The first thing to remember is that any and every feeling you are having is perfectly acceptable.
"This is a serious loss for both students and teachers," said Kathleen Minke, the executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists.
Teachers and students miss seeing each other every day. The rituals of school—from mundane daily routines to milestone celebrations like prom and graduation—have suddenly been struck from the calendar. Teachers worry about the challenges and inequities that their students will face when the supports that schools provide are that much harder to access.
"When you experience those kinds of loss, it is perfectly reasonable, acceptable, and human to feel grief around that," Minke said.
With that in mind, here are four areas of focus to build some structure and consistency for yourself and your kids, as we all adjust to what the next few months will bring.
- Lesson Planning
- Structure (with flexibility)
- Plans for Those Receiving Intervention Services
- Group Communication
- Individual Communication
- Office Hours
Students really want to connect with each other and with you as a class.
It may mean a weekly email each Friday with special ‘shout-outs’ and updates about classmates. For most students the classroom is much more than student learning. It is their primary community. Reminding them that they are still your students and your class is a powerful reminder of their value during these uncertain times.
If you are able to hold synchronous video sessions via Zoom or Google Meet, that really is ideal. Students want to see you and see each other. This might not be the most effective instructional time as students are busy waving to you and to each other but it will give the sense of community they are missing.
Then, a short video of yourself, recorded even on your phone, can be where direct instruction or student expectations are communicated.
Make a schedule for yourself to reach out to each student individually at least once a week. This can be a short email or text, or a longer conversation scheduled during your office hours. The steady communication will have an impact over time.
Virtual Office Hours
Ideally you will be able to offer consistent office hours where students can call, video conference, email or even text you about questions they are having on their work. If you plan to set up video conferences try Zoom, Facetime, Whatsapp, or Skype for easy video conferencing.
Student Office Hours
Try 90-minute blocks on Tuesday and Thursday. Offer one session during the day and one in the late afternoon/early evening to accommodate students sharing devices and parents’ hours.
Parent Office Hours
Schedule one hour each week, near the beginning of the week, where you can support parents who may get the first questions about the lesson you are focused on that week.
Remember, you also need to take time for yourself and your family.
While you are used to a 9 or 10 hour workday at school, you may find it better to plan your day with 4 quality hours where you are reviewing work, holding office hours, talking with students and preparing lessons and outreach.
Allow yourself the rest of the time to take care of yourself and your loved ones at home.
Research shows it is more meaningful for students to learn and retain some key skills at a deeper level than to attempt to ‘cover’ the full range of skills you may have planned for classroom learning. Focus learning on the essentials. This allows students to build on their knowledge more effectively next year when they are back in the classroom (next year - an issue for another day).
Identify a few key skills each week for the rest of the year and build a single lesson each week around the key skills you select. Some state departments of education even offer guidelines for the key skills to focus on each week for the rest of the year.
These can be printed materials that you email or send home to students, or online resources. Or, if you use Classworks, a combination. The Classworks lessons can be completed online in Google Classroom or your LMS, or they can be sent home as PDFs or printed documents. With this combination, you can keep all students working on and discussing the same materials, regardless of any digital divide.
Students (just like you) have a lot of distractions at home. The deeper they learn a few meaningful skills the better your chances are to build effectively on this in the summer or next fall.
- Don’t have students and parents logging into too many different programs. If Google Classroom is your go-to for lessons, try to get all student learning loaded into Google Classroom and pick one app to use for conferencing with students and parents. Zoom, for example, is easy-to-use and free.
- Formative checks and monitoring progress still really matter, especially in these unstructured times.
- Students love to hear that you noticed how well they are doing on the quizzes and activities you assign, now more than ever.
- Busy work isn’t the priority for students during this time. What matters is helping students master the skills you determine as most meaningful for the remainder of the year.
- Due dates -- be flexible about due dates.
Structure and Flexibility
We know students will not be able to replicate the hours of dedicated learning that happens in the classroom. However, by setting clear expectations for what success looks like in this new learning environment, and offering ‘bite-sized’ learning each week we can continue to build on student learning for the rest of the year.
Part of the reason we suggest no more than six units per week per subject is the reality of students’ access to devices. Often students are sharing devices, especially now when many parents are working from home. Or, mom and dad might only be able to supervise learning for one child at a time (if at all).
Tier 2 and Tier 3 Students
Some of our most vulnerable students are those receiving intervention services at school. Unfortunately, these students are likely to be even further behind as the next school year starts. This makes connections with them during this time even more important, if feasible.
Individualized Learning Path Assignments
These are an effective and simple way to continue student learning during this time. Your intervention students are already familiar with these assignments and know they are working on skills that are designed to help them close their gaps. Your role as the teacher is the same as it was in the classroom for individualized learning; monitor and motivate.
Remember, these lessons can be completed on any device.
If students are taking progress monitoring assessments we recommend additional parent communication about what this weekly check is. Parents may need a brief explanation about the expectations for these tests and a reminder that they are about progress, not perfection. Their children are not expected to know all of the answers to the questions. For students mid progress-monitoring, this will be a familiar way to relate what’s happening at home to what was happening at school.
Weekly Plan - Suggestion for a Classworks Specific Weekly Schedule
If Classworks is your primary method for student learning remotely, congratulations! You have a great resource that offers a ton of flexibility for students to engage with meaningful, standards-aligned learning from anywhere or any device.
1. Decide if students will be using the Classworks platform or accessing Classworks lessons through Google Classroom or the LMS. Be consistent each week with the login method.
2. Remember content can be backed up with printable lessons if you have a mix of student access to technology.
3. Focus on key skills each week for the rest of the year. Assign lessons that help students learn and apply a few meaningful concepts. In Classworks, you have easy-to-use options to support your lessons:
- Already-curated assignments that focus on key grade-level skills. You can assign these to your students from within Classworks. Find these in the shared instruction section of Classworks. The assignments are called: LA Grade X Spring 2020 and Math Grade X Spring 2020. Click here to learn how to assign this to your class.
- Printable assignments. Use these Reading and Math Standards docs for lesson planning. Each document shows the standards addressed and a link to standards-aligned assignments in Reading and Math for Grades K-8. You’ll find printable lessons and lesson planning resources for each activity.
4. Try this! Record a short video of yourself on your phone or computer and set the expectations for the week. Text, email, or post this video as part of your weekly communication. Talk about why you selected the lessons you did, and what you want them to learn and accomplish. Older students can easily record themselves as well -- encourage them to record and send you their thoughts about the lessons they were assigned and to describe their favorite thing they learned in the week.
Finally, there are no right or wrong answers here.
The best thing that you can do is keep lines of communication open. Ask students and parents what makes remote learning more manageable for them, and then keep doing what's working while finding creative alternatives for what isn't.
The Classworks team stands by ready to help. Please schedule a Zoom with your C&I or through firstname.lastname@example.org and we will help you get things up and running.