Articles by Rachel Samuel

Educator Spotlight: Antionette Means

The Power of Culturally-Responsive, High-Quality Education

A good education empowers students to understand more about the world, including politics, socio-economic issues, art, culture, and themselves. Through education, students can learn how to be positive contributors to their own culture and society.”  – Antionette Means

Antionette Means is a School Support Teacher at Westside Academy, a community school in central Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Westside has “high expectations focusing on core academics and the social-emotional development of students to prepare them to be college and career ready.” This mission extends into Westside’s afterschool program, where they officially launched an academic component three years ago. 

Ms. Means was brought in as the Academic Coordinator to help identify and implement academics into the program. This opportunity was a perfect fit for Ms. Means, who believes that “education allows students to recognize their strengths and how to build on them, ensuring they are both intellectually and emotionally intelligent and prepared for life after school.” 

By incorporating academic components like Read to Lead into Westside’s afterschool program, Ms. Means could help her students continue to build literacy and leadership skills outside of the school day. 

To Ms. Means, education is critical because it increases the opportunities for students beyond school. Read to Lead helped her students understand what it means to be the boss, preparing them for their future careers. 

“Some kids aren’t used to making tough decisions, and we have to give them the tools to investigate, get the facts, and be a leader. Read to Lead made them more aware that they have the ability to choose how they respond to different situations. They get to be the boss.” 

Preparing students for their futures is only one part of Ms. Means’ approach to education. She recognizes the importance of students being able to see themselves reflected in the content they engage with both during the school day and afterschool. 

“When Black students see themselves and relate to the content, it helps them understand their importance in our society and in the world. If the Black experience is never mentioned in their education, how can students feel self-pride, hope, strength, and positive self-esteem?” 

It’s critical that academic resources are authentic in how they include diverse perspectives. “It’s not enough to just change all the faces brown and give characters different names to be culturally relevant. Quality resources must also include the Black experience, both good and bad. This will not only help students but also educators, many who do not know how to incorporate culturally responsive teaching.” 

As an educator, Ms. Means actively looks for ways to incorporate Black voices into the curriculum. She identifies opportunities to relate topics to Black History, culture, and Black experiences. Ms. Means knows that “students tend to be more interested in a topic when they can relate it to their lives.” 

Instead of just teaching about the Bill of Rights, for example, Ms. Means extended the lesson to include the historical context for Black Americans. “I had to add to that lesson the mistreatment of Black people and explain how the Bill of Rights did not apply to us. I extended the lesson so we could explore the 13 Amendment and the Civil Rights Act.”

This approach can be tough for educators who aren’t used to incorporating culturally responsive teaching, but the positive impact on students makes it critical. Topics like Anti-Racism need lots of time and a safe environment to explore. Ms. Means intentionally creates space for her students to share their life experiences. 

Initially, students would express anger, sadness, and fear when discussing these issues. Over the course of the lessons, I think my students felt pride, empowerment, and wanted to be agents of change.

This is a new topic that is long overdue for our Nation and should be mandatory in every school. Hopefully discussing this in different platforms will make our students leaders in the movement and valued stakeholders in this nation.”       

At Read to Lead, we are intentional about creating authentic learning experiences that reflect the vibrant diversity of our communities. We appreciate Ms. Means taking the time to speak with us about this topic. We agree with Ms. Means that a good education can change lives and that academic resources must be reflective of the students they serve. 

We also recognize that there’s still plenty of work to do. If you have suggestions for how we can improve our games and resources to better acknowledge and celebrate the Black experience, please let us know. 

Three Reading Strategies to Counter COVID-19 Learning Loss

Learning loss, typically associated with summer vacation, is a well-known challenge that educators face, particularly after extended breaks in instruction. 

This new school year, as students return to a variety of classroom environments, educators are facing an additional challenge: “COVID Slide”, which accounts for the additional month’s students spent out of school buildings this spring because of the pandemic. 

This long absence from in-person instruction will inevitably compound the summer learning loss that students usually face. Achieve3000 predicted that students could lose 49% of potential learning gains by the start of next school year and that the achievement gap between low- and high-income students could increase by as much as 18%.

Numerous schools have reported not being able to have any contact with some of their students from the onset of the pandemic. The potential for learning loss with that population is significant. 

Through these are sobering statistics, educators can develop instruction plans that can mitigate the effects of learning loss. Here are three strategies to help counter the effects of learning regression exacerbated by the COVID-19 school closures. 

Engage Students with Real-World Application

Research shows that even before COVID-19 closed schools and classrooms went online, students were feeling disengaged from their education, with more than half of middle school students reporting that they felt “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their learning.

