The first week of school is in the books. Just writing that last sentence is comforting. There’s still a lot of anxiety related to this new school year and so many questions are still unanswered. My school started elearning on Monday and it has been a rollercoaster of a week. This is the most different first week in my teaching career and it’s challenging to find the words to describe the situation. While I taught from my kitchen table, students were at home logging into zoom for 40 minute math lessons. Teachers and students dealt with zoom problems, wifi fails, iPad tech issues, doc camera concerns and a variety of other obstacles involved with distance learning. I’m going to detail what seemed to go well and what I need to work on moving forward.
Most teachers like to start the year with some type of routine. In the past, students would come into the classroom, take their individual folder, sit down and work on a bell ringer. Instead of this, I decided to take a few ideas off of Twitter and consulted this amazing document to screen share a countdown timer. This was used to start my Zoom meetings. Once the countdown reaches zero the class starts. I even jazzed it up by adding some music in the background. Students experienced rock, classical and jazz this week.
Once the countdown is up I take quick attendance and then we have a meet and greet. This usually takes place with some type of question that I ask everyone. Thursday’s question was “what’s your favorite number and why?” We then give a virtual fist pump, high five, elbow, or another way to connect in a funny way through the screen.
Then the class moves to a Nearpod activity. I was going to use Edpuzzle, but the idea of not having enough space with the free version scared me. Earlier in the week I recorded myself doing quick mental math practices. I uploaded the videos (all less than a minutes) into Nearpod and pause them at certain points for students to answer questions. I’m able to see the class and individual results as we move to the next question. The questions are mostly review, but I want to ensure that all students were engaged and I can see if they have answered the question or not with this routine. I add a couple more slides to the deck for a matching or fill in the blank game. This takes around 10 minutes to complete.
Then the class moves to guided practice. Thankfully I was able to retrieve my document camera from school and it has been a lifesaver at times. Students have consumable journals at home and we complete a few problems together as a class. This week I spent a good amount of time trying to get the document camera to work and angled right so students could see it on their iPad when I screen share. This was a battle all week – especially with lag times. Students answered the questions as the class completes problems in the journal. This is also time for direct instruction involving new concepts.
Students then move to breakout groups where they have a task to complete. The task might be to work together to complete more of the journal page or work on a Slides presentation/Paldet together (each group gets one slide to work on). I borrowed this idea from Natalie.
I pop in and out of the breakout rooms to see what’s going on and to ask questions. Enjoyed this part of my job this week. Some rooms didn’t need my help while others frequently asked questions. Most of the questions in the breakout rooms were technical issues, like trying to figure out how to share individual screens or iPad issues. Editing a Slides project on an iPad didn’t turn out well as the tools look different on an iPad compared to a computer. I’m including myself in this slow learning process. After around 10 minutes we come back as a class and present the solutions together.
By then there’s just a few minutes left and I review some of the key concepts. I give students a to do list ask if they have questions to stay on, if not wave goodbye and I’ll see you tomorrow. A few kids stick around and the questions are mostly technical at this point.
This process didn’t happen everyday, but it’s becoming more consistent. I’m still figuring out how to use Canvas correctly. Giving assignments and quizzes has been tricky. Navigating a new eschool system has also been a challenge and has taken up quite a bit of time. I’m still not sure how tests will look with this elearning format. I’m going to postpone that decision for now. Curriculum night is next week and I’ve been asked to be at the school to give the presentation so creating that deck is on my to do list.
I’m so thankful that the weekend is here and it’s now time to recharge. The weather is supposed to be decent so I’m going to enjoy time away from my computer screen.