Nobody knows what the new school year will look like. Here are 10 things you can do to be ready for all possibilities.
If you're a teacher reading this, I'm going to tell you something you already know. Teachers are planners. Does anyone else remember filling out "Reflective Teaching Logs" when you were in college? These logs felt like such a waste of time while I was filling them out, but now I realize that they were preparing us for what teachers do each and every day. As we teach a lesson, we're mentally preparing for how to make this lesson better the next time we teach it. We do this each and every day with little things, but even more with big things, like setting routines and procedures. Halfway through a school year I have already made decisions that "Next year I'm going to do this differently next year." Before we finish one school year, we've already begun planning the next school year, and we spend a good part of our summer preparing (mentally and with new resources) for these tweaks, updates and changes.
This year, thanks to Covid 19, is different because we don't know what to expect out of next year. Will we be back to distance learning? Will we be in our classrooms? Will we be working on a hybrid system? Will we be in and out of our classrooms and digital environments throughout the school year? I've read all the blog posts speculating what it can, should and will look like. However, the end result is that we don't know and all the speculation in the world isn't going to change that. All of the not knowing can be very stressful, and it can make it hard to make good use of this time when we normally prepare ourselves for next year. However, there are some things that we can do to prepare.
For the next 10 days, we're going to look at 10 things we can do this summer that will help us no matter the fall looks like. These are things that will help us be better teachers if next year is all distance learning, but they will also help us if next year is a return to what we've always done. Hopefully, they will also help us with everything in between. Because if we're being honest, it seems like most of us will land in the somewhere in between zone.
Below is a list of the things we can do. Each item on the list will be linked to the blog post explaining it (as soon as that post is published). In each blog post, I promise to include links to new tech tools you can check out, as well as at least 1 FREE resource you can download. So, if an item on the list is not currently linked to a blog post, come back tomorrow, because I will be linking one a day, and you won't want to miss the information I'm providing. Also, as an extra incentive to keep coming back, I will be hosting a June giveaway. (I'm so excited, I haven't done a giveaway in years!) At the bottom of each blog post, there will be a quick entry form for you to complete. I will be giving away a different distance learning bundle on each blog post, so that is 10 DIFFERENT distance learning bundles that you can possibly win, just by checking back on a daily basis. And to give everyone a chance to enter, I will leave the entry forms open until July 1st. On July 1st, I will randomly choose a winner for each of the 10 bundles and email the bundle you win directly to you.
So, here are 10 things that you CAN do this summer to be prepared for the 2020/2021 school year, no matter what it looks like:
1.) You can prepare a digital classroom.
2.) You can explore new technology tools.
3.) You can search out new resources that will work with in class learning AND digital learning.
4.) You can make a plan for improving parent communication.
5.) You can dig deep into your standards and your curriculum.
6.) You can create teaching videos.
7.) You can create reward systems that will work with in class learning AND digital learning.
8.) You can consider differentiation options.
9.) You can explore ways to find a balance between parental and teaching responsibilities.
10.) You can take time for self care.
Be sure you come back each day to find the linked blog posts, and the giveaway entry forms! What are you doing to prepare for next year?
You’ve picked out the perfect technology project for your students. You’ve given them a planning sheet with all the steps, and you’ve even given them an advance copy of the rubric so that they know what you are looking for. Everyone lines up and you set off for the computer lab OR you start your center rotation and they are working at computers in your room. The kids get on the computer and ask you – What’s my username and password? That’s when it hits you – you forgot to set up their accounts!!!! Oh the horror of wasted technology time due to missing usernames and passwords! The solution? Take time NOW to create accounts (or have students create accounts) for programs you think you will use during the school year.
Setting up student accounts ahead of time gives you and your students some distinct advantages:
1.) You’re ready for all kinds of projects – planned and unplanned (you know those great teachable moments!)
2.) The kids can play with the programs outside of school, or when they have finished their work, allowing them to figure out the programs BEFORE they have a big project due with this program.
3.) Students can show their parents the types of programs they will be using – helping parents to see that the technology they will use will not just be playing games, but will be using technology for educational purposes.
4.) When assigning a project, you can give students a choice of ways to present their work, empowering students to take control of their own learning. I started this with my Virtual Field Trip Project last year and the results were amazing!
Consider letting students create their own accounts, as long as they report their passwords to you.
1.) Demonstrate HOW to create an account before you ask students to create their own account.
