I’ll be teaching remote until mid-October and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I miss about in-person teaching. I’ve been trying hard to recreate the connections and fun that exist in a real classroom. I figure I’ll face the same challenges once we go hybrid, so here are 5 of my goals that will hopefully make this year as fun and as engaging as possible:
1. Allow students the time to interact
Whether wearing masks or sitting behind a screen, students miss interacting. Zoom breakout rooms and the fact that teachers and students can create their own Google Meets may not be the ideal way we allow students to create memorable experiences, but it’s all we’ve got. Small group learning should guide everything we do.
2. Find the time to conference
I’ve discovered that it’s important to set aside one on one time with my students. It’s so easy to walk around a room and answer questions or touch base. They also want to know that we’re approachable, so every time I end virtual class, I let them know that I’ll hang around to answer any questions they might have. After almost every class, at least one student has a question or wants to let me know something.
3. Give students time away from the screen
Even though it makes sense to collect all assignments online for hybrid (some students online and some students in person), we can still allow students to take pictures of their handwritten work (notes, graphic organizers, drawings, one-pagers, etc.). Students can listen to podcasts instead of reading articles and submit audio recordings instead of online work. I never thought I’d suggest audiobooks (free public domain audiobooks), but they might be better than reading an entire novel online.
4. Balance synchronous and asynchronous learning
It’s important for students to feel connected to their classmates and learn from experiences instead of lectures and PowerPoints, but students can get screen fatigue just like adults. We need to find a balance between allowing students to learn independently and learn from each other. Students at home can still participate in whole class collaborative assignments like a Padlet (where they can upload handwritten work) or Google document. It is so important to have a student-centered classroom right now – we should be regularly asking for feedback and ideas for assignments in order to meet the needs of our students. Whenever possible, we should allow students to submit individual or group work in whatever format works for them – handwritten, typed, audio, or video. I sometimes collect work by allowing students to upload files into a shared Google folder so they can view each other’s work.
5. Keep it all short and sweet
Our students are trying and often struggling to make sense of each of their subject area teacher’s directions, due dates, meeting times, apps, discussions, assignments, modules, units, quizzes, notes, links, and texts. With about half the class time I normally have, I know I’m trying to keep activities short and assignments simple. Because I’m spending more time creating my course online and more time providing video and audio feedback, I’m trying to keep the quantity of graded assignments to a minimum. Right now, I’m keeping the focus on learning and not on assessment.
No matter what we do, we’ll never recreate the reality of our pre-pandemic class – the relationships and the routines. We’ll have to embrace change and be flexible … and have class outside as often as possible! It’s going to be a long winter for everyone, so I’m going to try as hard as I can to keep it positive and fun.
online PD for Secondary ELA Teachers