Friday, January 21, 2011

Shoveling around snow days

    As we begin snow day number four, or is it five, I wanted to share with you a way to keep your classes moving forward.  Regardless of whether you have Edline, Moodle, a class webpage, or another online resource like these, you probably already have a way to manage snow days online.
Snow Shovelsphoto © 2010 Mike Procario | more info (via: Wylio)

1.    Communicate your expectations.  Let students know in class, and parents know via email, that you will be posting work which you expect students to do whenever there is a snow day.  If you live in an area with spotty electrical/internet service, let parents know this is contingent on your having service. 

2.    Decide what you want students to accomplish and gather the necessary resources for them to use.  Some examples:
  • Background reading.  Since students may not have texts at home with them (or may say they don’t), provide other readings.  Textbook publishers frequently have rich resources available.  So much material is available online that you are likely to be able to find a number of interesting articles for your students to read which relate to what you’re doing right now in class.  If you keep these links bookmarked or in a Word document, these will be readily available.  Even if you forgot your list at school, a few minutes of Googling is likely to help bring up at least some of what you want.
  • Activities.  Ask thought-provoking questions.  Don’t do spit-back questions-at-the-end-of-the-chapter.  You have a great opportunity for students to pause and think.  Ask questions like: Why do you think X is taking place? What would happen if Y changed?   Those great questions you never have enough time for in class.
  • Online resources.  You always wanted to take the class to the computer lab to look at that great math website, or science videos website, or primary sources website.  Consider also:  what do you want students to do with this resource? Explore, experiment, evaluate?  Caveat:  If this was a website you wanted students using under supervision, don’t use it for a snow day.  Unless you want parent complains, don’t link to YouTube, where students are only one click away from inappropriate content. Of course, students go there themselves, but why set yourself up?
  • PowerPoints.  Some teachers/texts have PowerPoint presentations of key material.  You may wish to post these, especially in AP classes. 
  • Activities. Discussion.  See this post about how to set up a discussion in Edline.  I much prefer Moodle discussions which are easier to set up and provide more variety.
3.    Tell students what you want them to do today, on the snow day. 
  • In Edline, the easiest way to do this is in News.  Click on the pen & paper icon to the right of News.  Click on Add, then add content as you usually do.  I make the title explicit:  Snow Day – January 21.  I usually just select Enter Text by Hand.  Be specific.  If you have study guides, assignment sheets you refer to, be sure these have already been uploaded to the Content section of your Edline page.  You can include any links to readings or resources as part of what you’re writing.  If you are using the same directions for more than one class, select the other classes you want and click Save. 
  • In Moodle, I place the directions (in a label) so they are the first thing students see after they login.
4.    Communicate your expectations to parents and students.  Send an email (my school uses Edline for this) to all parents and students in each class, reminding them that you’ve got work for the day posted, and where it is.  Not all students check their email, but adults are more likely to, and parents want their kids learning. 

5.    When school starts again, discuss the work.  The first time, a fair number of students will not have done the work, but participation improves with experience.


1.    What about power outages and dropped internet service?  Be understanding, but treat the work like class work that was missed due to a sick day and needs to be made up.

2.    What about the kid who says s/he forgot the password and couldn’t login?  Really?  This is where due dates and assignments are posted, but the kid suddenly forgot the password? And didn’t ask parents – who also have an account – for assistance?  Treat this as class work that has to be made up.

3.    What about kids/parents who forgot about the work entirely?  Treat this as class work that was missed due to a sick day.  If it has to be made up, the student is less likely to forget next time.

4.    What if I don’t have power/internet service?  Don’t beat yourself up.  You probably have bigger difficulties to cope with than a missed day of classes.

Comments, suggestions, additions welcome.  This is cross-posted to

1 comment:

  1. Not having had a snow day in my life (I teach in Queensland, Australia), I assumed that "snow day" equalled "play in the snow day - no school". Great to read such a well organised system to handle this interruption to schooling, which must be really frustrating, particularly if you have a really cold winter. Great advice to other teachers in cold climes, Fran.