Elearning to In-Person Learning

Four weeks down. That number indicates how many weeks that school has been in session. School didn’t have in-person learning until last week when kindergarten and first grade students came back. Next week second and third will be coming back. Although they are coming back there are still many elearning students that will be zooming into the classrooms. Next week more teachers will transition from teaching solely online to managing an in-person and online classroom simultaneously.

As I reflect on the last four weeks, I’m impressed with how quickly students have transitioned to using Zoom and learning with a completely different model. They had practice with our emergency elearning in the spring, but this is different. There’s more structure and teachers have had more time to plan instruction. There have been hiccups along the way for sure (wifi problems, Zoom settings, talking while on mute, getting materials to students, learning a new LMS, …), but most students are engaging in math and exploring new concepts like they would in a regular classroom. Breakout rooms have allowed math to be more social, digital math routines are becoming consistent, and my document camera has been getting a workout everyday as the class completes problems together.

Next week one of my classes will be coming back for in-person instruction. The entire class won’t be coming back to school as some students will be elearning from home. Those students will log in to Zoom as usual. The group of students that’ll be in-person will need to learn new procedures related to social distancing and mask wearing. This may impact those elearners at home as class might not start at time or be shortened because of dismissal and hallway congestion.

I think there’s a perceived notion that once students are back in school that instruction will shift. The copy machine will be back up running again, the teachers’ lounge will be buzzing and the sounds of kids will once again echo off the walls. We’ll be moving back to business as usual. I’m in the camp that doesn’t necessarily agree with that stance – at least for this year. A question comes to my mind when thinking about this.

How is it equitable to switch your instruction and gear it to in-person students when part of your class is still learning from home?

Now, I’m excited that some of my class will be back in school. There’s a comforting feeling that we’ll at some point get back to normal. There’s a physical social element that’s important in being able to see non-verbals and speak to one another in person. Being able to raise a hand (not digitally) and ask for help or show a model in person has many benefits. I’m looking forward to the time where students can play math cards games with each other, build mathematical models and use manipulatives without worrying about being to close to one another.

With all that being said, I believe students in the classroom will continue to log into Zoom, attend breakout rooms with the entire class and participate along with elearners at home – similar to what we’ve been doing during the past four weeks. As the year progresses, individual students/classes will most likely need to quarantine and they will transition to an elearning only model. Parents might decide to move students from a hybrid to eLearning and vice versa. I believe there won’t be a significant shift in the model that we’ve been using except that some of the students will now be in the classroom. Class time will most likely be shortened and adjustments will need to be made for students to navigate social distancing at school. I understand that aspect and know that it’s necessary to be flexible, but am also aware that it’s not a seamless transition from elearning to in-person learning.

Breakout Rooms and Google Slides

I’ve been teaching remotely for the past two weeks and continue to notice that students aren’t able to work together in groups as much anymore. I’d like to change that. I’m finding that breakout groups are one way in which to do this during Zoom sessions. In order to make them more effective I’ve started to find ways to structure the sessions so students are engaged in mathematics and they need to work with their partners to find solutions. I try to get students in breakout rooms once a day and usually that happens. This past week I used a Google Slides technique that I found on Twitter. I discussed this a bit in my last post, but will go into more detail here.

My first step is to find a math tasks that involves some type of collaboration. One of my classes is exploring data landmarks. The question is placed on a Google slide. There are three examples below.

Depending on the class size, I make 6-8 duplicates of the slide. I add “breakout room # ___” on the top to indicate who’s working on a particular slide. I’ll review the task as a class first and then answer clarifying questions. Students are then off to the groups to work for around 5-10 minutes. They return and each group discusses what they created and the strategy behind their solution. This technique has worked well although my learning curve during the past two weeks has been steep. I’m hoping to put together a few tips or considerationsbefore using breakout rooms and Google Slides.


