So far in this series we have focused on building a positive mindset, revamping our expectations, and setting up a productive workspace. Today’s focus is on planning.
As teachers, we are accustomed to planning. We plan for everything, all. the. time. But this new reality? This requires a very different kind of planning for our Teaching and for Student learning. Here are 10 tips.
1 – We all have our directives from our school districts or our principals. But even within those constraints, set your priorities. You can’t do everything right now. (That’s actually true all the time, but especially now!) What do you consider to be most important for YOUR students? Remember the saying that “we have to Maslow before Bloom.” Do your students need to hear from you in some way? Do they need to reminded that they are loved and cared for? Do they need food or other resources that your school or district can provide?
If those needs are met, then what do you want them to do? Do you want them to read every day? Write something every day? Solve some math problems? Watch a science or social studies video? Create something? You might also want them to be active in some way or to do things to help out at home. Think about what really matters to YOU, for YOUR students, right now.
2 – Encourage your students to use this time for actually reading. Not doing activities about reading or answering questions about the reading. Just reading. Provide some interesting articles or stories to read and chances to talk about reading. I send my students a new Padlet every week (a sample is HERE) where they tell me what they are reading for fun. Many of them add a sentence or two about the Book and almost all of them add a picture of themselves with the book or a picture of the book’s cover.
3 – Don’t worry about grades or due dates. Allow everything to be optional to complete, open book or open note. Encourage your students to communicate and collaborate with you and with other students. Show compassion for yourself AND for your students. Everyone is in a different place in terms of their stress level and what they have going on at home. Unless you are required to assess everything, try to let most (or all) of that go for now.
4 – You don’t have to do this alone. Join Facebook teacher groups, talk to your colleagues, check your favorite blogs (I hope this is one!) and online resources.
5 – Use some sort of platform to post your lessons or assignments. The two most popular and easiest-to-use platforms are SeeSaw and Google Classroom.
6 – Just plan for one week at a time. Don’t try to overhaul your entire curriculum at one time. Just plan one week, check-in with your students and families to see how it went for them, and make adjustments. Learn as you go.
7 – Think about starting off your assignment or lesson with something fun. Maybe a check-in, either by video or by using a Google form. Then you might include something like a virtual field trip or an animal webcam. This could be tied to your curriculum in some way, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want to create a scavenger hunt or some form of questioning activity, fine, but it’s also fine to just have your students share what they learned or what they found interesting.
8 – Then move on to something to read. You might “assign” independent reading (always the first and best activity to improve student reading). If your students were able to take books home from school, remind them to read those books for a certain amount of time. You could include some way for them to tell you about the book they are reading. If your students have finished their books or do not have books at home, consider using a site like RAZ-Kids or Epic. After independent reading, you might assign a reading passage from a website like ReadWorks or NewsELA. See my posts about free resources for COVID-19 for more great sites. I have four posts up so far with more to come! Here’s the first post.
9 – You then might switch to math at this point, then some form of writing, then a content area task. Think about sharing ONE lesson or video or website or assignment in each area per day. Also, think about how long that particular assignment might take and make adjustments. A good goal to aim for is no more than two hours of academic work per day.
10 – And finally – make videos of yourself teaching a brief lesson. Check-in with your students via Zoom or Google Meet. Have digital “office hours”.Your students need to see you and hear you right now. Don’t worry about it not being perfect — no one will care.
As I write this, I realize that these 10 tips make it sound much easier than it is in reality. Do what you can do and do not feel guilty. We are in an unprecedented situation. Take care of yourself, know that you are so valued and appreciated, and just do what you can do.
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