Online education can be daunting.
It is a strange fall that we are working through this year. Dealing with COVID-19 isn’t easy for anyone of any age (maybe babies, actually—they probably aren’t aware of what is happening), and parents have the added worry about how best to help their children through online education. So, as many of us struggle to find a way to exist safely while returning to a version of working life, many children are learning virtually for the first time.
Luckily, there is a lot of quality reading and writing–themed content being created to support families and keep kids interested and engaged. While there are many more options than just these five, most of these are new and my personal top choices. Additionally, most are free—only WORDPLAY costs money, and that is because it is part of a bigger educational game that you also get to access.
Quarto Classroom is a free video library available on YouTube, filled to the brim with educational content by Quarto Publishing’s authors. According to the project’s press release: “Each video focuses on subject matters ranging from Engineering to Social Sciences to Arts & Crafts, with Quarto creators guiding students through self-led discussions and projects.” Split by subject, topics range from arts and crafts to math to social-emotional learning. Kids can learn about the U.S. government with Aura Lewis and Evan Sargent, creators of We the People; become social scientists with Vita Murrow, author of Power to the Princess and High-Five to the Hero; and study poetry with Joseph Coelho of Poems Aloud. Many videos are already online, and more are to come.
Penguin’s Classroom Activity Starters
Released by Penguin Books, these activity starters are a series of video prompts that connect authors and children in short, simple workshops. Each video focuses on an aspect of writing or illustrating. For example, in “Free-Writing with Veera Hiranandani” kids are encouraged to write for five minutes by the author of the Newbery Honor–winning The Night Diary. In another video, The Circus of Stolen Dreams author Lorelei Savaryn teaches children about making and using metaphors. While there are only four videos right now, I’m hopeful that Penguin will post more. Pssst, Penguin: please post more.
PBS Learn at Home
PBS’s educational site provides weekly theme pages that contain suggested activities, crafts, recipes and resources—along with the guidance of beloved PBS characters like Daniel Tiger. Each week’s theme is split into age ranges, providing subsections with discussion questions, printable worksheets, activity and craft ideas, and relevant articles. I love the recipe section for added educational creativity—cap off a science lesson by making a colorful candy rope double helix. Plus, there are lots of fun ideas for hands-on activities, like creating a tornado in a jar to discuss weather. And the site itself is wonderfully kid friendly, with awesome illustrations and gorgeous photography.
Kwame Alexander’s WORDPLAY
I wrote about WORDPLAY a month ago and now it is officially online. Created and hosted by award-winning writer and poet Kwame Alexander, this ten-episode digital series aims to excite kids about writing. As I wrote in my previous post: “each episode will depict Alexander overcoming common challenges of the storytelling process with the help of his diverse group of friends.” In this case, those friends include visiting authors, Randy Preston and Toni Blackman in Word of the Day segments, and story enactments from The Pajama Drama Club. The series is accessible through Age of Learning’s educational game Adventure Academy, which also provides lessons in language arts, math, science and more.
Start With a Book
Produced by the experts at the learning site Reading Rockets, the free resources at Start with a Book: Learning About Our World are split into subject headings like cooking, dinosaurs, government, and music. All 24 topic sections contain various options for exploratory learning, including age-specific booklists, activity outlines, writing prompts, and resource suggestions for apps and podcasts. Originally created to support summer education for kids, this site has tons of great educational material for anytime of the year. The goal of each section is to use children’s specific interests to build on general knowledge, vocabulary and overall reading comprehension. Also, Reading Rockets provides many other options to support learning during COVID-19, read more about those here.
Overall, just do the best you can and try not to get overwhelmed. There are lots of creative resources for online education. Each of these sites provide something different and valuable, and kids will get a kick out of learning creatively from authors, educators and parents. While it is likely to be a stressful time for parents, you can use these five resources for added support.