“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” By Malcolm X
Teaching is hard and with our new normal it has become even harder especially for new teachers. It is important to have
Consistent Support: Leaders that are supporting new teachers should create a consistent support plan. You always want to be flexible and adaptable but that does not mean not having a plan. Creating a plan allows for transparency and to help stay organized for what types of supports you are providing. For example the first Tuesday of the month can be supports around problems of practices, second Tuesday can be introducing a new teaching strategy, the third Tuesday can be reflection on a teaching practice or lesson and the fourth Tuesday can be open to personalize the needs of each new teacher.
Allowing Teachers to “Visit” Classrooms: Allowing new teachers to visit other teachers classroom has always been a great support and it still is in this new normal it just looks a little different. I have seen leaders do it a few different ways. One way is have a teacher record their lesson with their students if it is distance learning and the mentor and mentee can then sit down together to discuss the best teaching practices they noticed. Another way is if you are back face to face with social distancing in place, you can use a device such as a swivl camera to record and watch what the teacher is doing.
Be Available: There will be many ups and downs and twists and turns as new teachers start the teaching journey but knowing their mentor is there for them any time is reassuring.
Check out more ways to support teachers in this video:
“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” By Margaret Fuller
Over the last several months I have been supporting teachers and educators around our new normal no matter if they are going back to school with social distancing in place or if they are doing distance learning. I have been so impressed with all the ideas that educators are doing that I wanted to find a way to share some of the ideas I have seen on Twitter and/or seen through supporting teachers. Below you will see amazing ideas educators are doing in their classrooms and to help parents. #bettertogether
Guess Who: I love the idea that came from Amanda Sandoval. She created a guess who google slide template where you can add different historical figures or characters for students to guess by asking strategic questions (not just about appearance but students can ask things such as “a protagonist, whose name is the Spanish word for “hope.”” – the guess would be Esperanza- from Esperanza Rising.) Make a copy of her template here so you can integrate this into your classroom.
Levels of Understanding:Esther Park provide lots of great free templates but one of my recent favorite is her Level of Understanding template as a quick way to get a pulse check, have an informal assessment and provide student time to reflect! To check out other great templates by Esther click here.
Tech Tips: Jamie Forshey has a great Tech-Knowledge-y Rocks newsletter that comes out with so many great tips/tricks for educators. If you are not following her or getting her newsletter you need to! Check out her latest newsletter here with lots of templates for Google Jamboard and slides!
Music: Use music as a way to transition from mini-lesson to guided or independent practice and/or provide reflection time when teaching asynchronous. My favorite music to use is Vitamin String Quartet (VSQ) as they perform hit songs with no words!
Tips/Tricks educators share with parents that have helped:
Red, Yellow, Green Cards: As students are working they put a green, yellow or red card up to indicate that they are doing good, might need some help or they need help. This does a few things to help make learning from home easier. One it helps the parent know when to help their child and two it helps the students try to work through something. A “rule” is you can not move from green to red. When on yellow you have to try two things to solve what ever problem they are having. Then before the parent provides guidance the student/child need to share what they did to try to get “unstuck”. This allows students to have productive struggle and allows parents to not always “jump” in to help.
Set Timers: Setting times for students to help them indicate that class is starting in 10 mins allows students to get all their materials they need to be ready for the lesson and mentally helps them to start preparing for a live lesson.
FAQ: Create an FAQ for parents to refer to it and see the answers and or links. Making it a Google document helps create a one stop shop for parents to refer too. In addition to this you can also share a weekly tip or trick for parents too. This helps build a we verse my classroom.
As a final thought I want to give a Huge SHOUT OUT to all the Teachers, Administrators and Central Office Educators who are working SO HARD! Thank you for all you do for our students! I see you!
“Become addicted to constant and never-ending self-improvement.” by Anthony J. D’Angelo
I have an insatiable desire to learn and seek personal and professional development. Looking back over the last ten years there is not one adventure in seeking development that I have regretted!
2010: I started blogging weekly sharing my ideas and thoughts
2011: I started #21stedchat on Twitter with David Prindle who to this day have never met but for 8 years every Sunday night #21stedchat members joined to learn and grow together.