2.) Have students use a password pattern so that they don’t forget their password. Find more details on this at my blog post about 10 Tips to Make Technology Integration Easier.
3.) Keep a record of each students’ usernames and passwords, in case students forget them or you need to get into their account for any reason.
So, what accounts should you have set up in the beginning of the year?
Even after 12 years of teaching, two of which were spent teaching only technology, I still forget some of these basics at the beginning of the year. So, I thought this list might be helpful if you are looking to add more technology to your day.
1.) Model EVERYTHING: I always forget exactly how much needs to be modeled until I start a new school year. At the beginning of the school year, you often need start with “This is a computer. This is the mouse and here is how you click and double click.” Don’t assume they know anything, because someone won’t. It won’t hurt those who do know to sit through one modeled lesson on how to access information, where to click etc. If you have access to a projector, it is nice to be able to show information on a projector. If you don’t, sit everyone around your computer and do it this way. (I’ve done this multiple times!)
2.) Take time to play with new technology yourself: A colleague of mine and I were talking the other day about those lessons where you set up the projector, ready to model a new technology and then the technology that you thought looked so simple does not work the way you had planned. I’ve done it, she’s done it, we’ve all done. Besides the fact that it is a waste of time, it is actually a good example to the kids that we are learning right along with them, lol! However, if you want to prevent this fate, the best thing to do is play around A LOT with whatever new technology you are trying to implement BEFORE you actually implement it.
3.) Teach basic steps – logging in, saving etc.: While you are modeling, be sure to take time to model how students are to log in, how they are to save their work, how they will open it up again next time etc. etc. If you are starting a new interactive website (LiveBinders, Storybird, EduBlogs etc.), give them their first time on the website to practice logging in. I always give students 2 days to create anything, and make it clear to them that if they have an issue logging in, they are to let me know on the FIRST day, so that we can fix the problem BEFORE there is an issue.
4.) Decide on password pattern and keep it the same: While you are modeling, go ahead and decide on a password pattern. Teaching students that passwords are their own and are private is important. However, in a classroom, I generally keep everyone’s password in a specific pattern (ie. msrakiJoseph123), so that when they forget what their password is, I’ll know what their password is. I also have them use the same password for everything,so that they don’t have 10 thousand things to remember. I do this for students below 6th grade. After 6th grade, you should begin to talk about the importance of having different passwords for different websites, but truly if they can’t log in to a site, they can’t do their work, and it becomes an issue of what skill you want to teach at this time. If you have an issue of students logging into each other’s sites “on accident”, an easy way to prevent that is to put a name into the password – first, middle, last, doesn’t matter, no one types someone else’s name on accident. If you have an issue of students logging into each other’s sites on purpose, then it is time to change passwords to include something like a student number or code word that is individual to that student.
5.) Don’t overwhelm yourself – or your students – choose one new thing at a time: There are so many amazing websites, apps and programs out there, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Generally, when this happens, people do one of two things. 1.) Some people put their hands up and try nothing. 2.) Some people try to do everything at once and then wear themselves and their students out. Choose one cool new thing to try, do it and do it well. Once you, AND YOUR STUDENTS, have the hang of it, try something else. Build your technology base a little at a time, and you’ll be amazed at all your students can do at the end of the school year.
6.) Create cheat sheets: Write out the steps students your students will need to do in order to use their new technology. Use screen shots (print screen and then CTRL V) to help students visualize what they are supposed to do. Here is a link to a cheat sheet I made for my students to help them start their EduBlogs.
7.) Remember that not all students come with the same background knowledge: Just like with math and reading, each student will come to you with a different amount of background knowledge regarding technology. Some students have been playing on the computer and iPad since they were 3 and they know exactly how to do things. Other students may come from a home where kids aren’t allowed to touch the computer. The amount of exposure, and the type of exposure that students have before they come to you will impact how quickly they will pick up new technologies. Give a technology survey, like the one included in my Beginning of the Year Forms, at the beginning of the year – ask students if what devices, how many devices and what kind of devices they have at home (computer, iPad, iPod, Kindle etc.), ask students how often they are allowed to use these devices. This information will tell you a lot about who will need help in those initial days of a new technology.
8.) Be prepared to go over the steps again, and again, and again: You’ve modeled, you written out the steps, you’ve made the cheat sheet, and still you will be asked “What am I supposed to do again?” Don’t lose it, just know that technology is a skill like everything else, and you’ll have to go over it multiple times before you students have it down.