There are many factors as to why students may feel disengaged at school. One key complaint is “boring and irrelevant” lessons. Selecting curriculum and resources that have direct applications to the real world can engage students in their learning, improving overall results

A variety of free tools can help students understand the real-world application and relevance of their education. These tools can help combat COVID-19 learning loss, but also ensure they are preparing to become engaged citizens of their community, country, and the world.

Read to Lead Recommends:

Introduce students to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development via SGDs in Action, a mobile app that helps students learn about and engage with issues affecting our world and environment.

Bring governance, politics, and civic participation to life with iCivics, which features interactive games and classroom resources for educators to break down the complexities of civics education in a fun and enjoyable way.

Couragion exposes students to a variety of STEM careers through inclusive, work-based learning experiences that prepare students for jobs of the future.

 

Make Learning Fun with Gamification

It’s no secret that the old-fashioned approach of a teacher spending an entire class lecturing does not lead to happy, engaged students. With educators facing even more significant literacy loss than in years past, it is critical that students have access to learning experiences that are both academic and fun.

Gamified learning platforms offer an alternative to traditional forms of instruction. Game-based learning has been shown to be an effective way to improve literacy, in addition to increasing engagement and motivation among learners.

Read to Lead Recommends:

Prodigy, a curriculum-aligned program for mathematics allows educators to design assignments and provide feedback, while students cover core concepts within a fun video game layout.

Khan Academy is a favorite among teachers and students for its interactive and easy-to-navigate interface, which features subjects such as math, science, history, and more.

Scholastic has a variety of learning games available for students covering a range of subjects and grade levels.

 

Elevate Student Choice, Voice, and Agency

Middle school is a unique time for any student. With schools reopening after COVID-19, middle school students face the additional challenge of getting back on track with their academics while navigating the new normal. 

When students have a choice in what they learn and are offered customized learning paths catered to them, they display greater engagement, which translates to better academic outcomes. Affording students greater agency also drives self-initiated learning, fosters collaborative learning environments, and helps inculcate students with a range of essential skills

Project-Based Learning (PBL) is an effective way to elevate student choice, voice, and agency. PBL offers students the freedom to direct their own learning, and empowers them to take ownership of their education, which can help combat learning loss. This translates to better outcomes in terms of student performance academically, student motivation, and preparing students for further education and future careers.

Learn more about how to elevate student choice, voice, and agency, and why this matters HERE.

Read to Lead Recommends:

My PBL Works, by the Buck Institute for Education, features an extensive collection of resources for teachers to introduce project-based learning to their students, including planning tools and project ideas.

Virtual Schoolhouse showcases resources for teachers to immediately implement in their classrooms

Dreamdo Schools offers teachers an easy to follow handbook for introducing PBL to their students.

Conclusions 

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the education of our students and left unaddressed, they could be facing an immense amount of learning loss.

By increasing student engagement through real-world applications, capitalizing on gamified learning platforms to keep students interested, and focusing on student choice and agency, we can help tackle this problem.

About Read To Lead

In the Read to Lead games, middle school students become the boss in a digital workplace. They play through their workday, reading closely, thinking critically, and solving real-world problems, all while balancing the hectic demands of an exciting career.

Our games and lessons include:

– Reading and writing practice through game-based learning

– Career games that build real-world connections 

– Turn-key project-based learning curriculum that reinforces literacy & career skills

By playing our games, students increase reading achievement, find motivation, and see— often for the first time— a real connection between learning, career aspirations, and their futures.

To learn more, visit us online at http://bit.ly/platformreadtolead 

How to Make the Most of Live Instruction: The Read to Lead Guide to Engaging Students Virtually

COVID-19 has drastically altered how we think about education. In a majority of US states, students have been out of school since spring, and virtual learning has taken over as the main form of instruction. While the future of schools remains uncertain, it is clear that when teachers are faced with virtual learning, it is critical that they make the most of the face-to-face instruction time they have with their students. 

Our time with our students is precious, which is why we need to focus on discussion, collaboration, and connection during these brief periods of virtual interaction with them. 

Here are three ways you can use Read to Lead to make the most of live instruction with students.

Grab Student Attention with Conversations About the Future 

Engage students by focusing on topics that are relevant and make connections to their lives beyond school. Introducing students to the world of work as early as middle school can guide students in making informed decisions about future career paths, and help them stay motivated through the school years.

The Read to Lead program gives students the chance to take on a leadership role within three different workplaces. Students are also introduced to a variety of professions and careers within the platform, and educators can use these games as a starting point for discussions and debates among students. 

