8 Ways to Engage Students in Distance Learning

“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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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:

Tech Tools for Engagement by Thomas Murray

5 Digital Tools to Promote Collaboration

25 Strategies to Engage Students on Your Next Zoom Meeting

8 Ideas Designed to Engage Students In Active Learning Online

I would love to hear more ways you are engaging students in a distance learning setting, share in the comments below.

5 Digital Tools to Promote Collaboration

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Having students collaborate using different digital tools helps build students communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Here are five ways to promote collaboration in both a physical and/or virtual classroom space.

Video Ask: It was created for business but teachers can turn anything into a learning opportunity with VideoAsk. Teachers and/or students can pose questions and you can reply back different ways such as with video, audio, or text. It works asynchronous so students can reply back with they have had enough time to process and/or when it is convenient for them.

Wakelet: This application allows teachers and students save, organize and share content from across the web. It can be used multiple ways in the classroom such as co-creating a digital newspaper or newsletter. You can provide your students with a topic and theme such as Ecosystems and students can find current events around that topic and have discussions.

StoriumEdu: StoriumEdu is very unique as it gamifies creative writing. Students get different digital “story cards” that represent different aspects of storytelling and character development. The cards serve as writing prompts, helping students figure out what to write next at each step of the game.

Gimkit: Similar style to Kahoot, Gimkit is a game show for the classroom that requires knowledge, collaboration, and strategy to win. It makes it great for remote learning because each student can play on their own devices

Dotstorming: Have students brainstorm together and vote on their favorite ideas. Last week I collaborated with a teacher to help create their virtual classroom rules/norms together with the students using Dotstorming. The students add cards of what they wanted the rules to be for their virtual classroom and then they voted on the top four rules co-creating their rules together.

I would love to hear your favorite digital tools to promote collaboration in the classroom. Share in the comments!

7 Education Facebook Groups You Should Be Apart Of

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” by Leonardo da Vinci

I love Facebook (FB) groups because you connect with like-minded people who are sharing learnings and ideas that improve your educational craft and practice. Finding FB groups is relatively easy. First type what you are interested in, into your Facebook search bar such as leadership, and then click Groups. A ton of groups will populate, most of the time, groups are closed and you have to send a request to join. Sometimes there is even a “quiz” to make sure people who join the group are there for the right reasons.

Below I have shared my favorite educational FB groups I am apart of. I would love to know which FB groups you love as well; please share in the comments so I can also join those groups too.

Personalized Learning Collaboration: An international group of educators sharing practice and questions around the topic of Personalized Learning/Student Centered Learning.

LIFTEd: Leadership Insights for Transforming Leaders: LIFTEd is a group for change-makers interested in transforming K-12 education. Along with providing actionable advice and insights, this group is a network for school and district stakeholders that exchange ideas & resources and connect with others in K12 education across the country.

Principal Principles Leadership Group: This group is a professional learning network for future and current school leaders. They share ideas and resources every day!

HyperDocs: This is a forum where educators can share thoughts, questions, ideas, resources, and HyperDocs.

Breakout EDU: This is a forum for members of the Breakout EDU community to collaborate, brainstorm, and connect with other educators using Breakout EDU.

Instructional Coaches Connection: This group is for Instructional Coaches as well as other educators who would like to collaborate with coaches.

Standard Based Learning and Grading: Traditional grading practices work against the natural learning process. This group is a forum for discussion surrounding the ideals and implementation of Standards Based Learning and Grading.

Building Empathy with Educators

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” by Meryl Streep

red-scribble-heart

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts and feelings  from their point of view, rather than your own. An empathy map is a tool that I like to use with teachers to take a human-centered approach when thinking about personalizing students learning.  Originally designed for businesses to think about their customers needs, schools are now using them to think about their students needs. Empathy maps shed light on which problems to solve within your school or classroom through a protocol.

The purpose of an empathy map activity is to empathize with end users, our students. When we better understanding how they think and feel, it will allow us to design classroom practices that work for them. You can create empathy maps several ways but my favorite way is to interview multiple students to gain perspective and truly hear their voice. Example questions for an interview would be:

  • What would make you excited to come to school?
  • Describe a class you feel most successful in and why.
  • How could all teachers help you feel successful?
  • Tell me about a time when you learned to do something really difficult? How did you learn it?
  • What would your ideal learning experience look like?
  • What change do you feel would make the biggest difference in your learning experiences? Why?

Then when I sit down to do an empathy map, I take a blank piece of paper, draw a circle in the middle and then section it off into the four sections below:

  • Said: What are things this student might say in your class?
  • Thought: What are things this student might be thinking while in your class?
  • Did: What are some things this student might be doing in the class?
  • Felt: How might this student feel?

Inside the middle circle I put the students name and then answer the above questions for said student using the data I gained from the interviews. If you don’t have time to do the interviews, that is ok too. You can then walk through this activity and think about what they would say, think etc- just know with this approach you can unintentionally add judgements.

Empathy Maps are a great way to disclose the underlying “why” behind students actions, choices and decisions so we can proactively design for their real needs; not based on what our needs as teachers are. After completing the empathy map activity you can now adjust an upcoming lesson, task, classroom environment etc to address students’ needed. 