First of all, make sure to create your Google Slide in Edit Master. The reasoning is that you don’t want students to drag, drop or edit unnecessary items. I learned this as students were changing the size of the text and moving around the question off of the slide. I want students to focus more on the problem than the formatting.

Use fields to show where students should place their work. Again, this is so students don’t feel like they need to put their effort into formatting. Having a place for their names and work lets them concentrate more on the task.

Ensure that permissions are set correctly. I made the mistake of not allowing editing rights and it was a disaster as students were able to view the activity, but not write anything on the slide.

Make sure to duplicate the slide and put the breakout group # somewhere noticeable on the slide. Students should be able to easily navigate to their groups slide to begin work.

Create a plan on how you want students to share out their solutions. This will help eliminate some of the awkward silence that sometimes happens when the teacher asks “so … who wants to discuss how you solved this?” questions. It will also help students create a plan before they exit the breakout room.

Limit the time students spend in the breakout rooms and pop in frequently. I’ve found that spending more than 10 minutes in the rooms isn’t necessarily. It depends on the task though, but for my students 8-10 minutes is the sweet spot. I give a minute warning for students to wrap up what they’re discussing and we had back to the class Zoom session


These are a just a few guidelines that I’ve been following this past week. Similar to the regular classroom, not every breakout room has been a success. I’ve made tweaks over the last few sessions to improve the experience. Overall, I’m seeing progress and students are engaging with each other and the math in positive ways. This may even be something I use as my students start making their way back to an actual face-to-face classroom.

Uncharted Waters

I’m expected to report back to school this Friday. I received an email last week indicating a packed full week of professional developing that’s divided into synchronous and asynchronous sessions. One part of me is glad that teachers have six (we usually have less) days to prepare, but there’s another part of me that knows that this year will be unlike any other. As I review the detailed agendas I’m starting to mentally put together how a schedule will look once my school starts to meet face-to-face. As of right now (and this could change), my school will start on 8/24 with elearning for everyone and then transition to a hybrid AM/PM model at some point in September. The hybrid model emphasizes the need for face-to-face instruction for language arts and math instruction. I was given a sample elementary plan and it’s in draft form. The sample plan indicates that there’s approximately 50 minutes designated for math daily and my classes will most likely be split ideally with around half the students in the morning and half in the pm. I feel like the stars will have to be aligned to get exactly half of the kids as I believe the plan for AM/PM depends on bus routes.

I’m trying to make the best of this unusual situation. My classes will be much smaller and it looks as though I’ll be teaching the same lesson to my AM and PM classes. I’ll also be responsible for teaching students that have opted for elearning. I’ll have less time with each class than I usually do. During a usual school year I teach my math students for 60 minutes daily. That time will be reduced so I’m wondering how that’ll impact the structure of my classroom.

Generally, I start all of my math classes with some type of math routine. That usually eats up a good 5-10 minutes of class time. It’s a high-quality math appetizer in my opinion so I’ll probably keep this structure or transform it into a digital activity. After the routine students are introduced to some type of math task where they work in groups or partners. The class then reviews the results and I work through a few guided problems with the document camera. By that time the class is just about finished and we have a closure activity that involves some form of an exit card.

I’m assuming significant changes as my school moves into a September hybrid model. I’ll most likely be using Nearpod for synchronous lessons so the elearning and face-to-face students can all be on the same page. I’ve been an avid Nearpod user for the past few years so I’m familiar and have already tinkered with a few of my lessons for the first couple days. I’ll also be incorporating more Desmos tasks this year. During elearning I was able to leverage Desmos as one of my main tools to help offer students ways to show their thinking and to review past concepts. This year I’d like to introduce concepts through this platform. I’m excited with the steps that Desmos has taken over the summer to help teachers prepare better math lessons with feedback and check-in options. I’m also planning on using Google Quizzes (also known as a Google Form) more this year. Near the end of elearning I was having weekly digital quizzes as a replacement for paper pencil assessments. The auto grade feature was a win and I was able to provide specific feedback to students.