Tip for Live Instruction: Flip the classroom! Send students discussion and debate questions the day before and assign reading and preparation as homework. Students will come to the live instruction prepared to discuss the topic and share their learnings.

Use Read to Lead’s offline curriculum to engage with students on the screen. With Read to Lead’s Be the Boss Activity, educators can guide their students through discussions to identify the qualities of a leader and explore what it takes to be the boss in an authentic workplace setting.

Teleconferencing platforms like Zoom also often include features that allow for virtual collaboration, such as breakout rooms for small group discussions, and chat boxes for students to type their responses to discussion questions, or even respond by “clapping” or giving a “thumbs up”.

Give Students Spaces to Talk About The Current Moment 

The COVID-19 global pandemic is affecting all aspects of our lives and our students may be experiencing higher levels of stress, and anxiety. They need safe spaces to talk about how drastically their lives have changed. As educators, we need to address this situation with our students, particularly more disadvantaged children who may not have alternative channels to discuss the challenges they are facing

Though not part of our traditional curriculum— dealing with the pandemic, managing the emotions that students may be experiencing at this time, and identifying the positive aspects of the current situation— are critical conversations to be having with our students at this time. 

We have created a curated collection of Read to Lead lessons relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic. Covering topics like Making a Diagnosis, Managing Anxiety, and Looking for the Helpers, these lessons are immediately relevant and applicable to students’ lives.

These lessons are standards-aligned and can be used towards your ELA, Science, Health, Social Studies, or SEL learning goals. Each lesson is specifically designed for a distance learning setting, and include step-by-step directions for execution as well as Google worksheets for students to complete. They aim to spark meaningful conversation, promote critical thinking, foster leadership and provide support to students as a class community.

Tip for Live Instruction – Include your Students! Take stock of what’s happening in the community, state, and on a national level. Ask your students what they are thinking about, and let them help drive their learning experience.  

Introduce Read to Lead distance learning lesson “Anxiety Relief” to help students identify their feelings, explore strategies to manage anxiety, and make space to uplift each other. You can download all of our distance learning lessons here. 

Encourage Independent Work

The constraints placed on live instruction as a result of the transition to distance learning and remote classrooms, in another light, can be seen as an avenue for educators to encourage independent work. By giving students tasks or projects to work on independently in their time outside of virtual instruction sessions with their teachers, we can empower them to take charge of their own learning.

Tip for Live Instruction – Be Flexible – and Forgiving! One-way delivery of content through a video chat can be exhausting for both educators and students. By giving students space to explore their interests with project-based learning, educators can maximize facetime and empower students to drive their learning.

Research projects or Project-Based Learning (PBL) are another way in which educators can encourage independent work and make the most of live instruction. Allowing students to pursue topics that resonate with and interest them will engage students better. The Read to Lead platform includes a wide selection of close reading articles that students can choose to read independently and write their own articles sharing their perspectives. Educators can then dedicate their time with students to answering their questions, and helping them develop critical thinking skills.

Conclusion 

Making the transition from in-person education to distance learning can be a challenge, but Read to Lead is here to support you through this time with useful and timely resources that you can start using in your remote classrooms immediately.

It is easy to get started with Read to Lead, and the platform is free to educators and students. It includes 44 games where students get the chance to take on leadership roles in different authentic work environments that be used in independent learning time. 

Make the most of live instruction with Read to Lead’s extensive library of worksheets for students, and self-directed learning projects for students to work on independently – a total of more than 150 hours of games, curricula, and content. Most importantly all games, activities, and projects are completely virtual, easily applied to distance learning environments.

If you have a question that needs to be answered right away, write support@classroominc.org and our team will respond to you within 24 hours.

9 Free Summer Activities for Kids And Parents to Enjoy Together

Summer is just around the corner, and ordinarily, we’d be looking forward to fun activities and holiday plans. However, with many parts of the country and the world still in varying degrees of lockdown due to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, our summer vacation plans may be in need of a revamp.

Students have now been engaged in home-based learning for the past few months, and if they do not keep up with educational activities during summer, the effects of summer slide could be very pronounced. Summer can be used as an opportunity for kids to dive into experiential learning, outside the structure of the classroom. These activities can keep your child’s brain engaged while also being fun!

If you’re feeling stumped about how to keep kids occupied at home during the long summer months, we’ve got your back. Here are some free summer activities your kids and you can enjoy together!

