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Making the Most of School Closure Days for Elementary Students

Making the Most of School Closure Days for Elementary Students

We recently discussed ideas for making school closure days for secondary students as productive as possible. Although most of those ideas apply to elementary classes as well, younger students sometimes need a little extra structure and direction to be productive when they get a surprise day away from the classroom. Keeping their minds engaged and focused on the curriculum while stuck indoors can save a lot of time when school resumes, so it’s worthwhile to have some go-to activities and strategies on hand in the event of a weather closure.

Here are some multi-disciplinary practices to adopt today so you’re ready to make the most of your elementary students’ next school closure.

Communicate expectations with caregivers as soon as possible

As compared to secondary students, younger kids need more support from the adults looking after them when school closes during a community emergency. Parents and guardians are almost always happy to do whatever they can to help with their child’s learning, but sometimes they don’t know exactly what that support should look likeso be sure to communicate expectations ahead of time. As soon as possible, take an opportunity to explain to parents that you will be providing their children with ways to stay sharp during upcoming school closures and offer some tips on how they can assist in those efforts. With parents and other caretakers on board, you’re sure to see more of your students stay on track during their unscheduled holiday.

Keep a bank of non-topical emergency activities

School closures can often be unexpected, and leave you little time to assign topic-relevant work that aligns with what is going on in class. Overcome this challenge by thinking about school closure days like sick days, and try reserving some of the activities you would keep in your emergency substitute plans for an emergency school closure instead.

These activities shouldn’t require any specific materials (think along the lines of worksheets, writing prompts, reading assignments, etc.). If you have some prior notice of your school's closure plans, let students help you brainstorm some ideas to generate buy-in, then share the list with parents along with any other planned school closure take-home resources.

Align activities to things students will already be doing

Think about how your students will be spending their time during a school closure day and what their minds will be occupied with. Will they be watching movies or reading? Have them review basic concepts like main idea or character traits while they consume content. What about looking for offline games to play? If you play games with them in class, simply ask them to share those games while at home. If getting out of the house is an option, outdoor pursuits are a great way to get students thinking about their environment and nature. 

Keep it light

Let’s face it—one of the joys of childhood is unexpected days off from school. So, asking your young students to stay as diligent in their work during school closures as they would be with their regular schoolwork may be a bit unfair. Be realistic, keep everything in perspective, and stay on the lookout for activities that could double as play. Depending on the situation, anything outside is better than indoors and, unless your district has specific rules about what should go on during an emergency school closure, aim for activities that take roughly half the time you require for your regular homework.

Looking for online tools that can help you and your elementary students overcome the challenge of school closure days? Check out Edmentum’s Exact Path and Study Island for robust, state-standards-aligned curriculum and practice across core and elective subjects that students can work through at their own pace, anytime and anywhere!

scott.sterling's picture

Scott Sterling is a former English teacher who worked in Title I middle and high schools in St. Petersburg, Florida who is now a freelance writer who focuses on education. He is also a stay-at-home dad to his 4-year-old daughter Lily, who will soon be starting her own educational journey.