9.) Think about the end product – how will they save? Where will they put it? Before you set students out to create a project, begin with the end in mind. Will they need to save? How and where will they save? Will they need to publish? How and where will they publish? Showing students these skills ahead of time will save you a lot of product when everyone is finishing their projects (at the same time) and they don’t know what to do.
10.) Share the success stories: One of the best parts about using technology is how easy it is to share, so be sure to share student work. E-mail it to the parents, post it on your blog, share it with your class on Edmodo. Students can also add their work to an Online Portfolio, and have a compilation of their work at the end of the year. Show your students how to share their own work and watch how they begin to create new, interesting projects, even after the assignment has ended.
What tips help you make technology integration successful in your classroom? Please feel free to add more tips in the comments, so that we can all learn from each other.
It’s time for recess!!!! Time for a break! Time to let the kids be kids! Time to breath for a minute, maybe even get a word of adult conversation with another teacher. Until the tattling and accidents start. We’ve all been there, and it happens in every classroom, but there are some things you can do at the beginning of the year to make recess safer, and more fun – for you and the kids!
1.) One of the best tips is to start out the year with double the normal recess time. This additional time will give the kids an adjustment period to get used to being back in school, while giving you more time to teach recess rules. It’s a win win situation. Start out by being very clear that for the first two weeks of school (or 3 or 6, or however long you think will be best for your class) there will be additional recess. Give students a specific date of when this extra privilege will go away, maybe even mark it on the calendar, because otherwise they will be quite upset when the schedule changes. Don’t expect to get a break during this time, this is the time to set the tone for recess, help students solve their own problems instead of tattling, make it clear what is and isn’t safe etc. Be on your toes now so that you can have a breather the rest of the year.
2.) Before recess each day, go over the specific expectations of the recess, keeping it as simple and sweet as possible. Another teacher I worked with used to sum it up with: Be Safe, Be a Good Friend, Be a Good Listener.
Have the students recite the expectations every day, so that you know they are internalizing (or at least memorizing) the expectations. This way, when you have to have a discussion with someone who is not following expectations, you can go back to these expectations that have been clearly stated every day.
3.) As the days go by, you may want to take that moment in the beginning to reflect on what happened yesterday, and how recess could go better today. ie. “Yesterday, I noticed that some students were kicking rocks and making dust that made it hard for others to play. Let’s make sure that today we don’t kick rocks and make dust.” Let kids talk about problems they saw or had – they often see things that we don’t. And let them help come up with solutions to class problems, as they often they can come up with solutions that are just as good, if not better than ours.
4.) Split recess in half, with structured play in the beginning and free play in the end (or have two recess – one with structured play and one with free play). This gives kids who have a hard time selecting a game a chance to play in one that has been pre-selected. Often those students will continue the game into free play, while those who had another idea will switch games as soon as free play is announced.
During structured play time, introduce kids to playground games that everyone can participate in, like Duck Duck Goose, Four Square, different variations of Tag, Hot Potato etc. Often kids have never learned these games and so when it’s time to play, they struggle to come up with a game. If you introduce new games and their rules to the kids in the beginning of the year, you will often see these games come back later in the year during free play. Take time to pair up unlikely pairs during this time, so that kids get used to playing with everyone in the class.
During free play time, allow it to be FREE play. Students can play anything, with anyone, as long as they are being safe and kind. We all need a little time each day to just be us. This is a true brain break that can allow students’ minds to work better when returning to the classroom.
5.) Don’t be afraid to play yourself! I have gotten my best work outs by playing tag or jump rope with my students. It lets them see you in a different light, builds morale, models the importance of physical exercise and is great cardio-vascular work!
6.) Pair up with another class. If possible, have recess at a time when another class also goes. Do both structured and free play together, giving students a chance to work, play and socialize with a new set of kids. This also helps to reduce the “sibling squabbles” that happen later on in the school year, as kids get to know each other as well as they do their own siblings.
7.) Have a unique line up signal. I had a cowbell. You could hear that thing for miles, and the kids always knew when it was time to line up. One friend of mine had a duck call and another a train whistle. Anything that helps extract your students from the sea of students on the playground without having to call their names or waste your voice.
8.) If possible, schedule recess BEFORE lunch. I learned this when my school did a book study onThe First Six Weeks of School. What an amazing difference – they get all their energy out before lunch, making for quieter, calmer lunch periods – and happier lunch ladies. Then, they return to your classroom full, calm, happy and ready for work. After lunch, plan something quiet and productive like Writing Journals or Silent reading with Reading Response Journals, and watch the amazing work that can be done in the afternoon!