2012: I was selected for Teacher Fellows Institute of Charlotte where I got to further develop my leadership and professional expertise in order to with different educators in public and private sector.
2013: I was selected for ASCD Emerging Leaders. This experience changed my life as it opened up doors and windows into places I had not even imagined. The emerging leader fellows have become friends and through partners that I talk to at least weekly. They have played so many roles in my life from friends, mentors, thought partners and sounding boards.
2014: I started my own company called Edulum LLC where I learned a lot about business but still got to help other educators through providing Professional Development including running my first conference!
2015: I became Google Certified Level one, two and Trainer which opened new doors for me as I met a lot of different educators from across the county.
2016: I became a certified Apple Teacher and started presenting at national conferences.
2017: I went back to school and obtained my add -on Administration License. My cohort was awesome and I was introduced to a lot of amazing professors who I still keep in contact with.
2020: I started my own YouTube Channel! That is right, this year I am really trying something new, different and fun! I have started a YouTube Channel that will air my talk show called Talking with Edu_Thompson starting Monday, Sept 21st, 2020!
Talking with Edu_Thompson is a talk show that focuses on discussing the unique challenges educators are facing and hearing from multiple perspectives in order to learn and grow together! Every other week I will be releasing a new talk show session. Make sure to subscribe today to my new adventure! I love meeting new people and learning from them so if you would like to be on Talking with Edu_Thompson then please direct message me on Twitter or post in the comments as I would love to have you!
“Students need endless feedback more than they need endless teaching.” Grant Wiggins
Formative assessments are a fundamental part of teaching. They help teachers determine where gaps are in students learning and provides data to inform instruction. Formative assessments also help students because they increase engagement and provide students with ownership in their learning. Formative assessments should be consistently in educators practices as it is a great way to provide feedback to students on their learning journey.
Formative assessments can easily be added into any virtual learning environment. Below I share five strategies and five digital formative assessment tools that can support your teaching virtually.
5 Formative Assessment Strategies
Mad Lib Tasks: Mad Libs are fill-in-the-blank sentences, series of sentences or stories. In education, Mab Lib tasks helps teachers and students quickly assess which questions/concept/skills they do or don’t understand. If you wanted to assess a students understand of motion (speed, velocity, acceleration, deceleration, reference point) and forces (gravity, friction, centripetal force) here is an example of a Mab Lib: Force can make an object ____, ____, _____ or _____. The student would have to fill in stop, speed up, slow down or change direction. (Hint: You can also provide a bank of terms if you want to as well).
3, 2, 1: At the end of a lesson, provide students with three prompts to reflect on such as 3 facts you learned, 2 things that surprised you, 1 thing you have a question about. They can write this on a Google Doc and submit it to you or it could be in a discussion thread so students can learn from each other.
3 Question Quiz: My students loved this one! I would ask them to come up with three questions that they think would be on the test with an answer key ( so they had to show their thinking/work). This allowed me to see who might need a reteach or had a misconception and then I used some of their questions on the quiz! They loved seeing their questions and I liked the time it saved me of creating the quiz!
Numbers: Formative assessments can be as easy as having students self assess how they feel about a concept/standard/skill. Posting a likert scale can help you gage where they are: 1 – I need more help, 2 – I think I got it but might have a question, 3 – I can teach others. Once you have a safe learning environment you can have students share via flashing a number signal up on the screen or you can have them send the numbers privately to you via the chat function.
Entrance/Exit Ticket: Quickly see what the students know or don’t know by providing a few questions for them to answer. This is something you can have up at the beginning of class as students are entering the virtual classroom or at the end. You can utilize some of the digital tools below to support you with tickets too.
5 FREE Formative Assessment Tools
Jamboard: This is a great interactive whiteboard tool that saves your work right to your google drive. Give your students a check out questions or word problem, have them show their work and submit the assignment. This is a great way to make their thinking visible so teachers can provide feedback. You can also use this tool to share realtime whiteboard work by sharing your screen.
Classflow: This powerful tool supports virtual learning from instruction to assessment. There are polls, quizzes and interactive whiteboards you can use to assess students knowledge.
