shaving time off recess, eliminating or shortening holiday breaks and professional development days, making class days longer, or adding snow-day makeup days to the end of the school calendar. But some are embracing technology to ensure the show goes on despite the weather.

Remote Learning and Pajama Day

In January, one industrious teacher in Maine decided she and her students needed a break from weather-induced cabin fever, even though the roads remained impassible and her school remained closed. Decked out in her flannel cat pj’s, teacher Candous Brown learned how to use Facebook Live to hold court and make sure her students got their English lesson in, just doing so remotely. More than 40 students tuned in live on a frigid January day to learn about “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond. Despite (or perhaps due to) the comical interludes courtesy of her Ninja Turtle jammy-outfitted son, the day’s lesson was one these students probably won’t soon forget.

Becoming the Norm in Some Places

Candous Brown’s decision to hold class remotely was her own and was optional for her students, who were expressing an interest in the lesson and assignment. “People think that because these kids come from a certain background—single parent homes, low income, etc.—that they won’t be successful,” Brown told Babble. “For many of them, this background fuels the desire to be successful!”

Other school districts are implementing policies in which snow days are becoming synonymous with remote learning days (albeit on a flexible schedule). Pascack Valley Regional High School District in northern New Jersey is just one district whose teachers create home-based lesson plans for days when it seems likely the weather will force schools to close. The policy is feasible since students have school-provided laptops on which to log in. (One reason why remote learning is not the snow-day standard may be that many students still lack access to laptops, tablets and/or high-speed internet, etc. at home.)

While some administrators initially worried students would not participate in the virtual learning sessions, the school’s superintendent reported that attendance for the virtual sessions was higher than attendance on a typical school day.

It’s a Small World

Facebook Live, FaceTime, Skype … technology has made the world smaller. It has also opened up myriad opportunities for remote learning during inclement weather. Teachers can record and upload lectures for students to view on YouTube, they can use technologies like GoToMeeting to hold virtual classroom meetings, or like Brown, they can hold impromptu Facebook Live sessions.

Not only does technology bridge the gap and allow for educational continuity during snow days, but the fact that it’s so novel and infrequent promises to hold students’ attention more than a traditional classroom lecture. If students pay attention, stay engaged and get their work done, they’ll likely have time to enjoy the best of both worlds: their classwork and time to frolic in the snow!

Of course, learning doesn’t stop during snowy days in virtual schools, where students learn remotely via a laptop at home. If you think your student might benefit from online learning, visit K12.com to see what schools are in your area.

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