The key to any middle level classroom is structure. At the start of class each day, students learn best when they have the opportunity to focus their attention on learning experiences. On the other side, middle school learners are very social and easily distracted. The ability to “start class” is essential. Bell ringers or getting started activities should have a visual or verbal cue for students. Simply saying "its time to begin" is an important step. From that point on you can engage kids. By doing this on a regular basis, students get in the habit of preparing their minds to learn. In addition you can provide visual cues. Online or face to face, I prefer a presentation slide with the days “bell ringer” Many students will enter the room or log in online and casually read your prompt. This subtle victory is very important, other kids will see this occur and they will model the same behavior. Next thing you know the class will start all by itself. You may ask the question, what kind of bell ringers do I use? There are no limits, but here are a few I like
The 2020 to 2021 school year has provided a boat load of challenges to teachers. All of our classroom management tools and experiences don’t necessarily fit the Hyflex learning environments that we are working in. With that understanding, I would like to provide some concepts that can help manage the workload, allow you to breathe and flourish in this highly stressful time. These are posted in no particular order, but will assist you in the management of your day to day teaching activities.
Post online assignments everyday, for every student. All students can complete online work. This saves time and efforts making two different types of lessons (one for online and one for face to face).
Have students submit in class work online. Yep, skip the paperwork. This ensures that all school work is going to the same place. No more piles of paper to grade or excuses on turning it in. Consider a program like Kami if you have PDF files and worksheets you would like your students to edit to turn in online.
Upload pictures and videos to help at home students with any in class assignments that need extra work. This is vital to your at home students. They need a greater degree of communication for their assignment, video fills the gap and helps provide important details about expectations. Use an online editing program like Screencast-O-Matic or just grab your phone and hit record. As an added benefit, it provides an extra set of instructions for your face to face students that makes reteaching super easy.
Have all your work posted for the week by Sunday night. This is an important step. It allows you to focus on the teaching portion of your class because the content is already there. This frees brain space to make a great bell ringer (like this TED talk on hand washing versus soap). Setting up safe lesson activities that are engaging and provide social distance.
Automate assignments: Some assignments require time to grade while others don’t. Be sure you are not packing your week with manually graded assignments. This is a guaranteed way to reach burn out in a hurry. With the added burdens of lesson planning, communicating with online kids, maintaining all our pandemic protocols, it's OK to build in some breathing room. I like to separate days with manually graded assignments with days that use autograded activities. Whether it's an ED Puzzle or Quizizz, these programs are enjoyable and provide rich learning opportunities for our students.
Many teachers are facing a classroom landscape like no other. Hybrid schedules with half of your students one day, half your students another day then a portion of class completely online. This component of the COVID classroom makes planning extremely difficult unless you take a divide and conquer approach. In this post we will look at one some tips to deal with massive amount of plate spinning (multitasking) middle school teachers will need to do this fall.
Assignments, materials and activities must be equivalent in online and classroom use; they must be the same quality and same level of difficulty. Navigating the challenges of teaching to both in-person and online students, while also creating rich interactive learning experiences for students participating in the course asynchronously, is hard.
How do I deal with life and maintain some semblance of a life (Self care, call it what you will!)? The first step is extremely important.
Plan 100% of your course online. Every piece of graded work needs to be digital. This ensures that your online students and face to face students will always get similar materials. It also helps your streamline your workload so you aren't making three different assignments everyday (In class, online and flex students).
Be specific and over explain directions. The biggest challenge to kids working at home on a flex schedule is directions. They don't have extra teacher input, that means assignment prompts need to be well written and clear. Additionally, use video when ever possible. If you want them to describe a tree in the backyard, be sure to include examples and specific details you would expect in their written responses.
Reduce complexity. Build in success to help them gain skills as they begin to work through course materials. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. That means if you scare them away on day one, you'll have a hard time connecting through the school year.
Begin to think value added. What extra teacher driven activities, discussions or media will I use for those kids that will be in my class. These activities should support the curriculum you are teaching and easily explained online with a video or brief picture.
Best wishes as we work through the challenges of this ever changing classroom. Wishing you and your students well this fall.
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