Edulastic: Standard based formative assessment tool that has a great assessment bank but you also make up your own questions as well.
Padlet: I love this tool because it is so versatile and often under utilized. It is a great way to what students are thinking but having students show what they know by having them create on a padlet is a great way to assess their thinking. For example having students create a story timeline of the main points.
Flip Grid: A simple way for students and teachers to create online discussions via video. Great for posing a question and having students respond to hear their thinking but giving them time to process too.
“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” By Sydney J. Harris
The setting up your classroom this year will look different for most teachers but one thing teachers should keep in mind is that best practices for learning work no matter what the learning environment you are in, brick and mortar, distance learning or hybrid. Using best practices that work for all learning environments will only help teachers, students and parents if during the school year you need to pivot to a different learning environment. Below are ten best practices that work in all learning environments:
Co-Create Classroom Rules: To create classroom rules together, start with a list and then through discussion, work with your students to create a set of rules they decide on. This will make the environment feel more like a “we” verse a “me”. It is best to have no more than four-five rules. Here is an example:
Work hard and always do your best
Follow directions, participate and ask questions
Be on-time, prepared for class and ready to learn
Be respectful, kind, polite, and courteous to others
Clear Expectations, Directions and Structures: It is important to tell students what they are doing, why they are doing it and what the outcome should look like. These directions should be not only given verbally but also visually as well so students can refer back to them. Consistent structures helps students predict what will happen next and increases the probability of their success. Utilizing the calendar feature in your Learning Management System (LMS – Canvas, Schoology etc) is a great structure for students (and parents) to see when assignments are due.
Anchor Charts are a great tool used to support instruction to “anchor” the learning for students. As you teach a lesson, you create a chart with your students that captures the most important content and relevant strategies. You can then place these charts in a Google Drive Folder or on a page in your Learning Management System (LMS – Canvas, Schoology etc) for students to refer back to. You can make anchor charts using chart paper so you have them for your physical classroom when you return or you can create them on a Google Doc.
Create Opportunities for Collaboration as it develops deeper learning for students and boosts their confidence. Educators can build in opportunities for collaboration through discussion boards, project based learning activities and small group classroom discussions. Here are five digital tools to promote collaboration.
Providing and Accepting Feedback: Feedback is an important part of students learning process. Providing comments in documents, setting up check-ins and giving a variety of formative assessments with feedback are all ways to help guide learners. Don’t forget that peer feedback is also another great way for students to collaborate and gain feedback from others. Educators want to make sure to seek feedback to improve the learning environment. This can be done by setting up check ins and providing surveys to gain feedback from students and/or parents.
Questioning: When teachers ask higher‐order questions and encourage explanations, they help students develop critical thinking skills. One strategy educators can do is after having students watch a video or read an excerpt have the students jot down three questions they have based on what they learned. Then put the students into breakout groups to discuss the questions. Together have each group chose one question they will bring back to the whole group to discuss.
Active Learning: Having student actively engage with the information they’re learning helps students be more successful. Utilizing strategies that you have done previous such as critical friends, gallery walks and jigsaw. To learn more ways to engage students in active learning, check out my previous blog post 8 Ways to Engage Students that you can incorporate tomorrow into your classroom.
Formative Assessments: Incorporating formative assessments as part of the learning process allows students and teachers to grasp where they are in understanding a standard/concept. Ways you can incorporate formative assessments are entrance/exit tickets, student led conferences, polls and/or self assessments with rubrics.
Field Trips and/or Guest Speakers: Incorporating field trips and guest speakers allows educators to bring in more real world and relevance to different concepts. For field trips take advantage of over 1200 leading museums and archives in Google Arts & Culture! Think outside the box when it comes to guest speakers, maybe you are studying fractions – having an architect or a builder share how they use fractions in their day to day job allows students to see relevance of why we need to learn fractions but also opens students up to a job they might not have considered.
There are a lot of other best practices that you can incorporate into all learning environment scenarios; I would love to hear more, add them into the chat!
