Going on spring (or even summer) break doesn’t mean that students have to turn off their brains. One analysis in the Review of Educational Research found that students can lose as much as a month of learning during school breaks, and teachers know how difficult it can be to rebuild academic routines after time off.
Creating flexible, creative assignments for students to work on over a school vacation can help them imagine new worlds, stay connected to their classrooms, and stay mentally active. Here are some ways you can use Kiddom to facilitate these types of assignments, so your students can keep learning and you can take some well-deserved rest.
Send your Students on a Virtual Vacation
Google Arts and Culture allows the public to access high-resolution images of artworks, take a virtual walk through real museums around the world, or look at thematic collections of exhibits — all for free!
Choose a specific museum, work of art, or theme and send to you your students with open-ended questions for them to explore and reflect. Or, send them the link to the overall site and let them choose their own adventure! Find even more tips for incorporating art in our teacher-developed arts guide focused on standards-based, interdisciplinary instruction.
Everything is bundled into one Kiddom assignment: (1) a teacher-created assessment via Google Drive and (2) a link to a Google Arts and Culture exhibit
Each student submits their work separately via the Google Drive attachment
Pause to Journal and Reflect
Break is a good time for students to dig into social emotional skills while they take a step back from a purely academic focus. Kiddom’s Google Drive integration allows you to send journaling prompts to your class, and Kiddom automatically makes a copy for each student to write their individual reflections.
You can also have students reflect on their own progress towards mastery using the reports that they find in their Kiddom dashboards. You can even align these assignments to CASEL’s standards to track progress towards healthy social emotional development.
This folder, created automatically by Kiddom when sending an assignment, gives each student an individual copy of the journaling assignment to save you time
Send Content for Remediation or Exploration
Ahead of break, take a look at your mastery reports in Kiddom and pick one or two standards for students to work on. You can search for these topics or standards to find extension or remediation resources and assign directly to the students who need them.
Each of these suggestions can be reworked to fit your class needs with Kiddom’s flexible assignment structure and student-centered communication tools. Comment on assignments as your students work, and keep consistency going so the re-adjustment is a little smoother on the Monday after break.
In the months since launching our school and district pilot program, the Kiddom team has collectively spent thousands of hours meeting with administrators to better understand their workflows, facilitate contextualized staff workshops, and support ongoing partnerships. Our goal? To build Kiddom Academy, a platform that allows every stakeholder in a school community to be connected and informed to drive student achievement.
We’ve learned so much from these passionate educators about what makes a school leader successful in driving achievement, and which qualities act as barriers to school success. With the goal of helping school leaders reflect and refine their practices, we’ve distilled our learning into three model administrator profiles — and two not-so-great ones. We share these learnings not to pass judgement, but in the hope of supporting the needs of teachers and students everywhere.
Our strongest partnerships with the greatest teacher engagement to drive student mastery all stemmed from leaders who fit a combination of these three profiles:
These leaders understand their staff strengths and growth areas, and leverage strong relationships. Empathizers frequently check the ‘temperature’ of their staff to ensure a balanced workload and plan responsive professional development. In our partnerships, these leaders carefully select education technology tools that leverage the skill sets that individual teachers and teams are developing rather than add another layer of work to busy teacher days.
Visionary leaders set aspirational goals for their teams and communicate them clearly. Because visionaries understand that large scale change doesn’t happen overnight, they plan intentionally for incremental steps towards a larger objective and set aside time for reflection to refine — sometimes over the course of several school years. Many of these leaders choose to pilot tools with small groups of teachers, distill learnings, and then use exemplar artifacts from within the school community to bring new strategies to life for the whole school community. These leaders react to failure with coaching and reflective data analysis rather than negative consequences.
In some of our partnerships, administrators met with us for only a few minutes before seamlessly handing off partnership responsibilities to teacher leaders. While this might seem like an overly hands-off approach, we often found that this staff development strategy led to increased buy-in from teachers and a quicker onboarding process. Principals are not just instructional coaches, but also CFOs, public relations managers, and human resources reps. They simply can’t do it all alone, which is why it’s smart to grow your capacity by building leadership skills in staff. This plan can also prevent staff turnover and foster more collaborative relationships between team members.
