Creatively Managing Teaching While Social Distancing

Yellow background image with line drawings of two lightbulbs

Image source: Adobe Stock / dlyastokiv.

by Laura and Matt Grundler

posted on 05-26-2020

As we’ve all made the transition to remote learning, online learning, distance learning, whatever you want, teachers, students, and parents have faced a steep learning curve. When it all began, we wrote lesson plans using a district-provided template to promote consistency. But we soon realized parents and kids needed something more simple. In my everyday role, I’m a visual arts curriculum coordinator, which means I guide curriculum development, support teachers, and oversee art education. Journaling is a great way to process emotionally and creatively difficult moments. We get kids to blend journaling and art, beginning in the third grade.

I was thinking about journal prompts and watching The Today Show when Drew Barrymore came on talking about how she was handling the quarantine with her children at home, and she was so real. Her ideas about staying positive inspired her to recruit people to join the “Army of Optimism” YES! Who wouldn’t want to be a member of the Army of Optimism? Matt and I recently posted a podcast where we spoke about how there is always hope and how we can find silver linings during times of challenge, which aligned so well with the Army of Optimism.

The ideas converged, and we created hope-filled creativity prompts using Adobe Spark Post. We created two sets, one with 31 prompts that could be used as a Month of Hope challenge and an A-Z Hope Challenge. We plan to fill our journals with hope as a form of self-care, and you know we’ll be drinking coffee while we do! If you’d like to see our journals, we post pics on our individual Instagram accounts Matt @Artgrund76 and Laura @GrundlerArt.

Now that learning is outside the traditional classroom, leadership and communication have been more critical than ever. To reduce anxiety for teachers, students and their families, I keep reminding myself of two things:

1. Keep it simple

In order to help “Keep it Simple” I thought about the necessary parts of the creative process and came up with a simple, easy-to-follow lesson plan around them. ONE SLIDE with THREE PARTS helps parents and students alike.

1. Look and Think

2. Plan and Create

3. Reflect and Share

Here is the Template to use.

Look and Think: Have students look at inspiration and give them questions to think about in relationship to creativity. This could be reading a storybook, looking at art, or running through a quick See,Think, Wonder Activity.

Plan and Create: Give students the creative goal or challenge, then have them start planning. It could be that they simply sketch an idea or plan the materials they want to use. Then it’s time to CREATE! Have students fully dive into their creativity, begin making, and have fun!

Reflect and Share: Give students three or four questions to reflect on their creativity and then give them a place to share their creativity with their peers!

Here’s a sample of an elementary lesson we created as a family.

All the Links:

2. “Clear is Kind”

Matt and I are both parents trying to help our kids with their work from home and also teachers trying to give directions. We keep repeating Brene Brown’s mantra “Clear is Kind” while writing lessons and instructions. We think about it through the lens of a student or parent at home trying to interpret the expectations without being able to raise their hands and ask clarifying questions. Slowing down to take the time to think this way will save you, your students, and their parents from confusion and frustration.

We’ve also found it essential to focus on process over product. Our teaching philosophy is heavily guided by the importance of student voice and choice, which has helped us through this transition. When we build out an art unit, we think about the enduring understanding first, and then the process that provides the greatest learning opportunities. If you’d like to see more about the documenting process through journaling in the classroom, check out this blog post.

Wishing love and Creativity,

Matt and Laura Grundler

Topics: Education, COVID-19, Voices of Education