Curricula, Tips & Tricks for Educators and Parents
CFT's curated collection of distance learning resources
Educators and parents alike need resources for at-home learning. Our thoughtfully curated collection of helpful and creative resources aims to assist educators and parents with learning at home — for all ages of students. Here you can find online resources by subject matter.
We have a separate collection of resources for higher education faculty. However, many of the subject matter resources below, and others, may also be helpful for teaching in higher education.
Hundreds of free lessons, resources from educators
AFT’s ShareMyLesson offers hundreds of resources and lesson plans for preK-12 educators, plus online webinars and conferences. You can join discussion groups, download dozens of lesson plans and resources, and upload your own lesson plan. Watch for announcements of webinar and virtual conferences.
Join the new Remote Learning Community
In ShareMyLesson’s new online community, educators can share lesson plans and collaborate in discussions, as well as access grade-specific, learning-at-home lessons and activities, countless online resources to share with parents (most are free), lesson plans on teaching about coronavirus, and resources for prevention and preparation.
Resources for students with disabilities
AFT has set up a ShareMyLesson resource page for supporting students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes webinars for educators, families, caregivers and staff, apps for children with special needs, and podcasts for special educators. There’s also an overview of the recent guidance by the U.S. Department of Education on how to support students with IEPs.
Parent resources and online tools
To help families who are learning how to support their children’s distance learning while still dealing with many other responsibilities including work, the AFT and the Share My Lesson team are providing resources for parents with children from pre-K up through seniors in high school. They include tips about student privacy and how to support students with disabilities; blogs by and for parents about mental health during this time and how to support English Language learners; and webinars about subjects like dealing with stress and preventing a learning slide during this time.
At-home learning with PBS SoCal
California PBS stations are offering broadcast programming and accompanying digital resources that adhere to California’s state curriculum for continued at-home learning. This website, in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District offers PBS schedules, how to watch, and a newsletter sign-up. Activities and programs are broken into PreK–grade 3, grades 4–8, and grades 9–12.
How to transition to online teaching – Zoom
This short article from PBS gives tips for how teachers can transition to online teaching, focusing on the free video conferencing app Zoom. The article explains useful things such as how you can see everyone and they can see you, how to make the camera more flattering (!), how to mute students and how they can raise their hands to ask a question or share something, and how to share a picture or sound. There’s also a link to Zoom’s Help Center.
Change your Zoom settings for more security
Many teachers are spending a LOT of time on the video-conferencing software Zoom. Researchers and journalists have been noticing that there are a number of potential security issues on the platform which has had a huge surge in use with so many people working remotely. One issue is “Zoombombing,” when uninvited guests can break into your meeting or class. This article gives you four settings to change to prevent this, including using the “Waiting Room,” feature so you can see who is trying to join the meeting before allowing them access, and using a per-meeting ID, not your personal one.
Linda Darling Hammond on teaching our kids from home
CalMatters hosts a virtual conversation with Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, the president of California’s State Board of Education, and Cindy Marten, the superintendent of San Diego Unified School District. Marten emphasized that parents need to be gentle with themselves. The professional teachers are doing everything they can, she said. She suggested parents can do things like writing a journal with their families about this time, which Marten said would be something their children could share with their own children and grandchildren. Cooking, Marten said, is another thing parents and children can do together – which has the added benefit of meeting math and science standards. Darling-Hammond addressed what the state is doing to get connectivity for all students, and how standardized testing has been cancelled so teachers and students can just focus on learning. She said she is hopeful that caring for one another during this stressful time and seeing others’ struggles will lead to a transformation to a more equitable society.
Stanford’s tips for educators and families
University’s Graduate School of Education
This site has a number of resources for teachers both K-12 and college level transitioning from the classroom to teaching from home. They include online courses to help multi-lingual learners, resources put together by Stanford education professor Linda Darling-Hammond, ways to keep students interested in learning at home, tips to help college instructors build community and collaboration, and a curriculum to help students evaluate online information.