There are also some platforms that I still need to learn more about. Most of my students will be using Canvas this year. This is a shift since my entire school used SeeSaw last year and I had mixed results with that platform. There’s scheduled PD for Canvas next week and I’m hoping to come away with better ideas of how to use it to organize my classes and give students a better picture of what’s expected. I also want to dive into Edpuzzle. The #Mtbos community has had nothing but great things to say about the platform. From what I’ve heard so far you’re able to take a video and place questions in specific parts to help with comprehension. You could even embed sample questions related to the topic being discussed in class. I’m assuming these will be completed asynchronously. I need to also explore Loom a bit more. Similar to last year’s emergency elearning, I’d like to create instructional videos. My students found the videos useful when I introduced a new skill. Loom allows a small circular picture in the corner where students can see my wonderful face as I create the video. I think this is beneficial and adds a bit more of human element into the video.

I have a big picture view of what’s going to happen at the beginning of the school year. I’m sure the details will be fleshed out in the next few days, but I still have questions. My questions are more related to how to safely come back into school to meet students face-to-face and how to engage students simultaneously online and in the classroom. This has caused some anxiety over the last couple weeks. This will be answered in time and may even be decided for us as the county health department directs. I’m looking forward to teaching students math, whether that means seeing them in a Zoom session or face-to-face. This Fall won’t be like emergency elearning in the Spring, but it’s still uncharted waters. Let’s set sail.

Feedback During eLearning

I’m a couple weeks into summer and have had time to thin about the last couple months of the school year. After analyzing it a bit, I’ve come to the conclusion that feedback was one of the major challenges during eLearning.

Feedback in an actual classroom is much different compared to feedback during eLearning. I should say emergency eLearning because the plans were thrown together with very limited transition time. It’s much different when you’re able to sit and talk with a student about misconceptions. In person feedback is more effective as you can use non-verbals, see reactions, have students explain their reasoning, and make multiple attempts within a short period of time. The biggest difference is in how quickly students are able to use the feedback while in person. In the digital realm, I found myself giving feedback and a student using it much later in the day or sometimes multiple days later. Some students would respond quickly and others wouldn’t even see it for days. Part of this was due to the platform that we were using. I found that the effectiveness of the feedback was a tipping point when introducing new content and students were still having a challenging time applying the skills. Students that understood the concept and/or had help from a parent at home were able to move on and those that didn’t had trouble keeping up.

Soon after moving to eLearning I ended up developing a draft key to help with the feedback. This was made more as of a communication method to tell students that I received their work and if corrections were needed. SeeSaw allowed me to write in the comment section and that’s where I put the feedback. I wrote about some of this earlier in the year here.

√ Meets expectations
∆ Try again (and then I added feedback)

I mainly used these as they’re shortcut keys on my computer and I could quickly type them into the comment field. If a student received less than 100% they’d get a ∆. Over time my feedback turned into questions or I referred students back to the directions.

Some of the question/comment stems are below.

  • The directions state …
  • Have you considered …
  • Can you explain why you …
  • Is volume measured in …
  • How does your work show …
  • Check what I circled …
  • It looks like ____ might be missing
  • Why did you use ____ operation
  • Why did you round …

Obviously the written feedback depends on the task. Many of the tasks came out of our district’s adopted resource, but others were Google Form or from Desmos. Another factor to consider is how receptive students are to the feedback. Most students were receptive and resubmitted with a “I forgot/ I didn’t see that / That makes sense now / Thanks! / I’ll remember that next time …” Other students would say, “It’s right, I checked it / I didn’t forget anything.” In those cases I’d kindly remind them to check again or notate on the student response where additional information is needed. There were times where I gave audio feedback and that worked for a few of the students. Some students would respond to this immediately, while I had to remind others to review the feedback and resubmit.