“Every student can learn, just not on the same day, or the same way.” By George Evans
With districts going back to school with distance learning or virtual learning in place, educators are wondering what they need to do to keep students engaged. Many of the same strategies educators engage students in a “regular” classroom should still be in place in a virtual classroom. Below are ways you can engage students in distance learning.
Mini-Lessons: Lessons should be engaging and also short, no more than 10 mins. Teachers need to think about teaching in shorter chunks and only one skill/standard at a time. For example, in Math if you are teaching subtraction, teach only one strategy at a time; allowing students to master it before going on.
Choice Boards, Playlists and/or Pathways: Having an instructional design is important for the students as it helps them understand expectations and procedures. The first few weeks should be spent on helping students understanding what the expectations are so they can take ownership of their learning. Having an instructional design will also help educators identify what standard they are needing support on from pre-assessments. Check out these resources if you want to incorporate these instructional designs into your classroom. How to create a Choice Board and Playlist Versus Pathway.
Discussions: Having students participating in academic discourses is a great way to engage learners. You can have whole group conversations but you get more engagement in small groups. In Zoom, creating small groups is easy to do as breakouts is an awesome feature when you are the host. If you are using Google Meets this becomes more difficult but still doable; you have to set up several meetings and provide links to each of the groups of students. In other learning management systems you can do discussions asynchronous thought discussion boards.
Brain Boosts: Also known as brain breaks, helps learners reduce stress and frustration and increase attention and productivity. I suggest after a mini-lesson having students do a brain boost like the ones on Go Noodle or make up your own as a way to transition into guided or independent practice; just like you would do in “regular” face to face classroom environment.
Goal Setting and Reflection: Goal setting is a great way to intrinsically motivate learners. Every Monday have students set learning goals in a goal journal for each subject so it becomes a weekly habit. You can easily make a goal journal using either a Google Doc template or create your own and then have students copy the template. Educators will need to model how to set goals for the students. Then at the end of the week, have the students reflect on their learning goals.
Choose Your Own Adventure Books: They are fun to read but even more fun when the students are creating their own and reading each others. You can easily create choose your own adventure books by using Google Slides and hyperlink the different slides. Having the students start with a story board to draft their ideas and thoughts before beginning helps the students be more productive. Check out this site for more information and examples of Choose Your Own Adventure.
HyperDocs: A HyperDoc is a digital document where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one document. You can create interactive Hyperdocs on different topics or have students create their own to show what they know! Checkout this Facebook Hyperdoc group that shares a lot of ideas and resources.
Publish: When students know their work is going to be shared and viewed by others they become more engaged in the outcome. Have students share their screens or have them create their own Google site to be to create a portfolio of their finished projects etc.
Here are more resources about student engagement you might be interested in:
“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” By Herbert Spencer
For the start of the school year 20-21, the current trend is that districts are moving to distance learning for at least the first few weeks. As educators are preparing for the start of the school year they will need professional learning opportunities.
Thinking outside the box of what professional learning looks like besides attending a course; below are my favorite sites to gain instructional ideas, tips and tricks for distance learning through blogs, podcasts, videos and more!
Caitlin Tucker: Her blogs, her books and her tweets are chalk-full of ideas of incorporating technology meaningfully so students are engaged. She breaks things down for you to make it manageable to try her ideas in the classroom.
ASCD Webinars: ASCD’s free webinar series brings experts in the field of education anytime and anywhere. Our webinars address timely and relevant topics like student engagement, classroom technology, and instructional strategies. They archive each webinar so that you can get your professional development on demand.
Alice Keeler: Named the “Queen of Spreadsheets” by Google, she is an expert in EdTech integration but understand no amount of technology can replace a great teacher. Alice uses tech tools to enhance instruction and build relationships with their students.
Shake Up Learning: Kasey Bell is a Google Certified Innovator and Trainer. She has lots of tips and tricks on how to be a Google Master in her blog posts, podcasts and webinars!
Bonus: Here are a few Youtube Channels by teachers for teachers to check out too!
Pocketful of Primary: Michelle a 4th grade teacher shares what she is doing in her classroom. She will now be sharing what she is doing in her virtual learning classroom as her district is remote until January 2021.