What is your best recess management tip?
t’s the beginning of the school year, time to teach, right? Wrong! For many teachers the beginning of the year means sitting down with each student and assessing them to build their base line for those data walls. While studies show that assessments shouldn’t be done until 3 - 6 weeks into the school year, when students have regained whatever they lost during the “summer slide”, we all know that many administrators want these assessments to be done by the 10th day of school.
Often we need to start assessing before we have even finished teaching procedures and routines, which means that the students who are not being assessed end up working on busy work in order to keep the class calm and quiet while we are assessing. So, how do we keep the other student engaged AND have a class that is quiet enough to do a quality assessment? Here are some ideas:
1. Whole class learning videos with graphic organizers – You know what science and social studies topics are coming up, start building up your students’ back ground knowledge by putting on a learning video about an upcoming topic. While students are watching, ask them to complete a graphic organizer – to keep them focused and quiet. You will get the ability to pull students one at a time for assessments, then when you start teaching this topic, students will have some background knowledge on the topic and you can show the video again, stopping to explain where necessary, without kids whining about wanting to see the end.
2. Autobiographies - Have students write an illustrated version of their life story. Tell them that spelling and grammar doesn’t matter – just try their best, but that you are looking to get to know as much as you can about them. This will make a great beginning of the year writing assessment, as well as a piece of writing that you can later use to help students practice revising and editing. Plus, you will get lots of information about your students that can help you form relationships and build in student led differentiation.
3. Board Games – You know all those games that you never get to pull out? Now’s the time to pull them out and teach kids how to play them. Take a minute to go over the rules of each game before you have kids play them, and then split them into groups to play games like Scrabble, Dominoes, Yahtzee and Battleship. Students will work on cooperation and problem solving while you get your assessments done. Extra bonus - later on in the year you can pull out these games for early finishers or to reuse with academic rules.
4. Math Projects to Review last year’s skills – Have students work on real life math projects – like my Ice Cream Shop project or Designing a Dream School. Choose a project that is just below your instructional level, so that they can do the entire project independently, building confidence and reviewing key math skills, while not boring students so that they get distracted.
5. Reference book scavenger hunt – Split kids into groups and have students to find information with the reference books in your classroom or library. Ask students to find the meaning of key vocabulary words using the dictionary, synonyms and antonyms using a thesaurus, bordering countries or states using the atlas and fun facts using the encyclopedia. The group that finds the most items wins a small prize (like a no homework pass), and the quietest group gets 10 extra points. This gets kids looking through reference materials they forget about acting up and start working with each other and then you can pull kids one at a time for assessments.
6. Puzzles – Jigsaw and self correcting – Puzzles build critical thinking and problem solving skills. Having students work on any type of jigsaw or self correcting puzzle will get students using their noggen and staying focused, and hopefully quiet, while you are assessing.
7. Let the Kids be the experts – Most kids think that they are experts at something. While you are assessing, tell students that they will be teaching the class about something they are an expert at (can be anything, video games, dinosaurs, making a peanut butter sandwich, whatever!) and this is their time to create their lesson plans. When all of the assessments are done, take a day or two and let each kid teach the lesson they created. The kids will get a chance to be the teacher – every students’ dream, you will find out what kids are interested in and what they already know about, and how they are at public speaking. But best of all, students will be so busy planning their lesson, that they won’t have time to interrupt you while you are assessing their classmates.
8. Read & Review Classroom Library Books – Give students time to read several books from the class or school library. After students have read a book, let them rate and critique the books with my Book Review Bookmarks. Hang the bookmarks around the library so that students can make an “informed decision” the next time they choose a book.
9. Explore apps or websites to be used during the school year – All year long, we are in a rush for students to use this technology or that one for a specific project, but students rarely get a chance to just “fiddle around” with apps and websites. However, children (and adults for that matter) often find that they learn more about how to properly use an app or website by “fiddling with it”, so take this time to let students play around with apps and websites you’ll use later in the year. Students will be excited to “play on the computer” while you know they are really building background knowledge that will be used in future assignments.
10. Fast fact practice – Two months off means most students have forgotten their math facts – well not forgotten, but they certainly aren’t as fast as they were in May. Use this time to let students practice their math facts with dice and card games, or laminate math fact quizzes and let them use a dry erase marker to race each other or a timer.
How do you keep the other students engaged while you complete your assessments?
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