1. For the Art Lover

The Smithsonian Museums have a variety of resources available, including online events and workshops, open access to digital images and data, and games and activities to keep children occupied for hours. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York also has specially designed a section for children to explore interesting exhibits, as does the Boston Children’s Museum.

2. To Make Young Scientists Squeal with Glee

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is another museum that offers virtual tours of their exhibits. The American Museum of Natural History also has virtual field trips designed for students of different grade levels.

3. For the Intrepid Traveler

International travel may have been severely restricted, but there’s no reason why you can’t still take your children on a trip of a lifetime this summer – for free! Why not take a virtual vacation outside of the US? Use the power of technology to “teleport” to iconic landmarks throughout the world, and be back in time for dinner. 

Fancy a visit to Easter Island off the coast of Chile? What about a trip to the Sydney Opera House? Perhaps explore the architectural wonder that is the Eiffel Tower! You can even spend an afternoon or two exploring the British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Vatican Museums, or any of the hundreds of other museums worldwide with the Google Arts and Culture platform.

4. Space Adventurers Aboard!

If you and your children are feeling particularly adventurous – NASA’s Glenn Research Center offers virtual visitors an inside look into their testing facilities.

5. Something for the Nature Buffs

National parks are also stepping up their game and offering virtual visits to their premises. Yellowstone National Park has virtual tours of Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin and more, while many other parks have set up live streaming webcams for virtual visitors to enjoy the sights and sounds of the park from the comfort of their homes. You can even Find Your “Virtual” Park to discover what else the National Parks have to offer.

6. For the Young Zoologist or Aspiring Veterinarian

Nature and animal enthusiasts will also enjoy the variety of live streaming webcams available for viewing. The Nature Conservancy has webcams featuring some of their popular animals, while Explore.org has wildlife webcams to pique anyone’s interest. WildEarth hosts a guided live stream of their sunrise and sunset safaris daily, and many zoos and aquariums such as San Diego Zoo and Memphis Zoo also post live webcams of their popular residents.

7. Bring out the Bibliophile

Libraries are a great treasure trove of resources and activities to do with your children during summer. From summer reading challenges to virtual storytime at the library to weekly creative writing prompts by beloved children’s authors, summer can be the perfect opportunity to cultivate your children’s reading habits and engage in literacy activities together. In addition to special programming created in response to the pandemic, libraries also have a huge variety of eBooks, audiobooks, videos, and more.

8. For the Moving, Grooving and Active Kids

Get your groove on with Just Dance, a YouTube channel that will get the whole family busting out the dance moves and working up a sweat. If you just need your kids to settle down and stretch for a while, Cosmic Kids Yoga has videos for yoga and mindfulness suitable for the whole family, while PE Teacher of The Body Coach regularly puts up PE lessons that will definitely be a workout for mum and dad too.

9. Give Your Child a Virtual Internship with Read to Lead

An award-winning gamified platform that puts children in the boss’s shoes within an immersive virtual workplace, Read to Lead games are the perfect summer activity to keep children reading and leading. Each game is also accompanied by free lesson plans and discussion questions that you can use with your children to explore different professions, and engage in meaningful discourse about topics such as decision-making in the workplace, the importance of cooperation and more!

The COVID-19 pandemic may have put a damper on our summer plans, but there’s no reason to squander away this precious time we have with our children at home. By doing different activities with your children during the summer vacation, you can help keep their minds and bodies active while strengthening your bond with them – all for free!

We Stand Firm For Black Lives

 

The Classroom, Inc. team stands with the millions of Americans seeking justice and humanity for Black lives lost including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, and countless others. We condemn systemic racism.

Black lives matter and we will continue to use our voice, actions, and platform to fight for change. 

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop said, “All children need a mirror to see themselves, a window to see the world beyond their own, and a sliding glass door to encourage them out into that world.”

We want Black youth to see powerful images of themselves in their learning. We are committed to creating more “windows, mirrors, and doors” that elevate and empower Black lives through the characters, scenarios, and conversations they encounter in Read to Lead

We will work with our community of educators, families, and supporters, to create and share tools that expose all youth to diverse ideas, diverse people, and tough decisions by: 

• Providing Black students with windows to careers through our games: Only 13% of children’s literature includes multicultural content. We will continue to work tirelessly to design new learning games that elevate Black lives and put them in positions of power. 

• Supporting educators with the tools for dialogue and processing: We will develop educator resources that help all students navigate deep conversations, tackle tough issues, and broaden their understanding of “other”. These conversations are essential to combat racism, and bias.

