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If We Are Distance Learning Again This Fall, Here’s What I Will Continue to Do

I don’t know about you, but I have found several good teaching practices during distance Learning that I will actually keep doing next year.

When we were suddenly faced with distance teaching and learning (practically overnight), I began frantically collecting every single resource I could find. While I haven’t used them all, I plan to keep my list and explore more of them next year. You can grab a copy of my list of free resources for school closures during COVID-19.

distance learning

Here are 27 practices I’ve tried and will continue to use.

1 – Video tutorials for how to navigate Google Classroom

2 – EdPuzzle tool and using your own videos, EdPuzzle content, or YouTube content.

Why I like it: you can insert your own voice to ask questions along the way and/or you can insert questions for students to answer along the way. I love how students cannot fast forward through the videos. Also, if a student clicks on another tab, the video automatically pauses. Thus, they have to complete the video and answer the questions to complete the assignment!

3 – Google Forms in quiz mode

Why I like it: it saves SO much time when grading. My favorite format is multiple choice. But when you want to use a short answer format, you might want to switch the quiz to manual grading to be sure your students get credit for their answers. (It’s impossible to think of all the iterations of their spelling or the way they might format their math answers!)

distance learning

4 – Padlet walls for student collaboration and for social-emotional learning

Why I like it: students can see others’ responses. They can get pretty creative with adding color and images to their notes, which is fun. Using a Padlet wall for a class meeting/circle question is a great way to check-in with students and allows them to have some connection with each other.

5 – Google forms for social-emotional learning

Why I like it: this gives me more information about individual students and allows them to share things they might not share publicly. I like using Jennifer Findley’s forms as a starting point, but I often add my own questions or vary some of the questions. Some examples of varied questions: What is hard for you with online learning right now? What can I do to help you? How are you doing at home? Do you have the things you need for learning? Do you need me to contact you for a one-on-one chat?

6 – Scheduling one-on-one Google Meet time with students or parents (even just 15-minute meetings)

Why I like it: I actually had more in-depth “heart to heart” talks with many of my students (and several parents) during these meetings. Seeing each other’s faces and not being distracted or interrupted by others was a very valuable time. There are so many distractions in a classroom and so little time to meet with students individually. These one-on-one meetings turned out to be one of my favorite things about online learning.

online teaching

7 – Sending feedback requests to students and parents with Google Forms

Why I like it: getting feedback right away was so valuable. Finding out what people liked, did not like, what they needed more or less of, and what suggestions they had to offer enabled my team and me to make changes quickly. Responding to feedback and making changes as a result of their feedback builds trust and credibility with students and parents.

8 – Giving quick written feedback via Google Classroom

Why I like it: my students liked getting those brief, one or two-sentence statements about their work in Google Classroom. And I realized that, while I give feedback with grades and rubrics and verbal comments in the classroom, I don’t usually write personalized notes to students. I’m going to keep this one up as it did seem to have more meaning for my students

9 – Read aloud

Why I like it: this kept one of our most valuable classroom traditions going, even from a distance. I read aloud both picture books and novels. It helped to use my phone on a tripod or using my new favorite toy, this gooseneck phone holder. I also bought a couple of novels in the Kindle version and recorded my screen as I read aloud. While I will always prefer doing read alouds face to face, if we do have to do any remote learning next year, doing read aloud by video will be one of the first practices I will do.

distance learning

10 – Using bitmoji in Google Classroom.

Why I like it: anything that connects school to what students see and use in the “real world” is a good thing. It engages student interest and just adds another element of fun to the learning. I am still learning how to do more with bitmoji, but here is one explanation for getting started and here is another great tutorial.

11 – Adding emojis to Google Classroom assignments, in student feedback, and in emails to students. You can use this link or use control + command + space bar on a Mac and they’ll pop up.

Why I like it: just like using bitmoji, using emojis engages student interest and adds an element of fun.

12 – FlipGrid

Why I like it: I love these 90-second video options for students to explain their thinking and to interact with each other by making comments on other videos.

online learning

13 – Keeping a running list of extension assignments. Our gifted education specialist helped us with this. We created a separate topic in Google Classroom for extensions and posted assignments there. These assignments were not “due” on any certain date; they were just there as optional challenge assignments for students who finished the regular assignments.

Why I like it: extension assignments should be made available to every student that wants to try them. Keeping a list and referring students to that list makes it easier for the teacher because you don’t have to remember everything. Students like it because everything is right there for them, including the links, and they can work on these tasks whenever they have time available.

14 – Email updates to parents & weekly assignment progress reports. Okay, maybe I’m being a little ambitious to say that I will do weekly assignment progress reports. But the weekly email update to parents was very helpful.

Why I like it: At a time when everyone felt isolated and unsure if they were doing what they needed to do for their child, the weekly update was reassuring and helpful.

I did learn a cool trick for the weekly assignment progress reports if your assignments are in Google Classroom. If you click on “People” at the top of Classroom, it gives you a list of your students. Then, click on a student’s name and all their assignments (both graded and missing assignments) will be listed. You can then screenshot the student’s work and send that to both students and parents.

(To be clear: during this time of enforced distance learning, I was careful to word the emails about missing assignments in a more “sympathetic” way. I would say things like, “let me know if you need help with this” or “let me know if something is going on and you are not able to complete this assignment,” etc.)

Why I like it: Google Classroom can get a little overwhelming, even for teachers who are posting the stuff! I found that most of my students were not intentionally ignoring some assignments, but that they got lost in the “stream.” Screenshotting the list of missing assignments was not intended to be accusatory, but rather as a reminder of what to finish.

Some of my parents mentioned that one of the unexpected benefits of this time was that they could see what their students were learning and working on in “real-time” instead of waiting to see their student’s work later after it has been finished and graded. (Other parents felt stressed by this, however, wondering if their child was “on track” in terms of learning pace. This has been a source of stress for everyone in different ways.)

