With so much recent heavy snow, schools have been closed more frequently than in years past. This must be harming your child’s education ... right?
New research suggests that these types of breaks may not be as disruptive to your child’s learning as educators used to believe. Joshua Goodman, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, has provided insight into the relationship between student absences and academic achievement. In his article “Flaking Out: Student Absences and Snow Days as Disruptions of Instructional Time,” he has argued that organized disruptions — such as those resulting from full school closings — have less impact on student achievement than those that grow out of individual absences. Because closures for snow affect all children equally, teachers have to reorganize their instruction for entire classes, not simply for one or two students who missed a lesson. The effect, Goodman maintains, is that school closures are less detrimental to student achievement than haphazard absences.
Parents and caregivers can continue to support organized learning with various online and offline activities while their children are spending a snow day — or several — at home.
With the advent of advanced e-learning platforms and online resources, blended learning is seen by educators as a powerful tool to engage students and ensure persistence, even when school closures result in face-time disruptions.
Discovery Education (K–12)
Discovery Education provides free out-of-school learning supports, from interactive games and videos to virtual labs and student-centered activities. The site offers homework help in core subject areas like science, English, social studies, and math, as well as parent resources that align with subject and grade-level material.
ABCYa.com has free educational games related to math, sight words, Spanish language learning, and other subjects for children between kindergarten and fifth grade. Recognized by companies like Apple and The New York Times, these award-winning activities are based on early childhood and elementary standards, with enhanced, interactive lessons to provide engaging learning experiences outside the classroom.
BrainPOP is an animated educational website that offers short films, activities, and related quizzes about a wide array of subjects, including the human body, American history, space, and earth science for students in grades K–12.
It is offered as a subscription service to families or school districts, and according to BrainPop, is currently available in 20 percent of U.S. schools. When districts or schools enroll, families are also able to use the site from home. If a district or school isn’t enrolled, families can still purchase their own accounts.
In addition, the website offers free content for educators, including lesson plans and GameUp, an extensive library of educational games aligned to state education standards.
Parent-Assisted Reading and Writing Activities (K–5)
There is certainly nothing more enjoyable on a snowy day than snuggling up and reading with your child. The benefits of reading with children range from developing vocabulary to identifying sound-letter patterns, fostering narratives, and honing organizational abilities — not to mention establishing a love of books. As children learn to draw and write, the stories and poems you’ve shared can also form the basis for creative writing and art projects.
For Young Children
Ask your child to select several stories and begin by reading them aloud together. For young children, point to the words as you read them. This will help them associate sounds with the letters they see on the page. Stop every once in a while to ask your child what sound a particular letter makes. You can turn this into a rhyming game to help her recall what the letter “t” sounds like at the beginning of “top,” for example, and then use Play-Doh to shape the letters or words.
For Older Children
Try reading a poem or a chapter from an abridged literary classic, like Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or even the d’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. By discussing the rhythms of a text or a favorite passage within it, parents can help deepen their children’s literacy skills. Putting on a play and crafting the set for it based on the stories you’ve read allows older kids to integrate language skills with the arts.
As disruptive as repeated snow days may be for families, they offer great opportunities to support your children’s ongoing learning and creativity.
Also, you can check out our tips for keeping your kids' minds active over break when the next scheduled holiday comes up.
Goodman, J. (2014). Flaking Out: Student Absences and Snow Days as Disruptions of Instructional Time. Retrieved January 25, 2015, from Scholars at Harvard.
Spellings, M. (2000, January 1). Helping Your Child Become a Reader. Retrieved January 25, 2015, from U.S. Department of Education.