As we inch closer to the new year I’m looking at modifying this system. Teachers and students might (as of 6/20) be in the classroom to start the year with masks and there’s a possibility that some of the instruction will be online.

So far this summer has been full of non-school reading and yard work. It’s great to recharge and get outside. While doing this I’m keeping in mind what needs to be done when we return in August.

Finishing the Year with Elearning

Screen Shot 2020-05-10 at 10.31.13 AM
School to eLearning

The calendar shows we have about three weeks of school left.  At this time during a normal school year I’d be looking at my unit sequence and schedule my final unit assessments.  I’d also be organizing how I want to end the school year.  I’d usually have a final exam about a week before the end of the year then have a decent amount of time for student reflection and plan a few fun end of the year activities. The last day of the year is always field day and where the school claps out the fifth graders as they prepare for middle school. During that day teachers wave to the busses as students adventure onwards towards their summer.  We wish the students well and tell them we look forward to seeing them in the fall.

Obviously this year is different. With three weeks left I’m looking at an unrealistic pacing guide, have decided to consolidate lessons and am making a priority to check in with students more often. I’ve had to change my own expectations in a realization that emergency eLearning isn’t the same as being in school.  Not even close.  I’ve had to become even more flexible with my own expectations regarding student participation nd missing work. Tracking down missing work digitally isn’t ideal. Students are turning in assignments between 8:30 (when they’re posted) all the way until 9:00 that night or later. Students have been fairly receptive to feedback as around 60% of students need to resubmit an assignment for a second attempt.  This doesn’t happen in the regular classroom.  Because we have less assignments there’s more of an emphasis on completing quality work.  That’s a win in my book.  Students have been consistent with attending Zoom meetings during the last few weeks.  I’ve added more interactive pieces to these sessions as reading off slides for 10-20 minutes is ineffective.  I’ve had more success with using Padlet, Quizziz, interactive sites and question/answer sessions with Zoom.  Referencing other assignments and reviewing the work completed during the week in Zoom sessions has been helpful to some students.  Keeping with similar school routines with questions via a Google Form have helped keep some of the normalities of my class during the past month.  The class then reviews the questions and answers during the Zoom meeting.

I’m in the process of planning out the next three weeks. I want to continue to provide quality experiences for kids, but also realize the limitations of teaching remotely.  Those experiences look different depending on the grade level.  I’ve been attempting to have a variety of assignments throughout the week.  I’ve been picking and/or creating assignments that relate to the lesson from the resources below.

Some of these are used more often than others. The adopted text sheets are used more than others. I try to use 1-2 days of the week for a Google From quiz or Desmos activity.  Those days are designed to review concepts and provide more direct feedback.  When students complete the quiz they receive a score and get to review the results.  Same with Desmos as students can self-check.  The starter slides are also great to check in with students.

Screen Shot 2020-05-10 at 10.24.04 AM

I have a few ideas to think about for the the last few days of school. Last year I used a Desmos polygraph to reflect on our math experiences and am thinking about doing something similar.  I want to close out the year with students feeling like they belong and have made positive progress during their elearning math adventure.

Didn’t think I’d say this last year, but I’m now off to plan digital math experiences for my students.

Elearning Wins and Obstacles

Screen Shot 2020-04-25 at 10.30.34 AM

The governor extended the stay at home order throughout the month of May. With that order schools are now physically closed for the remainder of the year.  I think most thought this might happen, but it wasn’t confirmed until last week.  Having a sense of closure of what’s expected moving forward was relieving, but at the same time understanding that we won’t be able to meet with the kids again this year is disappointing. It’s bittersweet. When meeting classes through Zoom you can tell that this pandemic and closure is taking a toll on all of us.

