Bronx teacher uses Cuomo to keep homeschooled kids engaged

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Bronx teacher Michelle Gabriel uses Cuomo to keep kids engaged
Photo courtesy of Michelle Gabriel

When COVID-19 forced children to learn from home, teacher Michelle Gabriel knew it would be an uphill battle.

Gabriel, who teaches social studies and English language arts to 60 seventh grade students at Grand Concourse Academy Charter School, realized keeping students engaged during the lockdown would be a challenge.

She said many were getting depressed as their parents were laid off or people they knew were getting sick.

“Students just don’t care about reading or social studies right now, so I was forced to find creative ways to keep my students engage in these topics while keeping them logged on each day for a maximum of two and a half hours,” Gabriel explained.

Each day after class her family would watch Governor Andrew Cuomo give updates on the coronavirus and one day she thought: “Hey, this will be a great idea to post Governor Cuomo YouTube daily updates and have the students respond, sharing their posts on a blog and doing creative projects extension via Google Classroom.”

So, in March, she began posting Cuomo COVID updates from YouTube on Google Classroom and surprisingly, found an increase in student engagement and a spike in attendance of 100 percent each day.

Socially, she also noticed the kids appeared to be less fearful about the current situation, due to gaining first-hand knowledge about what was happening in the country and community. She told the Bronx Times that many originally only got their news via Snapchat.

Gabriel explained the teens have found a place to share their thoughts and views about their situation while gaining academic credit.

“In my opinion, using these YouTube videos is a great way for teachers to connect to current events, in order to make their lessons engaging,” she said. “The use of connecting current events can help teachers support their lessons, in order to keep students engaged.”

Here are some of her suggestions for student engagement:

  • Use Governor Cuomo daily YouTube updates and students can post a response to your questions you pull out of the video daily;
  • Connect themes in the updates to social studies and English language arts topics;
  • Projects on Google Slides: Have students do online Google Slide presentation on different topics on the coronavirus. This will help students research issues about the virus they want to know about.

“As a parent, teacher, education support professional or homeschooler, anyone can use these online tools in their lesson planning to promote student engagement,” she said. “I wanted to share this information because our kids are suffering just like adults, from this pandemic and they also need to understand and be informed about what happens in our country. The kids are the future leaders of the world.”

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