Everyday Educator: She shares technology tips and tricks that work for all grade levels!
I know there are so many other educators and sites that are providing professional development for free. I would love to hear what some of your favorites are in the comments below.
“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” by James Comer
Many schools across the country are not sure what school will look like in the fall. Building relationships is the key to a successful classroom environment that promotes academic success so we need to think about ways we can build relationships virtually. Here are six ways educators can start building relationships before school starts and six ways to continue to build them throughout the school year.
Before the School Year Starts:
Create a “Meet the Teacher” video: In the video share a little about yourself and what students can expect to learn in your class to build students excitement. For example: In Science we are going to harness the energy of the Sun to make the best snack ever invented, S’mores!!
Create a Scavenger Hunt using your LMS: Before school starts help students learn how to navigate the LMS (Canvas/Schoology/itslearning etc) your school/district is using by creating fun scavenger hunt to explore the components. Thought out the hunt add in things to get to know your students better in the discussion section or have them post an “assignment” that is fun so they can practice. For example: Write a top ten list of things about yourself.
Have students create a Flip Grid: Have students share something such as one thing they want the class to know about them, a favorite book they have read or have them give answers to a “get to know” you survey. Then ask classmates to respond to each others flip grid posts. Make sure model by doing one too!
Host a Virtual Open House or 1:1 Conferences: Provide a few dates and times for parents and students to meet you and have the opportunity to ask questions just like you do at a typical open house. For one on one conferences you could have a few questions for each student to answer and then have time for them and/or their parents to ask questions. A great way to do this is using sign up genius.
Create a Bitmoji Interactive Classroom: This allow students to get to know you in a different way as you can share with them what would be on your walls if you were in a classroom. For example for me they would definitely see a Syracuse Poster! Check out this video to see how to create an interactive bitmoji classroom.
Create virtual lockers: Have students create a space to get to know them as well by having them create a virtual locker. This could be something you add into your scavenger hunt as an assignment! Here is a copy of the Virtual Locker Template to get started created by Lauren Vining.
During the School Year:
Morning Meetings: There is no reason you can’t provide morning meetings virtually with your students. Have the students come together before the day starts and share morning announcements and do a team building activity. This is also a great time to incorporate Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons in. Here are some great free sites for lessons and ideas: Common Sense Media and CenterVention.
Host a Lunch Buddies: Lunch used to be one of my favorite parts of the day with students to get to know them. Pick a day and time when students can eat lunch with you and talk about other things besides school. During this time you will be able to build relationships differently on a Zoom call.
Hold Theme Days: As students, part of the fun was having theme days and that shouldn’t go away. Have students participate in hat day, wacky tacky day or spirit week!
Send a Notecard to Students: Everyone likes receiving mail. Send students a notecard about something you are proud of them for or bragging on them for doing something awesome. They don’t have to be long or fancy but knowing you are thinking about them will go such a long way.
Chit ChatTime: Often times in school you get to know students during transitions. Let students know after a lesson you are going to stay on if they want to ask any questions. Or provide times where students can sign up if they want to ask you something more privately. This can also be done through email/or private message in your LMS was well.
Shout Outs: Share authentic wins and jobs well done. This could be during morning meeting or it could be in a weekly newsletter email that goes to all families.
Remember to acknowledge that this “new normal” is challenging for all of us- parents, students, and teachers but we are in this together! As always I would love to hear from you in the comment section; how you are building relationships with students?
“Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).” via Stephen R. Covey
I am all about continuous improvement by making small changes. I believe small improvements will add up to something significant. With the shift to working from home (and will be for a while) I decided that I needed to focus in on how I could improve in this area.
Over the last six weeks, every Monday I posted a new habit on Twitter that I was focusing on to hold myself more accountable with #becomebetter. Below you will find each one of the habits I focused on, along with what I learned about myself. Maybe some of these habits can help you with your remote work situation.
Week 1: I needed to take control of my calendar so I started scheduling meetings for 45-50 mins to allow for more breaks and movement. When I calendared meetings I would start 5-10 mins past the hour and end five minutes before the hour. (Example: 1:10-1:55pm) This really helped me, especially on the days I had multiple zoom meetings back to back. The only problem came when I didn’t schedule the meetings, I still found myself sitting for multiple hours straight. In order for this to be more effective, others need to have this mindset too.