With all that being said, we’re trying to push forward.  There are five weeks left on the instructional calendar.  Moving abruptly to emergency eLearning hasn’t been a walk in the park and there has been a lot of anxiety. The increased amount of planning has caused a massive amount of stress, but I believe most teachers in my district feel like their feet are on a bit more solid ground compared to about a month ago.  Professional development is happening more consistently and everyone seems to understand (not accepts) that this new normal is in place for the remainder of the school year.  Coming to terms that the education structure has changed isn’t simple. Through this process of tinkered, tweaked and took some risks in trying to find out what works best with this new medium. Personally, I’ve found some ideas/strategies that have worked well and others that have downright bombed.  I’m keeping a list of the technology tasks here so I can reflect (and hopefully use again!) back on them. Feel free to use and remix as you see fit. Just like in a normal classroom I’ve found certain ideas have worked well with eLearning and other haven’t. I’ll be noting wins (some instruction, some structural) and ideas/platforms that are on the fence below.  Let’s start off with the wins.

Wins

SeeSaw – I’m required to post daily math assignments through SeeSaw and it’s been a great tool so far. I generally post a brief message to the class and a link or a page that the class would normally complete if we were together.  Students will complete the assignment, I review it, offer feedback and send it back to students if they need to redo something.  Right now about half (yes I said half!) of the students redo and resubmit the assignment for a second attempt.  This process has actually been helpful as students use the feedback to make changes.

Desmos – I’ve been using Desmos with all of my classes this year.  More so now then I did when in a physical school. I’ve been borrowing tasks found here and creating my own that match what I’m teaching.  One of the game changers has been the self-checking and feedback slides. Students are able to take as much time as needed to eventually find a solution.  This has been a great way to provide correct/incorrect feedback without being there in person.  Also, really enjoying the “starter” and “checking in” screens.

Google Forms – I use Google Forms for parents to sign up for activities or clubs.  Haven’t really used them beyond that purpose until this week.  I gave a Google Form to my 4th and 5th graders on Monday and we discussed the results when we met live via Zoom. Later in the week I gave my 5th grade group a brief graded quiz on concepts that we’ve been discussing.  I’ve also been able to incorporate spaced practice within the forms. Students were able to see how they performed immediately afterwards, which is a win in my book.

Teams – I feel fortunate to have a supportive teaching team to discuss ideas with.  Moving from a regular classroom to remote learning has been a challenge and my team has been fairly consistent in the process.  It certainly hasn’t been easy, but having a supportive team and new administration that has done a fantastic job with the navigation has helped.

Upper Fence

Zoom – Being able to see your students live is important, especially when there’s been such a change in instruction.  My meetings last around 20-30 minutes and the first few minutes is allocated to seeing how everyone is doing.  The class says good morning and then we settle into a math routine.  Third grade works on an Estimation180 task, fourth with a Who am I, and fifth with SERP’s pre-algebra.  The class then is introduced to a new concept through Google Slides.  Students have opportunities to ask questions and then we say goodbye.  Some students stay longer to ask questions or tell me about something going on in their lives that they’d like to share.  I haven’t had much success with the polling option (it isn’t available) and breakout rooms need to have another adult in the room so that’s not always feasible. The chat is a mixed bag and I feel like I’m policing whenever it’s available. I’m adding an additional Zoom session for my students that might need extra support this week.  I’m anticipating some positive results.

Instructional Videos – I’ve made a few instructional videos over the past couple weeks.  The videos are between 2-5 minutes and discuss particular problems that the class explores during our live sessions.  I think it adds another personal element, which is needed during this time, but I’m not 100% sold on the effectiveness of the videos.

Google Slides – Most of my Zoom meetings include some type of lesson.  I’ve been using Slides for this and am trying to keep the classroom routine similar to our face to face interactions.  I tend to create one deck with all my grade levels.  The first slide includes a title, then the objective and then eventually into the lesson.  The decks are short, usually less than 10 slides.  I try to make them interactive, but there’s a lot of be desired and part of that is due to the time it takes in the creation process.  One of the benefits is that I can send the class the slides after the lesson as a review. Maybe I need to look into more options/templates for this medium.  So far it’s worked ok, but nothing to write home about.

