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A new way of learning and teaching

The coronavirus pandemic changed everything K-4 resource teacher Rebekah Poe thought she knew about education.

As schools across the country shuttered and classrooms moved online, Poe was forced to come up with creative ways to teach her students in the digital world, one much different than the traditional classroom setting she was accustomed to. This meant not only developing activity ideas for differentiated learning that could work at home but also solutions to help parents navigate distance learning.

In 2018, Poe created “Lessons and Lattes with Mrs. Poe,” an Instagram page and website, featuring creative lessons to share with other teachers. As homeschooling became mandatory, the Instagram account found a new audience ― parents seeking help to educate their children from home ― and her content shifted to focus on activities that can be easily adapted to do at home. It has since grown to more than 69,000 followers. Through her account, Poe shares digital activities, home science projects, and, most importantly, a window into the world of a teacher adjusting to her new norm.

She hopes that the resources and a view into how she is managing online teaching will encourage others to also change their view of education ― for the better.

“In the digital world, I have to anticipate what the challenges might be and provide ways to work around those challenges prior to students working through the lesson. It has changed my way of thinking,” said Poe, who graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in English. “This time has given us an opportunity to be with our children. This is a chance to build that family relationship back, have fun with your kids and your kids to have fun with you.”

Since “Lessons and Lattes” was originally inspired by the spirit of collaboration that defines the teaching profession, she hopes colleagues and parents alike are getting value from the posts. The mantra of the pandemic seems to be ‘We are in this together,’ and that’s exactly how Poe feels about sharing her resources.

Dr. Pam Roggeman, dean of the College of Education at University of Phoenix, said resources like Lessons and Lattes are invaluable to parents because most haven’t been in an elementary classroom in 20 or more years, so they may not understand the way they learn. Many envision students sitting at desks for learning, but there’s movement involved and creative approaches to learning that are perfect for an at-home environment.

Approaches to teaching like those shared by Poe may help take the pressure off of parents who are feeling stressed about being able to meet their students’ academic needs. Lessons and Lattes encourages age-appropriate, hands-on activities and a structure for learning. One recent post shows Poe baking with her daughter, pointing out that this hands-on activity involves math concepts like recognizing fractions and equal parts, measurement, addition and counting, all resulting in a delicious end product.

“Children don’t need to be doing schoolwork for seven hours a day,” Dr. Roggeman said. “Maybe your day includes three hours of learning after lunch or just before dinner, and the mornings are for free time.”

Lisa Ghormley, associate dean for the College, said that this type of instruction is a way to help kids connect the dots. She said that kids can learn concepts in a variety of creative ways and encourages age-appropriate, hands-on activities.

One such activity is “Sink or Float.” Parents can practice science in action by using objects around their house to teach their kids what sinks and what floats. She says to fill up a bucket or your bathtub with water. Find a variety of objects from around the house. Kids can guess whether the object will sink or float. For older kids, they can research why an object sinks or floats.

“Do what works best for your child and your family,” Ghormley said. “Your child’s learning style is not the same as anyone else’s. Your circumstances are not the same as anyone else’s.”

Dr. Roggeman emphasized that there’s no one right way and parents should remember they were their child’s very first teacher. She encouraged families to seek out some creative ways to keep learning fun and exciting.

“The efforts that districts and teachers are making to pivot to a new form of teaching are nothing short of heroic, but parents can augment learning at home to prevent backslide of skills and to bring in the fun aspects children experience in the classroom,” she said. “Don’t be intimidated by taking over this role. Be creative. Be deliberate. Make it meaningful to you.”