Week 2: In the beginning of COVID-19 I did a great job of reaching out to one coworker per day that I don’t see much anymore to check in on them. As the weeks turned into months I realized I stopped reaching out. I wanted to be intentional about reaching out again as it always made me feel good so I added this back onto my to-do list. Each morning the first thing I do before I start my day is to reach out to someone within my company that I don’t get to talk to as much. It starts my day off on a positive note which brings me joy.
Week 3: I started noticing that I had a “slump time” in the afternoon and needed a pick me up. I started to blocking 10 minutes to meditate to recenter my mind and goals for the day. This has been very effective and I found myself looking forward to that needed time.
Week 4: With traveling being a part of my job I had a routine that at the end of the day I would journal. I enjoyed this time of reflection and it helped me grow as a person. When working from home I had stopped journaling. I decided that a new habit I needed was ending the day with a meeting with myself to journal. I do a dot journal and write down two things that went went well, one thing I learned, one area of growth to focus on and one big idea. This new habit has helped me in two ways; first it helped me be intentional about reflecting and second it helped me have a conclusion to my day. Prior I had struggled with “shutting down” work.
Week 5: I started noticing that I had some of my best ideas when I was doing chores or when on a walk. In week five my new habit was to incorporate some downtime in the day such as a walk or even doing chores to help my brain unwind so I could produce better ideas. This also allowed me to get some things done around the house. These 10-15 minute breaks were great but I found I had a hard time scheduling them as meetings popped up often.
Week 6: I realized when I did get these great ideas, I had no time on my calendar to think about them. Which made my new habit in week six to focus on blocking larger chunks of time on my calendar to create and build out my ideas. I also have found this deep focus music has helped me during these larger chunks of time.
I feel I have made small improvements to my rework work life and at this time I am now going to focus on new habits to improve myself. I also would love to hear if any of these ideas resonate with you and/or what new habits have you created for yourself while working from home, leave them in the comments section!
Want to read more about habits, check out these resources:
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. ” By Colin Powell
In states, across the county, many leaders and educators are creating plans for how to return to school under ever changing circumstances. It is important for districts, schools and teachers to start researching and putting together draft plans for multiple scenarios. It is possible that this school year districts will have to change scenarios/plans based on state guidelines or new health recommendations. Being prepared will help for smoother transitions and able for districts to be more agile.
Scenario 1: Go back to school with social distancing guidelines in place.
Scenario 2: Hybrid, portions will be face to face and some will be distance learning. This could look different for districts but examples could be one week face to face, two weeks distance learning or face to face one day, distance the next (a/b day).
Scenario 3: Go back to school through distance learning
As everyone is starting to think about how they will go back, it is important to make sure districts have common language so that everyone students, staff and communities. Many districts I am working with are creating a glossary of terms to communicate and refer back to. For example:
Distance Learning: Distance learning occurs when students, their peers, and their teachers are in different geographical locations. Distance learning experiences, which may or may not be facilitated by the use of technology, can occur in synchronous or asynchronous formats.
Virtual Learning (online/offline + asynch/synch): Instruction is delivered through the internet, software, or both. Virtual learning can be used inside or outside a physical classroom environment and uses a computer, tablet, or tech-enabled device and an online program or software to enhance the learning experience. Virtual learning can be used in a self-paced format (see Asynchronous Learning), or live web conferencing between students and instructors (see Synchronous Learning). Many districts have a virtual learning school.
Remote Instruction (temporary online): Moving content designed for face-to-face instruction online for limited or one-time-only course instruction, primarily in the case of an emergency or extenuating circumstance. This is not to be confused with distance learning, which is intentionally-designed virtual instruction. (ie what many districts did Spring 2020)
As districts and schools are researching, I have put together some resources as a place to start. Many resources have links within the documents, along with images that also help you think through what you want it to look like in your district, school, classroom. I encourage you to look at other states ideas as it might be similar to your states plans and spark ideas for how you can plan.