I am sure we have all had one of the most bizarre Septembers of our careers. What seemed like a crazy year last year has the potential to be topped this year. From wondering how many students would be in our class to uncertainties regarding our positions, we really need to be prepared for it all this year.
During the first week of September, I was declared surplus from my school and I was given a position in the remote classroom. I had just under a week to set up an online classroom and familiarize myself with the HUB and MS Teams. Thank goodness I started to dabble in them last year, knowing that I was seeing the last of Google Classroom (our school board will be moving away from the Google Suite.). Anyways, I was excited to start my grade seven online class beginning the third week of September. I notified the families of our platform and I was ready to go. Here are my reflections after an exciting two weeks of remote teaching.
What has worked:
Each day, we begin with a student selected song of the day which serves as our countdown to start the teams call(our class). Then, our call commences at 9:00 AM. We review the days schedule and then a student plays O Canada from a youtube link of their choice. From there, I use a powerpoint to navigate us through the daily lessons. I put the name of the subject on the screen and then in the speakers notes, I have my lesson plan. This has been incredibly helpful as the students see the name of the subject on the screen and I have my notes (which are visible only to me).
In language, we have visited newsela to read articles followed by a quiz and then a written response. Students have used the discussions section in the HUB to write a public post responding to a newsela writing prompt. On Fridays, we use the assignment section where students use the success criteria to complete a task for the week. Last week, we did a reading task where students were asked to use evidence from the task to justify the main idea of the article, “What is a Kelp Forest?”
In math, we visit numerous websites such as Which One Doesn’t Belong?, Visual Patterns, Would you rather, Mashup Math and Estimation 180 to get our math lesson started (about 20 minutes or so). This serves as our daily number talk. Students have turned on their mic as well as typed in the chat to share their thinking when solving problems from these engaging sites. Then, we spiral into the grade seven curriculum using the TIPS document. On Fridays, students complete an assignment in the assignment section to demonstrate our learning for the week.
In our other subjects, we have started using the discussions section as well as the chat feature in MS teams to share our prior knowledge about certain topics such as ecosystems, landforms, the elements of music and art and students have even started powerpoint presentations to share about one of their passions.
Everyday at the end of the school day, we access a feature in our teams app called “Praise” and students can select a badge such as: courage, teamwork, leader, coach, awesome, achiever, etc. to award to one of their fellow classmates. They send it through the chat and they can write an explanation for why they have given that badge to their classmate. This has been my favourite part of the day as students who really helped someone out during the class get some recognition (as in the moment, these acts of kindness can go unnoticed). It has been great to see students recognizing each other’s achievements and receiving them in return.
What I am still learning:
Some challenging things have occurred such as students navigating the new websites. Everyone’s online knowledge is very different as students come fully equipped with past experiences whereas others are unsure of how to do simple things on the computer such as copy and paste. I have had to demonstrate everything in small steps using my screen share feature to explain how to create presentations, copy and paste a document and open google drive. We are working through the kinks daily but I am remembering to slow down.
Teaching physical education or having DPA online is something we have not quite figured out yet. I have received creative documents from my colleagues outlining physical tasks students can choose from, but the team aspect of the subject cannot be mimicked. We cannot have the same experience that their in-school peers are having.
We have also run into the problem of having siblings or family members inappropriately “interrupting” our teams call, sometimes by accident or one time on purpose. Some choice words have been said on the microphone so it is important to continue reviewing the proper ways to use the microphone feature each day before we start our lesson. I am always reminding students to double check that their mic is off if they do not intend on sharing that way. We have also been using the hands up feature to avoid interrupting people.
As I receive new students and new resources weekly, I will continue to try to engage my online learners. I have been fortunate enough to have many successful lessons thus far because my 30 online learners have been positive, engaged and have approached each day with a can-do attitude! I am missing the real classroom but as for COVID procedures, my students do not have to worry about social distancing in the safety of their own homes. I will keep everyone updated on our remote journey.
Hope everyone has a splendid last few days of September! Sending positive vibes your way in whatever classroom you are in 🙂