Downloadable children’s book on coping with COVID-19
World Health Organization
A group of dozens of humanitarian agencies has put out a book, “My Hero is You, How Kids Can Fight COVID-19!” to help children understand the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of teachers, children, caregivers and parents shared how they’re coping with COVID-19, and the writer and illustrator Helen Patuck, along with a team, used that input in creating the book, meant for children ages 6 to 11. In “My Hero is You,” a fantasy creature Ario explains how children can protect themselves, their families and friends from coronavirus, along with talking about ways to manage difficult emotions in a sometimes scary and quickly changing reality. The book has been translated into six languages, with 30 more coming. It’s a project of a group of United Nations agencies, national and international nongovernmental organizations, and international agencies providing mental health support in emergency settings.
Facebook group: Members offer support, resources
With over 10,000 members and multiple posts a day, you could check out this Facebook group. “Is anyone else clueless as to transitioning your courses online? Does anyone have fabulous ideas or strategies they’d like to share? Let’s mingle from quarantine!” reads the group description.
Facebook group: Pandemic Pedagogy
This Facebook group offers educators and students a forum to share advice, what’s gone well, what hasn’t, best (and worst) practices, and research about converting to fully online instruction while schools’ campuses are closed during this pandemic.
A great source of stories on education in California
For more than 40 years, Edsource has provided education information, analysis and research in the state. Recent stories include how university researchers are focusing on finding ways to understand and treat COVID-19; a website that offers ideas and resources for teachers serving special needs students online; and a podcast with a superintendent and chief technology officer in a rural district about how they are doing distance learning and getting connectivity for their students.
Creative activity ideas for kids
Angeles County Library
This site has creative activities for kids ages 3 through 18, using materials you would have at home. They include pressing flowers to be observant of nature and create art; designing uniforms and a spaceship and doing gravity tests for a space mission; and going on an indoor scavenger hunt looking for items like something very soft, a book with numbers in it and something round.
Half hour art classes for kids on Instagram
On Monday through Friday at 10 am, illustrator Wendy MacNaughton has half-hour drawing classes geared for kids on Instagram Live. McNaughton, who illustrated the best-selling cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat, starts class balancing a pencil on her upper lap, then does a dance. The classes have drawn a dog, a birthday card, each other, and what they see out the window. McNaughton is like an updated Mr. Rogers — so warm and full of enthusiasm about the class and drawing. McNaughton plans to bring on a guest artist on once a week, and she’s working with YouTube to get the classes online. She plans to do the class for the remainder of the school year.
Concerts and creative classes for kids
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
During the pandemic, the Lincoln Center in New York offers Pop Up Classroom at 10 am EST (7 am PST) with subjects including hip hop dance and puppet making. Concerts for Kids offers chamber music, steel drumming, dance and opera.
Teacher artist launches homeschooling YouTube channel
Teacher & Artist
Berkeley Federation of Teachers member and art teacher Miriam Klein Stahl and Kate Schatz, the creators of the Rad Women book series: Rad American Women A-Z, Rad Women Worldwide, Rad Girls Can, and Rad American History A-Z, have a YouTube page where Schatz reads parts of their books, and Stahl teaches art — like how to make a mini-zine, simple mending and how to make a papercut.
Journaling prompts for kids during COVID-19
First Things First
Writing in a journal can activate the imagination, cultivate self-awareness and calm stress. Those are great anytime, but particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic with your children are home from school, a journal might be a good idea. Not only can it help clarify children’s thoughts and feelings, it can improve their writing skills as well. This site suggests making it a routine and offers some prompts depending on the child’s age. For example “What is something that is important to my family?” for elementary school; “If you could have been someone in history, who would you have been? Why?” for a middle schooler; and “The best and worst parts of quarantine are…” for a child in high school.
Sonnets, podcasts, and plays
Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets. Shotgun Players, a Berkeley theater, is offering a reading of one a day — hopefully this will be over before they get through all of them. You can hear Shotgun actors read the latest sonnets on the theater’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. They also have a podcast with actor interviews, scenes, and audio recordings of plays. And a few of the theater’s performances are available to watch on YouTube.
Study guides to Shakespeare’s plays
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Members of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s education department have provided helpful background for teaching Shakespeare’s plays, including questions for pre- and post-reading, and resources about the play and Shakespeare’s life.
Lessons on the history of the people
You’ll find lessons and activities here that promote and support the teaching of history in classrooms across the country, based on the lens highlighted in Howard Zinn’s classic A People’s History of the United States, which chronicles U.S. history from the bottom up. Some of the free lessons you can download include ones on the impact of late 19th century factory work on workers’ home lives; the 1934 Longshore Workers Strike; and how to teach climate change to elementary school children. The lessons and articles are organized by theme, time period and reading level.
