When I decided to become a teacher 20+ years ago I never thought that I would be teaching students remotely. But, just like you, I am. I have a degree in technology education and consider myself tech-savvy, but I wasn’t really ready for distance learning. If you are struggling, it is ok. This is NEW for all of us. It took me a while to get in the groove and to figure out how things would work for me and my students.
Distance learning is not a cookie-cutter operation. It is going to look different for each teacher. However, there are a few things that I have discovered that have made it easier for me. Hopefully, a few of these tips will work for you, too.
Communicate with Parents/Guardians
Parents are overwhelmed. They are working from home or juggling child care so that they can continue to go to work. They are navigating the digital learning of at least one student, but possibly more. Communication is key to the success of our current situation. But, it should be streamlined. Here are some ideas to try:
- Pick one day to send an email with an overview of the weekly expectations.
- Consider sending a printable schedule that outlines the weekly assignments.
- Set up consistent office hours. Be available during that time to answer questions via email or through a Zoom meeting. Keeping the time consistent will benefit parents/guardians that are juggling schedules for the whole family.
Create a Schedule
The schedule you create will likely be dependent on your school district’s expectations and recommendations. We were told to plan for half of the school (about 3.5 hours). The district recommended a set amount of time per subject. It was also recommended that we try to connect with the students virtually at least twice per week.
I created a weekly one-page schedule that was loosely based on our classroom schedule. This made it easier for me to plan. I included links to activities posted by the specialist teachers (art, music, physical education, library, and technology). I send it home attached to my weekly email.
I don’t expect the students to follow the schedule exactly as written. One of the perks of working at home is choosing what you want to tackle first.
Google Classroom is my go-to for all things digital – especially organizing assignments. When we closed for distance learning I decided to create a new Google Classroom. I use the topics feature and create a topic for each day. The title includes the day and the date. Then I post all of the assignments for that day below.
Each assignment has all of the files and/or links needed to complete the work. This takes extra time when planning, but saves time in the end because the students can access everything needed.
I schedule assignments to post each day. It is easy for the students to follow at home because everything is in one place.
Lesson Planning Tools
I regularly use a modified flipped learning model in my classroom, so this is the area of distance teaching that I feel the most comfortable.
I started by using Screencastify to film lessons. I used the lessons that I created and recorded the screen while going through the slides. Screencastify is granting all impacted educators free access to their products through at least April 30th. You can read more about it here.
Last week I started using Explain Everything. I love it! Explain Everything is a user-friendly design, screencasting, and interactive whiteboard tool. You can annotate, animate, and narrate slides. The final product can be exported as a movie and uploaded to Google Classroom. I use Explain Everything on an iPad.
I have taught a few live lessons on Zoom. I liked it, but prefer to use the recorded lessons because students can pause a lesson if they need extra time.
Connect with Students
This is the thing that I miss the most about teaching from home. I miss the buzz of energy that hums through the classroom when we are all learning together. Staying connected is even more important now. Before I share some things that I am doing, I want to acknowledge that many districts have guidelines in place and it is important to follow them. Here are some things that I am doing to stay connected with my class.
- Class Meetings on Zoom – We meet twice per week for 30 minutes. We greet one another and discuss a question or complete an activity.
- Flipgrid – I post a video question and students record their answers and post. This is a great way for the students to “see” each other.
- Post a Question – Google Classroom has a feature that allows you to post a question. Students can comment on posts written by other students. I like to post questions about the book I am reading aloud to them. The commenting feature can be turned off if students abuse it. Thankfully, I have not had to do that.
- Padlet – We have a “Learning at Home” Padlet. Students post pictures that show the fun things they are doing. I enjoy seeing the pictures each day.
- Snail Mail – I created a coloring page and sent one along with a note to each student. You can grab it here.
We are all in this together. Distance learning doesn’t have to be a challenge. Sharing ideas and experiences is the best way to help each other. Comment below with any tips you have. I’d love to hear from you.
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