Lower Fence

Quizziz – I use this frequently during face to face instruction (probably more than any), but not as much during remote learning.  There’s some competition involved with Quizziz and it doesn’t work as well if people are using it at different times.  There’s feedback embedded, which makes it a decent option.

Nearpod – Again, I use this in the regular classroom.  I love the draw option where students can show you their work, but students aren’t aware of how well they’re doing and what’s correct or not.

Adopted Text screenshots – By screenshots, I mean taking a workbook/worksheet resource and using it as an assignment that is sent back and forth through SeeSaw.  I think many teachers feel obligated to use the district resource in an effort to stay consistent with the scope and sequence. Also, this falls into the digital worksheet realm, which has pros/cons. I think there’s a lot of potential here, it just hasn’t been collectively used yet

Time – Managing time working from home has its challenges.  I’ve been digging my commute, but haven’t yet settled into the new normal. Since I’m not able to easily check in with students, I’ve been working longer at creating content/finding resources that provide meaningful feedback to students. I’ve attempted to balance the amount of increased screen time with getting outside and enjoying the weather when I can.  I’m making progress and believe other teachers are in similar situations.


I’m certainly not ranking the platforms/ideas, but instead showing what seems to be working well or not so well during this transition to emergency eLearning.  Platforms that provide opportunities to for feedback and multiple attempts are more helpful than others.  I’ve been able to curate many resources because of the fantastic #Mtbos and #iteachmath communities.  I’m looking forward to making the next five weeks memorable and beneficial as we continue to move into uncharted waters.

Week 3 of eLearning

Screen Shot 2020-04-09 at 7.12.09 PM

My class finished up their third week of eLearning today.  Tomorrow is a scheduled non-school attendance day so today ends the school week.  I think most teachers are still figuring out how to balance and cope with what’s changed over the past couple weeks.  A historical event is playing out before our eyes and the learning environment for our students (and us) has significantly changed.  Even with all this being said, I believe we (using the collective educator we) are making progress. We’re adapting, learning new skills and attempting to reach students through a different medium.  I believe Llana’s Tweet sums up my thoughts fairly well.

Since student work is now being turned in digitally teachers now return the work in the same manner. Right now students complete assignments and return them through SeeSaw (at least at the k-5 level in my district).  The assignments take many different forms.  Some of the them are digital while others are pulled from district adopted resources.  Most of the assignments include some type of written response or visual model.  Assignments are sent out once a day and students send them back to the teacher completed. Once a student’s finished assignment hits the teacher’s SeeSaw inbox the teacher has the option to accept the work, send the work back, or add comments.  Usually teachers add a comment about the work and send it back to the student. Here’s where the feedback/analysis comes in.  Take these two different examples.

Screen Shot 2020-04-09 at 6.46.31 PM       Screen Shot 2020-04-09 at 6.47.56 PM

With limited information available, a couple questions come through my mind when taking a look at both of these responses.

  • Does the student understand the question?
  • What made the student decide on using multiplication?
  • Why did one student use 40 and the other 3.5?
  • Did one student forget to move the decimal point?
  • Which student has a better understanding of the concept?

Identifying misconceptions and offering feedback based on that analysis is becoming more of the norm with eLearning. This is part of the regular classroom experience, but is emphasized even more now as contact is limited. Asking the student for more information and/or a well planned question to encourage the student to rethink their answer might help here. Giving feedback through digital means isn’t a simple task.  It takes thoughtful consideration and thankfully I’ve had the student more 3/4 of the year so that helps frame some of my own thinking.  As I contemplate how to give feedback in a more meaningful way, I’m planning on using a coding key for SeeSaw activities.

Screen Shot 2020-04-09 at 7.03.55 PM

This is similar to the NY–M retake sheets that I used during non-learning days.  I’m hoping this is helpful (along with the feedback!) as we continue into week 4 next Monday.  Enjoy the weekend everyone!