Unfortunately, not every school has had the opportunity to bring new tools to their teams due to constraints on time, money, and other factors. Many of the principals we’ve met along the way have had lofty goals for their schools, but struggled to implement them with unsuccessful leadership styles. Here are some models to avoid.
On occasion, we meet with an administrator who makes decisions swiftly and unilaterally, without regard for the current staff skill or student mastery levels. In professional development workshops at these kinds of schools, we heard teachers talking fearfully about what their administrators would be able to see in their accounts, and compliance-based worries about completion of tasks rather than real learning. The key difference between the authoritarian and the visionary was a lack of support for teachers to reach the mandated goals and the punitive consequences for not doing so.
The Impulse Shopper
There are a lot of edtech products out there with convincing sales pitches using trendy buzzwords. We have met principals who go for sparkle over function and fit, and choose separate software to solve every problem facing the school community. Adding tool after tool on top of standard teacher responsibilities causes a whole host of problems. Teachers don’t have time to learn the logistics of each one, and then abandon them, which means wasting precious school funds. Student data becomes fragmented and can become difficult to use in meaningful interventions. When tools are purchased based on marketing materials, they don’t necessarily align to long-term school goals; every year becomes another swing of the pendulum for staff — leading to change fatigue.
The Bottom Line
We share these learnings not to put anyone down, but to share what we’ve had the privilege to witness at schools around the country. We hope that these lessons help school administrators reflect on their leadership style and better support their teachers and students. Based on these experiences, we’ve built Kiddom Academy for schools and districts to include actionable, aggregate data and curriculum controls to help administrators coach, plan, empower, and experiment with intention. Plus, ongoing partnerships with our experienced success team means contextualized support and intentional planning throughout the year.
How to trace a student’s journey to mastery using the flexible assignments feature
Educators in our pilot schools and districts have been using Kiddom this school year to create self-paced curriculum and personalized assignments. Their work is shifting towards student-centered, authentic projects and away from teacher-driven assignments with only one right answer.
This shift provides options for demonstrating mastery in both the processes students use and the artifacts they create. To support our pilot schools’ desires to build student ownership, we’ve expanded the ways teachers can send assignments and students can send evidence of demonstrating mastery.
Now, each assignment created by a teacher can have multiple attachments from their computer, Google Drive, or Kiddom’s content library.
Students benefit too — they can send teachers more than one attachment per assignment, allowing them to do more complex and rigorous work in a streamlined way.
How do multiple attachments support teaching and learning?
Choice: Provide students with choice by sending multiple attachments as a set of options to choose from. An English teacher might attach multiple readings to choose at the same Lexile level.
Modality: Help every student gain an understanding of the learning material by attaching a video, an audio file, and a reading to meet their needs.
Process: Let students share several drafts of a project within a single assignment, or offer checklists and graphic organizers in the same assignment as the final project.
Students will now be able to:
Attach multiple attachments before submitting an assignment
Access and attach items from Google Drive
Make multiple submissions over time on a single assignment
Teachers will be able to:
Send multiple attachments from a single assignment
Attach more than one curriculum resource from Library
Send more than one Google Drive attachment
Attach any combination of files (PDFs, screenshots, images, etc.)
We’d like to thank our pilot school communities for helping us understand why allowing for multiple attachments is critical for classrooms focused on promoting student choice and voice. We’re excited to learn how you’ll use this new functionality in your quest to unlock potential for all students.
P.S. If this is your first time hearing about our pilot program for schools and districts, click here to learn more. We do have some availability for learning communities interested in implementation spring 2018.
But so often at conferences or schools, our team hears teachers lamenting the number of dry lectures about decontextualized strategies they are forced to sit through.
In a 2009 report, the School Redesign Network at Stanford University found these characteristics to be most important in creating high-quality PD:
Focused on Content
Active, engaged learning
Coaching from experts
Opportunities for feedback and reflection
Sustained over time
At Kiddom, we help teachers take charge and lead professional development for and with each other by allowing you to build digital sessions to meet those requirements. Benefits of developing your PD resources using Kiddom include:
Flexibility: It can be impossible to find time to sit down together. With resources accessible online, teachers can access them when and where they want, instead of trying to cram learning into their only free period. Use your lunch break to eat or take a walk… learn when you’re ready!