• Designing our games to challenge our students to see themselves as leaders and changemakers: We will give students agency to make difficult and complex decisions as the boss, helping them to transform into the leaders of the future. Empowering and preparing youth now will help them create a more just world that is free of oppression against Black lives. 

In addition, we commit to critically examining ourselves— identifying new voices and perspectives and creating opportunities for dialogue with our staff, Board, and supporters. Through these efforts, we will hold ourselves and our community accountable for elevating Black lives and dismantling systemic racism. 

Yours in grief and hope, 

The Classroom, Inc. Team

Mental Health Awareness Month

When it comes to students’ learning success and overall well-being, their mental health is just as important as their physical health.

Mental health problems can affect a student’s ability to focus and their energy levels, and in turn, negatively impact their performance in school. It is something that we as educators always need to be aware of, but now more than ever before, our students’ mental health deserves extra attention. 

The Global Pandemic & Impact on Mental Health

The current COVID-19 global pandemic has necessitated social distancing and school closures to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. A consequence of these measures is the social isolation some of our students may be facing during this stressful and uncertain time. Humans are highly social beings, and an extended lack of social interaction with others could result in poor mental and physical health

May – A Spotlight on Mental Health

May is Mental Health Month, and a great opportunity to shed light on the importance of caring for mental health. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that almost 1 in 5 adults in the US lives with a mental health condition, and a similar incidence of mental health conditions has been observed in middle school students.

Educators and parents can demonstrate and promote healthy practices in mental and emotional wellbeing. Being open about your own challenges with your students and sharing positive strategies can encourage students to open up about their own struggles.

With the right structures in place, it is possible to foster a sense of community among our students, and to drive important conversations about our students’ emotional and mental well-being.

Read to Lead on Mental Health

Getting the conversation started on mental health can be tricky. To give educators and students alike a starting point to engage in meaningful discussions around this topic, we’re highlighting some of the Read to Lead games that can kickstart conversations on this topic.

Game-Based Learning 

In the Vital Signs series, students take on the role of Medical Director of a Family Clinic. They encounter different real-world scenarios dealing with health-related topics, including mental health issues and wellness, and must decide on the best course of action for the patients and staff.

The easy-to-navigate platform is designed for independent learning, which also makes it a great resource for students learning from home.

In the game High Anxiety, a patient believes she has an obscure disorder she read about on the internet, but the clinical staff on her case thinks that she suffers from anxiety and recommends counseling. Students learn more about the symptoms of anxiety and its causes, as well as treatment options.

The game is also accompanied by post-game discussion and debate questions. By encouraging students to think about and reflect on the topic of anxiety, educators open the doors of  communication with students who may be struggling with similar feelings. These tools can also be used to further the conversation about the challenges around discussing mental health. 

Crash Course is another game that is a valuable resource to educators in talking about mental health. A patient comes in for treatment for injuries from a car accident that he caused, and he appears to be suffering from an enormous amount of guilt. However, he doesn’t want further treatment. Students learn more about PTSD – its symptoms and treatment options – and must assess the situation to decide whether to refer the patient for therapy.

In the post-game discussion questions and debate, students are invited to explore mental health and learn some practices around effectively managing their own emotional and mental wellbeing. Educators can use this as a springboard to lead guided discussions to support their students. 

Play High Anxiety and Crash Course by signing up for a free Read to Lead account. 

Extension Activities 

Both games, like all other games on the Read to Lead platform, can be played independently and work as stand-alone lessons for students. Our accompanying extension activities can be used to foster more self-awareness and self-management among students. 

By sparking meaningful discussions, we hope to normalize the topic of mental health and emphasize the importance of implementing proactive strategies to maintain mental wellbeing and asking for help when needed.

This activity will help students identify their feelings, explore strategies to manage anxiety, and make space to uplift each other. 

This activity helps students think more deeply about their own mental health and promotes the importance of taking care of their mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Read to Lead’s Top Picks for Information for Educators on Mental Health

We curated some of our top picks for educators on how best to approach mental health with your students. 

• Mental Health Month, Mental Health America has compiled an extensive repository of information and printables on specific topics relating to mental health. These resources are research-backed and can be shared with your students remotely. 

• Child Mind Institute offers excellent classroom strategies and information on learning issues and the connection to mental health. 

• Edutopia is also a useful platform with resources for educators to address any behavioral, emotional, or social challenges their students may be facing.

There is no doubt that this is a difficult period for students and educators alike. Our students may be more susceptible to mental health issues, and as educators, we need to provide the necessary support to help them navigate these complex times.

