This is the last post in this series about distance teaching and learning. We have looked at mindset and realistic expectations, setting up a productive workspace, planning and teaching remotely, and continuing to build classroom community. Today’s post is about maintaining communication with students and Families.
Here are 21 tips.
1 – I’ve linked my PDF of resources HERE. Consider sharing ONE Resource per day with your families. This big ole list is for your reference but it is still overwhelming. Close your eyes and pick one thing to share or try out each day! Often families do want teachers to offer specific options for learning, but they don’t need 50 things in one day. Choose what works best for your students and their families.
2 – Try to communicate with your students and their families daily. This can be in whatever way works for you. I do think it’s most helpful if you can do some kind of brief video of yourself talking to your kids and share that with them frequently (maybe daily, maybe not). “Seeing” you, even virtually, will be reassuring for your students. My fifth graders love seeing pictures of my dog and my daughter’s dog, so I am trying to share pictures frequently.
3 – Consider using some form of an emotional check-in, or a Google Forms check-in with your students.
4 – Watch this brief YouTube clip from Empower Consulting where she shares 3 great tips for new online teachers.
To sum up her tips:
*show your face
*simplify the resource list you are sending home (narrow down to 2-3 resources instead of a huge list of 50 resources, like my resource PDF)
*less is more (assign less)
5 – Consider using Google Voice instead of your personal phone number.
6 – Set up “office hours” and let students and families know when you will be available. This helps keep everyone’s expectations realistic.
7 – For families who are navigating things like Google Classroom for the first time, consider creating screenshots and a simple tutorial to share.
8 – Try to set up a regular time and a consistent way to reach out to students and families. You might do something like sending a Google form as a check-in for students, send a weekly email to families, have get-togethers via Zoom or Google Meet, or make weekly phone calls. Do whatever works best for you and your students.
9 – Maintain a positive attitude and try to offer tips or support to your families as their living situations may be very different from your own.
10 – Make videos and share them with students. You can use Quick Time on a Macbook, Screencastify or Screencastomatic. (There are other tools, but these are very popular and very easy to use.) You can email the videos or upload to Google Classroom. (Tip I learned the hard way: check the volume or sound quality before posting!)
11 – Find fun tips or resources to share with your students. Think about using resources that will be fun and engaging and/or will help them to be active. Share photos or videos of your life with your students. I have shared photos of my dog, my daughter’s dog, me baking cookies, my husband, anything that will be fun and engaging for your particular class. In other words — think more about connecting with your students in social and engaging ways than about “teaching” them something all the time.
12 – Share tips and resources with your families. Parents or caregivers are stressed right now (as are we all). If you find any resources that you think might help support your families, share away. Better to overshare than to be “absent” from them.
13 – Consider using Remind to bulk text messages to families.
14 – Ask your families for feedback on your online lessons. Maybe they need you to provide more examples, talk more slowly, turn up the volume.
15 – Give yourself grace, give your students grace, give your families grace. Understand that you are on a huge learning curve right now and nothing will be as perfect as it would be if you had had months to prepare for this change. Your students may be doing more “work” at home in terms of helping with younger siblings or doing extra chores. And your parents/caregivers are either continuing to work outside the home or they may be working at home and juggling multiple responsibilities. There will be varying levels of commitment to academics right now.
16 – As you communicate with students and/or teach lessons, be as engaging as possible. Show your face (your students need to see you!), use bitmojis and funny memes or gifs.
17 – It’s helpful to write a plan (just notes for yourself) before creating a video lesson. Then, after you write the plan, see if you can simplify it even more. This will be super helpful for your students, but even more for their families!
18 – Use safeyoutube.net for any internet videos you share. This deletes ads and other videos.
19 – Don’t over assign. Consider sharing ONE reading task/assignment per day, ONE math assignment, ONE science assignment, ONE social studies assignment, etc. Extra fun resources can be added as “dessert” or shared with families but not assigned to students.
20 – Encourage your students to develop a daily schedule and share it with you. Consider sharing your own schedule with your students. Show them that you have dedicated work times but that you also include time to play and relax.
21 – Providing extra support:
~send extra reminders to both students and parents (such as a daily email with a “things to do” list);
~show them how to use “tasks” on email desktop or Google Keep
~be flexible with deadlines. Many students will need extra time to complete assignments for a variety of reasons.
~build community among your students. Many students will struggle with isolation. Keeping your community as connected as possible will help with social-emotional learning as well as give them the motivation to complete academic tasks.
I hope you found at least one way to communicate with students and families that will work for your situation. I would love to hear about what is working for you with your class!
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