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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Managing instruction when kids are sick

October 27, 2009

Molly went back to school Monday morning after being out sick all last week. She had the double whammy of H1N1 and strep throat. It was a loooong week for her and me! She was miserable, feverish, and missed five days of school.

Flu-related absences present a real instructional challenge for teachers. After all, it's hard to run a reading group with half the group out sick. And what about that new science unit, or the concept in math you planned to teach? Should you hold off new content, or go ahead and teach it and plan to teach it again when the sick kids are back?

The U.S. Department of Education offers some advice in their document Preparing for the Flu: Department of Education Recommendations to Ensure the Continuity of Learning for Schools (K‐12). Included are recommendations that range from sending hard copy packets home to sick kids to recorded class meetings made available online or through podcasts to distance learning courses. Each recommendation seeks to keep the learning going, even when kids are out of school.

Molly's teacher used a simple paper form to communicate missed assignments. Every day she filled out the sections (math, science, social studies), and sent home worksheets and pages to read from the reading group's book. It worked for us, and it's what many teachers do during this time of the year.

For parents, kids under a blanket are a captive audience! Use this opportunity to start a new read aloud at home. Or, check out our booklist called From Book to Film. You can plan a fun day of reading a book and snuggling up for the movie adaptation.

Teachers: What are you doing to keep instruction going in your classroom? Please share your tips and advice!

Parents: What are you doing to occupy your sick child? Got any great tips or advice to share?


This is a very good subject to write on considering the time of year. I experience this for myself when my son Micah missed a week of school. Only I asked for back work and didn't get it until the end of the week. I think we definitely need to establish a line of communication with the parents of sick children. As a future teacher I feel it is an asset for a teacher to have an emergency home kit. The kit should include childs daily work that is being missed, so the child will be able to stay on task with the class.

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"Reading is not optional." —

Walter Dean Myers