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Educator Development

Three Takeaways from the Spring Saturday Summit: What I Know Now

Participate Learning ambassador teachers gathered together online for a morning of learning, connection, and conversations about a dynamically different year of school. While many things about teaching and learning have shifted this year, one thing is clear—no amount of virtual learning or social distancing can keep teachers from prioritizing their students’ joy, identities, and need for connection.

Read on for three lessons from pandemic teaching that stand the test of time.

1. Make time for play-based learning activities.

Play is an important part of learning at any age. Playful learning can boost mental, physical, and emotional health and helps students develop higher-order thinking skills and executive functions. Whether you use a dramatic center in a physical classroom, as Laura Salas shared during her session, or implement game-based learning or gamification in a virtual setting as Angela Reyes explained, play-based learning creates an engaging and interactive learning environment that builds students’ intrinsic motivation for learning. Incorporating play fosters social connections that help the learning to take hold for students.

2. Honor diverse identities in the classroom.

Students need to see themselves reflected in the lessons they learn, the stories they read, and the problems they are working to solve. Ambassador teacher Carla Salinas shared a strategy called “la fábrica de cuentos,” or our story factory, that allows students to build their own stories by choosing diverse characters, character traits, places around the world, and problem prompt cards. Participate Learning program managers Judy Ouyang, CJ Egalité, and Irene Zamora explored strategies for incorporating social justice in the Mandarin classroom through the use of vocabulary, read alouds, and conversation starters. When students see themselves and others reflected in the classroom, they have a better understanding of the diversity of perspectives and identities in the world, too, which develops them into empathetic global leaders.

3. Give students voice and choice to increase engagement.

If there is a universal lesson that all teachers have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is how technology can be utilized as a tool to connect students and create learning spaces. Ambassador teacher Diana Vásquez showed teachers how Pear Deck can be used to transform asynchronous lessons into interactive, rigorous experiences for students in which you can link multiple resources and websites. In Melisa Patiño and Luisa Acevedo’s session, teachers practiced using the thinking routine, Chalk Talk, to create space for all students’ opinions in a virtual class setting. Ana Herrera shared other cooperative learning strategies, such as assigning roles to team members, which can encourage students to stay on task when working in small groups, whether in online breakout rooms or at tables in a classroom.

After spending a Saturday morning with an amazing group of teachers, attendees left feeling inspired and grateful to witness the work of such perseverance, joy, and dedication to students, local communities, as well as personal growth and development. In the words of our CEO, David Young, “After this experience, your superpower will be knowing that you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone, anywhere in the world with the confidence that you successfully managed to transition your skills in life to an entirely different place in the most challenging of circumstances in our lifetime…You are extraordinary, and we’re honored to have you here today and as Participate Learning ambassador teachers forever.”

At Participate Learning, our ambassador teachers are at the heart of our mission to unite our world through global learning as they expose students in the U.S. to their cultures and heritages while fostering life-changing educational experiences. For more information on how you can become an ambassador teacher with Participate Learning, visit our Teach in the USA webpage.

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