A few things to think about as we navigate to the new world of teaching
For most of you that read my blog, you probably just heard the announcement that at least the first three weeks of school will be done online. For many, there was a sigh of relief. And let’s be honest, at least you know what three weeks will look like. That doesn’t make it easy. It’s one thing to teach students you’ve known all year online; it’s quite another to teach students you may have never met. Some may have never even set foot on your campus. What do you do? How do you do all the first week of school things you are used to doing?
Below I’ve listed out a few suggestions – elements that I think will help. To be clear – this is new to me, too. I’ve been trying to come up with new ways to do things this summer, and my biggest goal right now is to support teachers. These are my latest ideas and suggestions. I would love to hear your feedback!
Synchronous versus Asynchronous
There are two possibilities for online teaching: synchronous – where you and your students are all online at the same time – and asynchronous – where students access work and instruction whenever they can (through videos, hyperdocs, etc.) There is a time and place for these two modes of teaching. The easiest (from the feedback I’ve heard from the field) is to introduce the lesson in an asynchronous manner. Students read, watch videos, go through a hyper doc on their own time, at their own pace. There is always the availability of email or messaging communication.
Then in small groups or one-on-one teachers can work synchronously with students. This is manageable, allows for questions, reteaching, and feedback. It is also easier to manage than 20-30 students online at the same time.
When you think of which mode to choose, reflect on effectiveness. What is actually working? Go with that. Whatever makes for effective learning should win the day.
The Power of Video – Building Interest and Relationship
Set the Tone
Take a little time and create a video explaining your class. Do your best to get the students excited and interested. You may even find a good YouTube video that will help you do it. Bottomline: Make it visual and stimulating and set the tone from the very beginning of the year.
Help your students get to know you by creating a video about yourself. Talk about why you care about your content and why you care about them. I recommend using the app Flipgrid to do this. You can record your own video intro and then assign each student to create their own. This also helps you get to know student names!
Have students create their own introductions on Flipgrid. Students can view and reply to others in their class. This helps them get to know their classmates and learn their names as well.
Setting the stage for learning
Create online procedures
Just because you aren’t in-person, doesn’t mean you don’t have procedures. You will still need to explicitly create rules and procedures for online learning. For example, you could create procedures for:
Interacting in an online session
Submitting assignments online
Entering a session late
Requesting assistance from the teacher
Requesting a tutoring session
Meeting with students in online group discussion
Once you determine your top rules and procedures, make sure you define exactly what that looks like:
Be clear – give a step-by-step explanation
Model in a video – illustrate what it looks like and what it doesn’t look like
Make sure you have students practice these rules and procedures with you
Make sure the students understand why these rules are in place
No matter the set-up, you still need to know where your students are – especially after what happened in the spring. Think of assessments that get you more bang for your buck. A written response to a short piece or passage, for example, gives you both insight into their comprehension and analytical skills, as well as their writing skills. When in doubt, have them write something.
Curriculum – what do they need to learn during those first few weeks
This can be a challenge. First, take advantage of everything the district provides you. Some districts have already been discussing what standards should be prioritized and what authentic assessments need to happen. If you have TEKS Resource System, use the performance assessments to help you determine what students need to be doing.
Reflect on what is most important for a successful kick off to the year. You might have to boil it down to the basics. Consider what works with the online set-up as well. You may also want to check out on my previous blog about online basics: (link)
Take advantage of your fellow faculty that are all in the same boat. Share your expertise and ideas. Be actively engaged in any PLC meetings you have. Work together. It’s so cliché, but don’t reinvent the wheel. If someone has already created an awesome video, and it works for you, too, share! Spread the work out!
Be kind to yourself
Part of me think I should have actually listed this suggestion first. Let’s model the behavior we want from our students. Take risks, but don’t beat yourself up if that lesson falls short. Do your best, but realize this is still pretty new to everyone. Celebrate what works! Reflect on what doesn’t. Know that you are doing your best with the situation you’ve been given.
Take care of yourself
My yoga teacher always says your health is your wealth. I feel that even more now that our health seems to be the most at-risk it’s ever been. Get the sleep you need. Take that evening walk. Eat the way you know you should. Take that long bath. Enjoy that glass of wine. Take that moment for yourself. Think about it as using your old commute time as me time.
I know this doesn’t scratch the surface of all that’s going on in your mind right now, but I hope it gives you just a little guidance and a few ideas. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’m here to help and support you on this voyage!