By engaging students in meaningful discussions and providing them with tools to manage their mental and emotional wellbeing at this time, we are not only addressing their immediate needs, but also equipping them with skills for the future as well.

Sign up for Read to Lead today to explore the variety of games available for free, and jumpstart the conversation on mental health!

Make the Most of Distance Learning: Free Lesson Plans, Games, and Help

In an attempt to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), a majority of US states have ordered or recommended that schools don’t reopen for the rest of the academic year, and in-person summer programs are also slowly being canceled. Distance learning is now the mode of education for many, if not all, students, and educators are having to adapt and modify their lessons for remote platforms – no mean feat even when we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic.

At this critical time, our goal as an ed-tech nonprofit is to support educators like you and help ease the abrupt shift from traditional methods of instruction to e-learning. By providing you with free, relevant, and ready-to-use distance learning lessons and tools, we aim to help inspire your students and lighten your load. 

Our newly-launched Distance Learning Resources Center is designed specifically to help you maximize this time with your students by putting the people, materials, and tools you need at this time at your fingertips. Here’s what you’ll find in the hub!

Collection of Lessons on Timely Topics

This global pandemic is affecting all aspects of our lives, and as educators, we need to address it with our students. How to deal with a pandemic, managing the emotions that students may be experiencing at this time, identifying the positive aspects of the current situation – these were not a part of our regular curriculum, yet these are critical conversations to be having with our students at this time. 

That’s why we have created a curated collection of new Read to Lead lessons relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic. Covering topics like Making a Diagnosis, Managing Anxiety, and Looking for the Helpers, these lessons are immediately relevant and applicable to students’ lives. 

These lessons are standards-aligned and can be used towards your ELA, Science, Health, Social Studies, or SEL learning goals. Each lesson is specifically designed for a distance learning setting, and include step-by-step directions for execution as well as Google worksheets for students to complete. They aim to spark meaningful conversation, promote critical thinking, foster leadership, and provide support to students as a class community.

Google Classroom Tutorial

Google Classroom, a free web-based application that is a part of GSuite for Education, helps streamline the process of sharing files between teachers and students and is an excellent tool for distance learning. However, for those unfamiliar with the Google Classroom platform, navigating the interface can be tricky at the outset.

To help educators ease into using Google Classroom for distance learning, we have created some short videos that break down how to get started with Google Classroom. They include how to set up your Google Classroom, how to add students, and creating assignments. For students, we have created videos on how to join a class, and how to find and submit assignments via the Google Classroom app.

If there are other screencasts you require, do let us know and we will add them to the collection of videos. 

Virtual Lunch and Learn Sessions

We are hosting bi-weekly lunch-and-learn sessions for any educator in need of support during their transition to distance learning. Our Read to Lead coaches, a team of tenured educators and parents, will host informal and personalized sessions for educators like yourself to ask questions about executing distance learning.

They will be available to share more about how to implement Read to Lead in your distance learning platform, some best practices when using video call software or Google Classroom, and help you create action plans. Join us to learn more about making your remote sessions with your students a success, tackle shared challenges with other educators, or simply enjoy making connections with new friends! Click here to sign up for a free session in the form at the bottom of page.

Access the Free Read to Lead Curriculum

The Distance Learning Resources Center is also a great place to get started with the Read to Lead series – Community in Crisis, Vital Signs, and After the Storm. Each series featuring 44 games where students get the chance to take on leadership roles in different authentic work environments. 

The platform also includes complete lesson plans educators can immediately use, worksheets for students, and self-directed learning projects for students to work on independently – a total of more than 150 hours of games, curricula, and content. Most importantly all games, activities, and projects are completely virtual, easily applied to distance learning environments, and free for educators and students.

Making the transition from in-person education to distance learning can be a challenge, but Read to Lead is here to support you through this time with useful and timely resources that you can start using in your remote classrooms immediately.

If you have a question that needs to be answered right away, write support@classroominc.org and our team will respond to you within 24 hours.

Celebrating Earth Day 2020 Virtually

Earth Day is the world’s largest environmental movement recognized in over 193 countries. This year’s celebration marks 50 years of Earth Day. Typically celebrated at in-person events around the world, this year Earth Day 2020 is being celebrated digitally in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This Earth Day, why not spark curiosity and passion in students ages 10-15 about issues impacting our planet with games? In Read to Lead, students become the boss of a virtual workplace in the medical, journalism, and public service industry and solve complex challenges related to the environment.

These connections can inspire students to research topics of interest and create a plan to contribute to their own community in service and celebration of our Earth.

Click here to sign up for a free account to access over 36 games and lessons plans for students ages 10-15.

