Creativity in Crisis: Dressing up as various characters to engage students

A private Christian school teacher has dressed up in 35 different costumes over the past nine weeks of lessons
By: | May 22, 2020
Creative online teaching is possible during school closures. Unique, but very effective online teaching methods have been adopted by a private school teacher who has dressed up as various characters and learned some other online teaching best practices.

When clicking on yesterday’s video lesson, students first heard from Jedi Master Yoda, who looked suspiciously like their teacher Heidi Bruder, before the Star Wars character finally allowed Bruder to teach the rest of the class.

The day before, Bruder posted another video to her Facebook classroom page showing someone who appeared to be her, except that person was a pirate. Today, Bruder could be dressed up as anyone.

“I wanted my students to know that even though video learning isn’t ideal, I am going to do everything in my power to bring the same energy and enthusiasm into these lessons as I would in our classroom,” says Bruder who teaches middle school language arts and social studies to 15 students at Calvary Christian Academy, a private Christian school in Michigan. “I think the whimsy of the costumes and the different characters add some levity to our situation and make them smile.”

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Bruder has been dressing up in costumes for the start of each class since Calvary Christian Academy teachers created Facebook classroom pages and began posting daily video lessons every Monday through Thursday beginning the week of March 16. This is just one example of effective online teaching methods that Bruder has adopted since school closures began.

“That first lesson when I threw on a costume, I had no intention of dressing up every lesson but the response from my students made the effort worthwhile,” says Bruder. “I even had a mom tell me she watches my lessons, too, just for the entertainment value.”

To date, Broder has dressed up in 35 different costumes over the past nine weeks of lessons.

Setting up an online learning system

The school first developed a remote education plan that involved teachers posting daily videos to newly created Facebook pages after Governor Whitmer announced three weeks of school closures on Thursday, March 12. A driveby pickup was then scheduled on March 16 so parents could safely get textbooks, packets and laptops.

The school also delivers two weeks’ worth of work packets every two weeks that are geared toward review and practicing key skills rather than towards finishing the curriculum. “I always tuck in a treat of some sort along with motivation notes that I have written into these packets,” says Bruder.

Effective online teaching methods beyond costumes

Outside of these daily videos, Bruder and her team-teacher adopted an online learning pedagogy that involves logging onto Zoom to check up with students and play virtual games, including a scavenger hunt. “We divided the kids into teams and I would call out what students should look for,” says Bruder. “The first student that came back to the screen with the item would earn a point for his or her team. It was hilarious.”

Students have searched for legos, cartons of milk, something green, worms and earrings. “I even had them look for a tooth, and believe it or not, one of my students came rushing back with her grandma or grandpa’s dentures,” says Bruder.

Students have also played trivia challenges where Bruder and her team-teacher asked questions that had three possible answers. Students held up a sign with the number 1, 2 or 3, depending on the answer.

“Although it might sound weird to have purely social meetings, they’ve been helpful in motivating students who have gotten off track to get back to learning,” says Bruder.

She adds, “We cannot teach in the same way as we would in the classroom. More than ever, teachers need to think outside the box to foster that love of learning, otherwise students are bound to feel that school is a bore and a chore. I believe education is so valuable; we can’t afford for our students to lose desire and interest. They are worth our full efforts!”

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