Online app allows North Linn students to learn during snow days


    For one teacher at North Linn Elementary, snow days aren't days off from learning. Surprisingly, her students are excited to do their homework.

    School was back in at North Linn Elementary Friday.

    Crystal Manos’ colorful classroom filled up with bundled-up kids around 10 a.m. They made their lunch choice by dragging an avatar into a hot or cold space on an interactive board, rolled out Playdoh on tables, or joined the teacher in practicing sight words. An average morning -- even though they’d been home the day before.

    Ms. Manos’ kindergarteners arrived ready to learn after the seventh full day off this year.

    "We've never had that many days,” she says. “I want to help parents out a little bit."

    The teacher and mother of two hasn't been letting her kids off easy on their off-days. Maybe they’re excited to learn because they didn’t just sled or watch TV the day before.

    "Good morning kindergarteners!” begins a video on Seesaw, an app Ms. Manos uses to communicate with parents and the students use to work remotely. “Another snow day!"

    This is how the 11-year teaching veteran keeps her young students learning, even when classes are cancelled.

    "I post all my videos and activities I want the students to do via Seesaw," she says.

    The school began using the app last year, but this use, posting at-home lessons during snow days, was created out of necessity as frigid and sometimes dangerous weather has kept many Iowa students home.

    Wednesday's lesson: the human body. Thursday, Crystal had the kids create a skeleton hand at home.

    "First thing you need to do is,” Crystal begins in the recorded video.

    “Trace your hand!" her eager son, helping her in the lesson, shouts.

    "Mommy traced my hand," says kindergartener Syarra Rawson, holding up the completed project she brought to hang up at school.

    Surprisingly, students are excited about it.

    From reading a favorite book, to building a fort, the assignments reflect what students have been learning in class.

    "Oh!” Syarra Rawson exclaims. “Say the letter sounds and write them."

    Ms. Manos has also gotten kids to do chores.

    "It's better for the teacher to ask than the parent to ask,” Syarra’s mom Kate says, “because it gets them more pumped to do it."

    Rawson gets to be involved in her daughter's learning and knows she won't fall behind in class. Crystal stresses the lessons may be fun, but they’re still homework focused on repetition so her little learners pick up the skills they’d otherwise lose on days off.

    "But in a fun way,” she says, “so they don't even know they're learning."

    Maybe that’s even better than a snow day.

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