Learning Games: Students Make Decisions About the Environment as the Boss

Below we’ve highlighted some of the specific games in Read to Lead that help students critically think through environmental problems.

Everything suggested below can be found in the Read to Lead platform.

Read to Lead Game: Vital Signs
(Medical Industry) 

Earth Day Topic Explored: Pollution and the Environment 

In the series Vital Signs, children become the Medical Director at the Be Well Family Clinic. 

Games 1, 6 and 12 of Vital Signs follow the story arc of the local power plant reopening in the fictional town of Port Douglas and the negative impact this has on the local residents. Each game comes with a short “Prepare” lesson and follow-up “Discussion Questions”.

These activities are created using Google worksheets so they can be implemented remotely. Both the lesson plans and Google worksheets are located in your educator hub when you click on the game you want to play.

Here are some descriptions of the environmental challenges students will face as the boss of the games!

Episode 1: Just Breathe 

A local community center employee, Mai, comes into the clinic with a severe asthma attack. The Medical Director has to investigate the case to uncover the environmental factors that might be making people in the community ill. They must decide whether to tell Mai that the pollution from the power plant might be the underlying cause of her asthma attack. In this episode, children get a chance to learn more about the real-life impacts of pollution on our community and our planet.

Episode 6: Act Up 

Fog Hollow, one of Port Douglas’ poorest neighborhoods, has been in trouble since the power plant reopened, with many community members falling ill as a result of the pollution from the plant.

Austin, one of the staff at the clinic, is planning a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to raise awareness of the issue and Brendan, another staff member has thoroughly researched the situation in Fog Hollow. This game gives children a chance to learn about the importance of advocacy around environmental issues and how these efforts can create an impact on the community.

Episode 12: Come Together

As children work through the episode, they discover that the power plant in Fog Hollow has officially shut down! Children are able to appreciate the effect of their efforts from the previous episodes in creating the change they wanted to see in their community.


Read to Lead Game: Community in Crisis
(Public Service)

Earth Day Topic Explored: Creating a Community Garden 

In Community in Crisis, children adopt the role of Director at the Common Ground Community Center and manage the needs of a diverse community after a natural disaster. 

Episode 7: Sowing the Seeds

In Episode 7, members of the Port Douglas community are in conflict over what to do with the Center’s garden. The community is divided into teens and seniors, with both groups having distinct ideas about what would be the best use of the space available. 


Advocacy Projects: Students Raise Awareness and Take Action

1. Create a Public Service Announcement 

Use our What Does It Mean to Be An Advocate? lesson,  to help your students learn more about what it means to be an advocate and why it is important to be one. Children can pick a cause and create a storyboard for a PSA to raise awareness on this issue.

In line with Earth Day, they can consider topics such as climate change, conservation of animal species, the importance of recycling or other related topics, or even work on multiple projects on different topics!

2. Create a Community Service Plan

Use the Community Service Project to help your students think creatively about how they can help the planet and create an actionable plan or brochure describing their idea.

Some examples of student-led projects that children may undertake while at home include:

• Setting up a recycling station in the home

• Starting an indoor garden at home or a garden in the yard

• Creating a virtual presentation or awareness posters on climate change

• Additional topics and ways for students to get involved digitally can be found on Earth Day Live.

How will you be celebrating Earth Day at home this year? We’d love to hear your creative ideas! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share!

How to Motivate Students Virtually During COVID-19

 

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is disrupting lives across the world. In the US, with over 124,000 schools closed, more than 55 million students have been impacted. To keep up with educating our youth, many schools have transitioned to distance learning platforms, and are encouraging their students to continue their learning online.

However, distance learning comes with its own set of challenges, not least of which is keeping students motivated, something that can be a challenge for educators. Even when students are in the classroom, getting them to engage in lessons and participate in activities can be difficult. In a virtual learning world, this can be even tougher. Now more than ever, students need encouragement to be successful in their new learning environments at home. 

Our Read to Lead Million Words Read Challenge can be an effective tool to keep students motivated to continue learning from home.

Read to Lead’s Million Words Read Challenge

Registering for a free account with Read to Lead automatically enrolls your class into the Million Words Read Challenge. The challenge is simple: as a class, students have to collectively read at least one million words to win a free celebration and student prizes. 

Each game completed on this virtual learning platform counts for 5,000 words read. As students progress through the different episodes, they are awarded badges individually and as a class for reaching certain milestones and achieving certain targets. They also stand a chance to be recognized at the national level for being top readers.