Covid-19 History Project with helpful blog
Educators at the California History Social-Science Project at UC Davis wrote California’s new History-Social Science framework in 2016. This page is for teachers, parents, and students, and includes an oral history toolkit, a COVID-19 History Project where teachers at UCLA document the pandemic, homeschooling resources, and student journal assignments, as well as blog posts about teaching during the pandemic.
Smithsonian’s History Explorer
of American History
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has more than 1.7 million objects The museum’s History Explorer, designed for K-12 teachers and students, offers hundreds of free, innovative online resources for teaching American history. Topics include, the Constitution, Civil Rights, Suffragism, and how young people affect elections. Resources include lessons and activities, museum artifacts, videos and audio, and theme pages.
Use archives to teach the history of the state
These instructional materials from the California Historical Society are arranged into sets of an investigative questions with a collection of sources, historical background and context for the topic, and source notes. A lesson for high school, for example, uses the garment industry as an example of why and how laborers organized for worker protections, while a lesson for 4th graders looks at impact that the California Gold Rush had on the people living in the state and the demographic, economic, and environmental changes that happened during that time. NOTE: This website is still in beta testing and is expected to fully launch in 2021.
Curriculum for marine and environmental science
Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has curriculum, activities and games to learn more about science. There are some distance learning programs and educators at the aquarium are working on more in the coming weeks. For a dose of calm, you could look at the Live Cams with your students and see what the sea otters, jellyfish or sharks are up to.
Science learning resources and STEM activities
California Academy of Sciences
The mission of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is to “explore, explain, and sustain life.” The experts at the Academy are offering options for preschoolers through high school seniors to learn remotely — videos, lesson plans and live online programs. You can listen to experts talking about climate and weather, get an introduction to scientific sketching, or take a tour of the night sky. You can also check out the Academy’s animal webcams to see what the penguins and stingrays are up to.
Science Snacks – 285 teacher-tested activities
The exhibits at San Francisco’s Exploratorium are meant to get kids and adults thinking about science and art. To extend that beyond the museum’s walls, the educators there have put together free science activities and materials around general science activities as well as ones addressing COVID-19. These videos, activities, and articles will help you address students’ questions about what viruses are, the effect of soap on them, and fight against viruses. Along with lessons on viruses, there are 285 teacher-tested Science Snacks that use cheap, easily available materials and are for middle school and high school ages. Topics include chemistry, physics, biology, visual perception, environmental science and more. You and your students can use soap film to model a cell membrane, see what your brain learns when you use distortion goggles or write a message in DNA.
Free labor curricula preschool through higher ed
CFT Labor Curricula
Members of the CFT’s Labor and Climate Justice Education Committee have produced curricula for students from coloring books for preschoolers to college readings. May is Labor History Month and you can celebrate it using these free downloadable lessons and materials produced by CFT members — classroom teachers, classified employees, and faculty from college labor studies programs.
Teaching Tolerance: What educators need now
This page from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance has a wealth of resources that teachers asked for — including recommendations for online resources, emotional support for both students and educators, best practices for distance learning, materials on the teaching COVID-19 and social justice, resources for students without online access, and information to send to families trying to teach their children.
Free lesson plans about women’s rights, sweatshops
The AFT has put together this resource of lesson plans for educators to use when teaching about human rights. The lesson plans focus on a human rights issue, such as sweatshops, or a fighter for human rights, such as girls’ education advocate Malala Yousafza. These free lesson plans are designed for middle school and high school students and they all include hands-on activities, interactive videos, and worksheets.
El Teatro Campesino and the United Farm Workers
Teatro Campesino Archives
El Teatro Campesino was founded by Luis Valdez in 1965 on the picket lines of the Delano Grape Strike picket lines. The company created short skits in Spanish and English that dramatized the cause of the farmworkers. The cultural arm of the United Farm Workers, they performed on flatbed trucks and in union halls.
The Chicano theater company’s archives are available online with a variety of materials for people interested in political science, labor studies, and theater arts, including a TV interview with Cesar Chavez, the first known film on El Teatro Campesino, “Huelga,” narrated by Chavez; and a documentary about “Zoot Suit,” one of the company’s most famous plays.