Bentley teacher injects online lessons with fun and creativity

‘Howe’s Historical Moments’ makes learning that much more memorable for the youngsters

Teachers have faced unprecedented times in developing effective means to both connect with and teach children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jill Howe, who teaches Grade 5 at Bentley School, has created some really fun and innovative ways of ‘livening’ up her social studies lessons online.

“The main focus with learning online was to really focus on literacy and numeracy, but then also with the opportunity to pull in other subjects as well. So I’ve been keeping social studies pretty light – just trying to expose them to the information.”

The class was studying the ‘Famous Five’ – the five women (Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Irene Parlby) who dramatically changed history by elevating the status of women back in the early years of the 20th century. “I made a video where I dug out some old costumes from my costume stash, and pretended to be each of the famous five. I also told some interesting facts about each of the women,” she explained. “I blended it all together and made a video.”

She called it ‘Howe’s Historical Moments’ and it proved a hit with the youngsters. “The kids like to see me in different costumes, and I think it made the learning really authentic,” she said. “This week, we focused on the Great Depression so I went out to my parents’ farm for the weekend, dressed up in costumes and talked about what life was like back then.

“I also had my nieces and nephew dress up in old pioneer clothes, and they were in the video, too,” she added with a laugh. The finished product was later converted to black and white to lend to that authentic feel, too.

“It’s about keeping kids engaged, and making things a little more exciting. I have to say our staff at Bentley School is doing great things – my teaching partner teaches science, and they were doing a chemistry section. Her last name is Kimmel, so she’s been doing ‘Kimmel’s Kitchen’.

“So every week there is a video of her mixing things together in a kitchen. It’s hard to teach chemistry (online) when it’s so hands-on, but this way the kids get to watch her in the kitchen.”

Overall, the weeks of having no students around the school has clearly been a challenge on several levels.

“For me, I have to say that I have an amazing group of kids and parents so it’s all going as well as can be expected given the circumstances,” she said. “The biggest thing for me is I’m a relations and connections person first, and then we get into the material. So for me, the hardest part has been missing out on those relationships and connections with the kids,” she said.

“So that’s where this idea came from – to be as creative as possible. You have the kids seeing the videos and they want to interact with you; they want to comment on them and send you a message. It just gets them connecting even more.”

Ultimately, there could be some good that comes out of this time what with the new skills students have been learning and teaching techniques that instructors have had to utilize. “If we can carry those forward I think there are some good things that will come of this.”

In the meantime, the explorations into creative communication continues.

Howe also had each of her students sign up for a day during the month of May to create a ‘Good Morning’ message video.

“Each day I post a different video and the kids are loving it – they get to see their classmates.”

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