Accessibility: Materials are stored in the classes until you archive them — they can be used and referenced over time, instead of getting lost in a pile of handouts on your desk.
Engagement: Your colleagues can ask you questions, or send you back attachments to share additional student work, reflections, or feedback. Learning is a dialogue!
Transparency: If you’re an administrator or instructional coach and want to provide targeted feedback, you can align materials to standards like ISTE’s or your own school’s goals for teachers. Help them improve by clearly defining growth areas.
Define your goal: Do you want teachers to learn a new skill, explore new content, or reflect on their practice? Set a learning objective to guide your materials. Make a new class in Kiddom with a related title.
Collect your resources: Add these as assignments to topical playlists in your Planner.
You might include:
Articles about the topic to ground teachers in common understanding
Videos, lesson plans, and student work from exemplar classes to model best practices
Case studies from other schools
Data protocols for individual reflection on student achievement
New curriculum materials for review and discussion
An assignment for teachers to complete at their own pace ahead of a team meeting
Share: Send your colleagues the class code from your settings, and ask them to join the class as students with a username. They should keep their student accounts separate from their teacher ones. When a new colleague joins your class, select them from the drop down menu in your timeline, drag and drop the resources from your Planner, and they’ll have access to the materials.
As summer fades and the weather cools, teachers are stocking up on school supplies like pens, paper, glue sticks, and….tissues? For most teachers, colds and the flu are an unfortunate side effect of working in schools. According to the CDC, the average elementary school student in the U.S. will have 12 bouts of the cold or flu each season from October through May. 😷
It’s not easy for teachers to take a day off and it’s nearly impossible for substitute teachers to seamlessly continue instruction the way you would. The last thing you want to do is leave boring, busy work for students. However, emergencies happen and the worst thing you can do is push yourself and get sicker and/or get everyone else sick too.
Use Kiddom’s Planner to Design Pre-Made Sub Lessons
Planner allows you to create assignments now, which can used when you’re ready. In Planner, add materials, links, or Google drive attachments and directions for your students. When you know you’re feeling under the weather, simply drag the assignment from your Planner to your Timeline and edit it to include any new information or messages you want to include. With these tools, you can prepare interactive, emergency substitute plans in advance and assign them to your students when you realize you’ll need a day in bed with Netflix and some decongestant.
Assign Meaningful Resources Using Kiddom’s Library
Kiddom’s Library contains thousands of free teaching resources from Khan Academy, Zearn, CK-12, PBS Kids and more. Resources include videos, games, podcasts, and interactive activities that can keep your students engaged while you’re away. TEDEd is one great resource for when you can’t be there to teach your students in person. TedED’s videos are curated for a wide variety of subjects, mostly geared towards older students. The videos are engaging and paced for student comprehension, and often include experts in the field to provide a range of perspectives to your students. The best part is that they come with questions and lesson activities, so you can ensure that your students participated while you were away.
Easily Keep Sub Lessons Current and Useful
Kiddom’s library also includes fantastic news resources for you to foster critical media literacy skills. If you haven’t planned ahead, login to Kiddom if you know you’ll need to call out sick and find up-to-date podcasts and articles from Listenwise and Newsela and assign them directly to your class(es). This work will feel relevant to students, and can support a variety of learning styles through audio or text media. With Newsela, you can provide students with articles written at multiple reading levels, too. When you get back, you can hold a class discussion about how your students see these current events impacting their lives!
Make it Personal
They don’t always act like it, but our students miss teachers when they’re absent. Copies of worksheets left for subs send the message that work is impersonal and unimportant. Instead, use our Google Drive integration to draft a letter now reminding students of class expectations and norms when you’re away and some reflection questions about their work in your class with a space for them to respond.
Easily share Google Drive attachments and align them with standards/skills using Kiddom
This may not connect directly to your content, but it allows your students time to build the social emotional skill of self-awareness, and gives you insight into how they communicate in writing. You can even attach CASEL’s social emotional learning competencies to the assignment to give students direct feedback on their social emotional development.
We hope you don’t get sick, but if you do, you shouldn’t feel bad about taking the time to get better. Use Kiddom to keep the learning going from the comfort of your couch. Take care!
Need 1:1 support? Learn more about using Kiddom via a short demo.