So, how does the Million Words Read Challenge serve to motivate students?

Encourage Friendly Competition

As a motivational tool, the Million Words Read Challenge encourages friendly competition among students and spurs them to strive for excellence. Students can track their progress against that of their classmates on the leaderboard,  inspiring them to push for success. 


Educators such as
Ms. Deja Flynn of St. Simon Stock School and Ms. Holly Crider of Graham Middle School have reported that participating in the Million Words Challenge has improved student motivation in their classes, as even inattentive and disinterested students get into the spirit of friendly competition.

 

Build Community

At a time when social distancing has become commonplace and students are spending their days at home, the social aspect of school is still important. Indeed, maintaining a sense of community and connection with others is a critical part of reducing the negative impacts of social distancing on mental health. Thankfully, social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation, and the Million Words Read Challenge can provide students with the chance to build community with their classmates.

Even though students are not physically together, the Million Words Read Challenge offers them the opportunity to see how they can work together to accomplish something big – like reading one million words.

Students can track their individual and collective successes through the statistics and badges on the platform. This gives them a sense that they are part of a larger effort, and reminds them that they are not alone. This also serves as a strong motivational element to encourage students to keep reading and learning.

 

Create Moments of Celebration

Amidst the changes in their learning environment, we must not forget that students need to be celebrated for their efforts and achievements. Sending students virtual reminders of the Million Words Read challenge and their class standing can inspire them to pick up where they left off to reach new milestones and targets. In addition, we can ask students to share their badges with their families, so they can receive praise and recognition from the people around them at this time. 

Share Words of Encouragement

As students reach their target of one million words read, Classroom Inc. will share words of encouragement to keep motivating them and pushing them to attain greater heights. 

Our Words of Encouragement campaign collects “donations” of words of encouragement for middle school students. These messages are sent to Read to Lead students across the US to keep them engaged, improve their confidence, and empower them to take ownership of their learning. Sometimes, all it takes is a few simple words of encouragement to keep students motivated!

In this world of virtual learning that we have moved into, we need to find new avenues to encourage, motivate and inspire our students to keep reading and leading. By looking at new and innovative means of reaching our students virtually, we can ensure that we support them through these challenging times.

Parents: Keep Your Children Learning and Engaged as the Boss of a Virtual Workplace

The impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is being felt far and wide. Social distancing measures are in place, people are being encouraged to work from home, and school closures affecting almost 30 million students across the country are in effect. 

This unprecedented level of disruption to the K-12 school system forces many families into the unfamiliar territory of virtual learning. 

If you are a parent of a 10-15-year-old, Read to Lead can help you build your child’s literacy and leadership skills while having fun as the boss! The program combines virtual career exploration games supplemented by offline activities where they practice problem-solving, critical thinking and collaboration. 

With all of the responsibilities you are juggling during this time, we want to keep things simple. We created the Read to Lead Parent Hub so your child can get started right away. The hub provides easy access to all of our games and a collection of student-led activities.   

How to Use Read to Lead at Home


Step 1: Pick a workplace

Read to Lead offers three different industries where your child will become the boss of a virtual workplace. Each game is designed for a specific grade range. Community in Crisis, geared towards 5th-6th graders, is set in a local community center where children can learn about a  variety of jobs in the public sector from education to social work.

Vital Signs, intended for 6th-8th graders, takes place in a family health clinic and explores the medical field. After the Storm, designed for 7th-9th graders, immerses students in the fast-paced world of journalism. 

Children can have fun playing all three games but we recommend starting with the title designed for your child’s grade level. 

Step 2: Play the game

Each episode or “day at work” takes about 30 minutes to complete and children can play independently. The amount of reading in each episode is equivalent to one chapter of a middle school book. 

During this time, your child will improve their social and cross-cultural skills through interacting with a diverse array of staff and making some tough decisions as the boss. Each episode includes a typical workplace task like editing a project plan or crafting an email as a way for students to practice core reading and writing skills. 

Read to Lead is aligned to College and Career Readiness Anchor (CCRA) Standards and social-emotional competencies so you know your child is engaging with high-quality, research-backed content.  

Step 3: Reflect and discuss 

Once children have completed an episode, they can use the accompanying worksheets for post-game reflection. You have access to the answer keys so you can help your child at any point along the way or review their work.

Our discussion questions provide conversation starters around what it’s like being the boss and the different professions your child encountered in the game. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about your child’s aspirations as well as demonstrate the connection between school and the skills required in their future careers. 

Why not get started with Read to Lead today? For more information and to check out some of the episodes available for children, visit our website!