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?
It's happened! A Chromebook cart with a device for each and every student is now housed in my classroom! I'm so excited. I imagine all of the possibilities now that I have chromebooks for my students. It's better than a whole box of classroom supplies, because these little devices can connect us to so many options!
Then I think about how I'm going to manage 22 devices and 22 students. What if they break it? What if they go looking where they're not supposed to? What if, what if, what if...... Instead of thinking about what ifs, I used these chromebook classroom management strategies to keep us on track, and it's made for a great school year so far!
Chromebook Classroom Management
1.) Set up expectations and be prepared to repeat
At the beginning of the school year, I teach students how I expect them to use a notebook, how I want them to sharpen their pencil and how I want them to line up. It's obvious that I would also need to teach them how to use their Chromebooks.
The students rolled their eyes at me as I taught them where the power button was and how to plug in their headphones. But a few of them needed those instructions, and they weren't about to speak up and tell me that they didn't know. I also taught them how to hold the Chromebooks (screen closed, two hands, hugged to body) and how to plug their Chromebook only into the plug next to their number in our cart.
Each classroom's expectations will be different. This is what the expectations look like in my 3rd grade classroom:
2.) Develop procedures for dealing with food and water
Before Chromebooks I encouraged my students to have water bottles at their desks and to eat their snack while working. However, I have no desire to be the person who has to go to my edtech and explain that a Chromebook isn't working because a student spilled water all over it. So as soon as the Chromebooks arrived all water bottles were delegated to the students' supply caddies. Snack is now something that is eaten only when we are NOT at our desks, generally during silent reading or other non-technology reading centers.. And of course we talked about both of these changes and why they were happening. Now my students are the first to remind me if we have food or water near the Chromebooks.
3.) Set up your furniture where you can see MOST screens
I hate rows! Let me say that again, I hate having my desks in rows. They move constantly so that they're not a row and the kids have limited access to the students around them, which hampers those good educational discussions. (Yes, I'm a teacher who likes when my kids talk - mostly!) However, we started the year with rows simply so the kiddos know that I can sit at my table in the back teaching small group and see exactly what everyone is doing on their Chromebooks.
As time has passed, we've fiddled with the arrangement and now we have U shaped desks with the desks facing away from me belonging to my most trusted students. I still get up and move around as much as I can, but if I can't teach small group while students are on the Chromebook, then they are kind of pointless.
4.) Train your tech support helpers
One of my favorite classroom jobs is that of "tech support". These are the students whose job it is to go and help others who get stuck using their technology. In past years I had 2 students for the entire class. This year, each group has their own tech support. The students choose their own roles, and I approve them. So the kids with the most actual technology knowledge end up in this role.
One of the reason that I love having tech support is that they solve 90% of the questions that come up. Another reason is that when we are changing something small in our routine, I train only these 4 students. Then they are able to help their group. Now if we are starting a whole new website or program, I train the whole class. But if I moved the location of a link in Google Classroom, then I just show my tech supports and they pass on the news.
5.) Set up bookmark bars
The first technology skill I taught my students, after logging in, was how to bookmark websites. Then we bookmarked all of the sites we use regularly - Khan Academy, Pearson, Math Magician, Google Classroom, Flipgrid, Storybird, etc. This way they can easily get to their websites WITHOUT retyping it incorrectly nine times. Saves time, saves frustration, and saves a teacher's sanity!
6.) Practice accessing challenging sites
Even with bookmarks, there are certain sites that take a thousand clicks in order to access what you're looking for. The website where we access our curriculum in e-book is like this. It takes, no lie, 9 clicks for my kiddos to get to their books. This takes a lot of practice for students to remember those clicks.
On the first day that we had our Chromebooks, I had took them through all 9 clicks. Then I had them close it all out and do it from scratch. And then I had them repeat the steps 4 more times. The kiddos were not happy with me by that fifth time, but they could all get through the steps on their own. We talked about the importance of practice. Then, we did it again. Now they know that every time we start a new, challenging website, we're going to practice a bunch of times.
7.) Have students log in as soon as they arrive
One of the biggest complaints I hear from my fellow teachers is how much of their lesson time they lose by waiting for kiddos to log into the system. I bypassed this by making logging in one of the steps of their morning routine. They come in, unpack, move their name on the attendance board, grab their Chromebook, log in, and place it in the corner of their desk. Then they go about their morning work routine.
At first it felt odd for them to have their Chromebooks out if they weren't working on them, but now they know we'll get to them later. And it's much easier to say "jump on this site real quick" if they already have their Chromebooks ready to just be opened and accessed.
8.) Practice a "safe store" situation
Even though we have Chromebooks, the students are not working on them every minute of the day. However, I do not like wasted time in my instructional day, which means that I don't want kids to get their Chromebooks, put them away, and then get them out again. So, once my students get their Chromebooks in the morning, they keep them on their desk for the rest of the day.
In order to have our Chromebooks out all day, we must talk about storing them safely. For my classroom, this means that the Chromebook goes in the upper right corner of your desk, turned to the right. They are closed, and nothing is allowed to be on top of them - not even your arm. This helps students practice protecting the screens of their Chromebooks, by not pressing on the tops. It also gives them plenty of room for other work.
9.) Don't use them just to use them
Just like every other tool we have in our arsenal, chromebooks should be used with a purpose. They should be used to make our lives or our students' lives better, easier and more rewarding. They should not be used just because we have a new toy.
The ways that I have found to use my chromebooks that help enhance my curriculum are:
- having paperless assignments using Google forms and websites like Khan Academy and Math Magician that reduce the amount of grading I have to do. This also gives the students more instant feedback on many assignments.
- using the Chrome extension Snap and Read to allow my struggling readers to have assignments read to them. We've also used audio books on our reading program and voice recognition typing, so that our assignments are more accessible for struggling students. This means they can keep up better and avoid trigger behaviors like frustration.
- giving my students access to Genius projects, Storybird and Code.org during our intervention block. This engages my students actively, allowing me to pull small groups more successfully.
- posting video clips directly into Google Classroom instead of showing the video whole group. This allows students who might be out of the room for speech or gifted to not miss out on the video. Also, students listening on their own individual device with their own headphones tend to pay attention better than when they are watching on the big screen, sitting next to their friends.
- using direct links to activities that I want students to participate in, rather than general links to a website. This has been great for specific math games, but it has also been great for guided research, like in my Internet Scavenger Hunts.
10.) Be prepared for things to go wrong
I have a lovely new teacher on my team who told me she doesn't want anything to go wrong. I don't think I helped her when I said "Don't worry, they will." But, I spoke the truth. Things are going to go wrong. Computers will break. Logins won't work. Internet goes down. You mess up the way you assign an activity in Google Classroom (or forget to assign it at all). Just like everything else we do in the classroom things will go wrong. That's okay.
We need to be prepared to do our lesson in a completely different way, or to say "You know what guys, we'll try this again tomorrow." I often talk to my kiddos about what our plan was, how the plan is now going to change because of a technology failure, and what my thinking was behind the change. This helps our students to know that we need to have flexibility when dealing with technology. It also builds real life problem solving skills, which is something our kiddos need the most!
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