Updated: May 14, 2020

Helping Parents Cope During a Pandemic

Parents are our students’ first teachers and now their role as teachers is more important than ever! While under duress, parents must must be let in on the secrets of how we teach that works best. Most parents and caregivers are at home now, under pressure because they have been laid off, lost their jobs or because they are working from home. In each of these cases, they now also have their children with them – constantly. We may be able to reduce some of that extra pressure by helping them to understand some guiding principles of teaching and learning that we use every day:

  1. Learning is fun;

  2. Learning is best accomplished when it is relevant, meaningful, and hands-on;

  3. Learning can be in short bursts with breaks for snacks, drinks, exercise, not sitting for hours;

  4. Learning is safe, risk-free, adventurous and sparks curiosity;

  5. Learning is a social process that must include Talk;

  6. Reading together, every day and every kind of material, is gratifying, important and a bonding process. Writing daily can be fun when art is included;

  7. Learning can be all around the house as exploration; discovery through inquiry is learning.

1. Reading

The importance of Literacy surpasses any moral imperative we individually or collectively may have. Literacy is freedom and the foundation of democracy. It is every student’s right to learn to read, write, do mathematics, and think critically. Critical literacy is the capacity for a particular type of thinking that involves looking beyond the literal meaning of text to observe what is present and what is missing, in order to analyze and evaluate the text’s complete meaning and the author’s intent. Critical literacy goes beyond conventional critical thinking in focusing on issues relating to fairness, equity, and social justice (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2006). Here are some questions to ask your children while reading a text together:

  • Knowing what we know about who created this text, how do we expect the author to treat the subject matter?

  • Why are we reading or viewing this text?

  • What do we already know about the text based on what we can see (Pictures/illustrations)?

  • What do the images/pictures suggest? What do the words suggest?

  • What kind of language is used (words are used) in this text? What is its influence on the message?

  • What do you interpret to be the author’s intent? Explain.

  • With whom do you think the author wants us to identify or sympathize?

  • Who is the target audience? How do you know?

  • How might different people interpret the message of the text?

  • How are children, adolescents, young adults or parents represented in this text? Are boys or girls represented differently?

  • What has been left out of this text that you would like to have seen included?

  • Is the text fair? Does it treat the subject matter/sides/parties fairly?

  • Who benefits from this text? Who does not?

  • What does the reader/viewer need to know ahead of time in order to really understand this text?

  • What is real in the text? What is not real? How is reality constructed?

  • How might the creator of this text view the world? Why do you think that?

Source: Compiled by Michelle Sharratt, University of Toronto, 2015.

2. Writing

After watching students as struggling readers come alive with daily opportunities to write—about the ordinary things that were important to them—I became a firm believer that if you can read you can write, and if you can write you can read. Most students can’t wait to write about real-life happenings—that are only sensational to them, like David’s “My New Hair Cut” or Jeffery’s “We Went Tobogganing Last Night,” and so on. Drawing the pictures and ‘publishing’ (stapling a booklet together) empowers writers.

The power of writing is not to be dismissed. The audience and purpose for writing across the subject areas has to be authentic and relevant to our student writers. In science, geography, or mathematics, the ability to write detailed observations, stages of erosion, or steps in the solution to a problem promotes c