15 – Scheduling an individualized learning day. During the regular school year, having an entire day for this might not be possible, but having an hour would be. My team and I opted to do this when we asked for family feedback and learned that many students wanted to get to those “extension” assignments mentioned above, but were too busy completing the regular assignments. Other families asked for a slightly slower pace so that their child could catch up. Thus, we started “individualized learning day” on Fridays. Students could catch up on those missing assignments (see above) or they could move on to the extension assignments.

Why I like it: no one had to feel “behind” because there was some breathing room built into the schedule. No one had to feel like they were “done” because there were always extension assignments that they could choose to complete.

online learning

16 – Scheduling virtual field trips on “Field Trip Fridays.” We decided to include field trips as part of our Friday individualized learning day. These were such a hit that I want to keep this practice going.

Here is a great post from Conversations from the Classroom about how and why to do Field Trip Fridays.

To help our students reflect on what they saw and learned, we used a simple Google Form about their virtual field trip.

17 – Sending e-cards

Why I like it: this was a fun way to keep in touch with students and another way to let them know I was thinking of them. Many kids and parents gave me positive feedback about these. I already have an account with American Greetings, but you can also use 123Greetings for free.

18 – Self-paced and differentiated learning with lesson videos and with assignments. For some assignments, my team and I worked to create an extension for some students and modify it for others.

Why I like it: when everyone is accessing their own copy of the assignment, it was a lot easier to privately provide the differentiated work that students need. In addition, video lessons allowed for differentiation. For a few students, I would message them that they did not need to watch the class math video lesson that day but should watch a specific assigned video (often from Khan Academy videos) instead. For other students, I would remind them that the video lesson would be available at all times and they should feel free to go back and watch the explanation again as often as needed.

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19 – Doing more contests/playing games/just having fun together

Why I like it: Every Friday, we enjoyed a social Google Meet together where we did something that was just for fun. Here’s a link to some of the activities we enjoyed doing. With all of the rush of the school year, we sometimes forget how important it is to slow down and enjoy each other. It’s good for kids as well as teachers.So doing something just for fun once a week is definitely something I want to keep doing in the classroom.

20 – Listening to music together, especially music videos that include the lyrics

Why I like it: This was how we ended our social Google Meets every week and it was such a positive way to end our time together. Here are some of our favorite songs:
Count on Me
A Million Dreams
Life is a Highway
My Wish
Forever Young
Found Tonight
Rainbow Connection
Let it Be
What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

21 – Viewing assignments or resources on the screen while my students are looking at them too

Why I like it: that screen sharing option on Google Meet was invaluable for being able to point out specific things to students. Same with engaging with them on Google Docs, Sheets, and Presentations while they are also working on them. Something about both of us looking at something and navigating their questions made it feel more like “we’re in this together” rather than my students feeling that they were being told what to do.

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22 – Using exit tickets as formative assessment, usually via Google Forms

Why I like it: these were quick, easy, and I could see at a glance who got it and who needed more help.

23 – Using a created artifact instead of a “test” as a summative assessment. Distance learning forced us to be a little more creative in our assessment options.

Why I like it: while tests certainly have their use, having students create something and show what they learned was valuable to us and more engaging for our students. This also allowed other students to make comments and give feedback on each other’s work, which gave more of an authentic audience for their creations.

24 – Using the “chat” feature in Google Meet

Why I like it: When we have Google Meets and many students are there, this has been great for students to be able to ask a question without interrupting, make a comment on something someone else said (again, without interrupting), or just make an observation. This way, their thoughts are recorded and will be addressed without them needing to interrupt the flow of a lesson or a discussion. It made me realize that many times, blurts and interruptions occur simply because students are afraid they’ll forget their “brilliant thought” or their question. I want to find and use better ways for them to record these thoughts and questions.

distance learning

25 – Using social-emotional check-in questions as warmups before a lesson

Why I like it: I have been working to incorporate more mindfulness practices throughout the day, for my students’ physical and mental health. (And mine as well!) Deliberately using these at the beginning of video lessons made a positive difference for our students. We encouraged students to check in with us during “office hours” if they needed to talk, and many students did that. The talks usually only lasted for a couple of minutes, as students often just needed that reassuring voice and seeing our faces and being reminded that we are and are available for them.

26 – Wearing casual clothing and sitting in a comfy working spot!

Why I like it: we all do better work when we are comfortable. Although my pajamas and yoga pants would not be appropriate for school, I am paying more attention to fabrics and comfortable clothing styles and shoes for when I am working in my classroom again.

27 – Talking directly to the student about why they are not completing assignments

Why I like it: while that is my usual practice in the classroom (and not necessarily calling the parent at the first “offense,”), I resorted to letting parents know that students were not completing assignments when we switched to distance learning. Why? I have no idea. Plus, it did not necessarily make a difference.

Then I read a post by Michael Linsin on his website Smart Classroom Management about going straight to the student if they were not doing their work. He suggests calling the home and bypassing the parents (who may or may not even be monitoring distance learning) and speaking directly to the child. When I did this, I was not accusatory, but asked questions about what was going on, were they having any trouble, could they find the assignments, did they know what they needed to be working on today, etc. Doing that made all the difference!

distance learning

When I started making this list, I thought there would only be a few practices on my list. But I kept thinking of more and more things, which made me realize that distance learning has not been such a bad thing. What practices are you planning to keep?

The post If We Are Distance Learning Again This Fall, Here’s What I Will Continue to Do appeared first on Still Teaching, Still Learning.

This post first appeared on Still Teaching Still Learning, please read the originial post: here

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If We Are Distance Learning Again This Fall, Here’s What I Will Continue to Do


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