Like all the other districts across the country, my school district has recently gone through many different versions of school, none of which we ever imagined. Since March 2020, teachers have experienced emergency e-learning, multiple hybrid schedules, full remote teaching through Zoom, or full in-person learning with many new safety precautions.
My district is currently all remote teaching, but will hopefully “pivot” again after winter break and be back to a hybrid schedule. Over the past few weeks, as I planned for after winter break, I started reflecting on these past nine months. Even though teaching in a full remote setting comes with many challenges, I do think the experience has challenged our thinking. Many of us will walk away with new practices and ideologies that we’ll incorporate back into our classrooms.
After experiencing remote learning with our teachers for the majority of this school year, I’ve put together my top ten takeaways of what has made this time in education seem a little more manageable. If your district will continue to be remote for a while, I hope these tips help!
1. Waiting Rooms
Utilizing the waiting room on Zoom can be beneficial for many reasons. One of my favorite things about waiting rooms is that you can let small groups of kids in at a time, allowing you to have some informal fun discussions to help build relationships. A note on this one: make sure you’re good at checking it throughout the session to ensure kids aren’t stuck there!
2. Keep It Simple
Staring at a computer for a long time is hard for adults; now think about how hard it would be for our students. Don’t try to do everything you would do back in the classroom. Look at your lesson and decide what you can cut out to keep it simple!
3. Time Management
When in class, students rely on the teacher to tell them when they need to be somewhere: intervention, specials, etc. At home, they could be on their own. Teaching them time management skills makes life easier for everyone. Show them how to use tools such as alarms, timers, Siri, Alexa, etc.
4. Breakout Rooms
Breakout rooms have become one of my favorite things to utilize! There are so many possibilities: everything from meeting with a small group to reteach a hard concept to setting up interest groups so kids can eat lunch together!
5. Use Music
If you need to have your students independently practice a concept you just taught, have them mute their mics and turn off their camera. When you’re ready to have them come back together, play some music. When they hear the music, students will know that it’s time to turn their cameras back on.
Encourage your students to use earbuds as much as possible. Wherever students are participating in their synchronous learning, chances are there will be background noise. Having earbuds ensures that they are able to concentrate on just your teaching.
7. Establish Routines
Just like with everything, kids thrive on having predictable routines. Whatever schedule you will be following for remote learning, ensure that it remains consistent. It’s hard for students to manage what times they need to be on Zoom or doing an independent activity. Having a routine to rely on will be beneficial for all!
8. Focus on Feedback.
Try to frequently provide feedback or create multiple opportunities for peer feedback for your students. Whether you use platforms like Seesaw or Flipgrid, providing relevant and focused feedback will ensure that your students are getting the instruction that they need.
9. Keep the Fun!
Just because we’re remote, doesn’t mean the fun and engaging things we do in the classroom stop. Add surprises to your online meetings!! Incorporate dress-up days, have mystery readers, celebrate with dance parties. Bring the fun into your online calls!!
10. Offer Grace To All
We all need grace, especially now more than ever. Assume the best intentions of everybody: students, coworkers, parents, administrators. Relax, breathe, and continue to find the joy.