Other activities to build educators empathy:

Resources:

Lots of images of doing an empathy map

Google Drawing Empathy Map Template

STARTING WITH STUDENTS: ONE TEACHER’S DESIGN THINKING JOURNEY

EMPATHY MAPPING IN THE TEACHING AND TRAINING CLASSROOM

Working Smarter, Not Harder

“Time is what we want most, but…what we use the worse. ” William Penn

It is always nice to work smarter, not harder so below I am sharing a few tips and tricks that I have learned to help me work smarter, not harder.

  1. Unroll Me:  Connects to your email and you can unroll from subscription emails so you stop getting junk mail.
  2. Google Alerts: Google will send you emails about topics you are interested in and based on the frequency you set. I sent mine for once a day.
  3. Tweetdeck: I use this to schedule out tweets throughout the week, especially #21stedchat reminders.
  4. Google Keep: I use this application multiple times a day because it works on all devices. I use it as my to do list but I also use it to share notes/ideas with others. I love that you can collaborate with it, pin important notes to the top, set reminders etc. It holds my life together. 🙂
  5. Critical List: Each morning I look at my schedule and to-do list. On a sticky note (Google Keep) I pull out all the critically important things I have to get done that day. This allows me to manage my time and prioritize keep tasks.

I would also love to hear your tips and tricks for working smarter not harder.

Conducting Focus Groups in Education

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” By Bill Gates

Why Use Focus Groups?

Focus groups are a great way to gain consensus or to use for improvement from different stakeholders such as teachers, students and/or parents. Having a set protocol will help the time you are holding the focus group be intentional based on what you are trying to gather feedback on for improvement. 

For example in my classroom, I ran focus groups on obtaining different feedback from projects to  overall class structure. With teachers, I ran focus groups to improve professional development by gaining their insights. With schools from my district I ran a focus group to gather feedback on an initiative to see how I could improve it.

Protocol Notes
Before The Focus Group
  • Outline goal
  • Determine questions* and time limit
  • Define roles:
    • Facilitator
    • Note Taker/Timer
  • Decide on space:
    • comfortable and circle setting
  • Invite participants to the focus group
During The Focus Group
  • Take attendance of who is participating
    • This can be anonymous such as 6 boys and 5 girls.
  • Review guidelines and moderate the session so that everyone gets a chance to speak and no one participant dominates the discussion.**
After The Focus Group
  • Compile all focus group data (if you hold multiple sessions)
  • Review the notes as soon as possible and fill in any gaps while the session is still clear in your mind.
  • Report out findings***

*When generating questions make sure:

  • They are open-ended and not “yes/no”
  • They are short and to the point
  • Max of 10 questions, 5-8 is ideal
  • You should have an opening question and exit question

**Script for Facilitator:

Welcome everyone, our topic is…. The results will be used for…

Guidelines:

  • No right or wrong answers
  • one person speaking at a time as we are recording your answers anonymously
  • You don’t need to agree with others, but you must listen respectfully as others share their views
  • As Facilitator I will help guide the discussion

Examples to help participants expand ideas/thoughts….

  • “Please tell me (more) about that…”?
  • “Could you explain what you mean by…”?
  • “Can you tell me something else about…”?
  • “Could you give me an example of …”?

***Report out findings:

  • Populate exact statements of the participants
  • Descriptive summary
  • In order to have valid data, you need to have at least a few focus groups with the same questions being asked

Questioning Strategies to Build Student Voice

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” By Albert Einstein

questions
One thing in education that has not change over the years is how important questioning is in the classroom. Educational leaders from Aristotle and Socrates to Jay Mctighe and George Couros have all discussed the importance of asking questions, as it is a powerful strategy that works in all grade levels and content areas.

Using questioning strategies allows you to provide opportunities for student voice to be engaged in the classroom.  When using the right questions it…

  • create powerful academic conversations
  • sparks imagination
  • allows students to self-evaluate

It is important to allow time for students to think about the questions you or other students ask. You also want to ask open-ended questions that don’t lead to a “right” answer. I like using Blooms Revised Taxonomy as a starting guide to help with types of questions. Here are a few examples of different questioning levels that promote student voice.

Remembering: (Recall, Identification)

  • Describe…..

Understanding (Selection of facts, explaining)

  • Summarize…

Applying (Use of information)

  • Why is ____ significant?

Analysis (Separating a whole into components)

  • What evidence can you list for …

Evaluation (development of decisions, opinions, judgements etc)

  • What do you think about…

Create (generating new ideas, producing, designing)

  • How could you create or design a new…? Explain your thinking.

Other great question stems I like using:

  • What evidence can you present for/against…
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of …
  • Describe … from the perspective of ….
  • What solutions could you suggest the problem of … why…

More questioning strategy resources:

50 Questions To Help Students Think About What They Think

Asking Questions to Improve Learning

Questions Provoking Critical Thinking

 

 

Toolkit for Encouraging Kindness in the Classroom

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” by Mark Twain

I felt compelled today to do another blog post on choosing to encourage kindness in the classroom even though within the year I wrote one already on Promoting Random Acts of Kindness in the Classroom. I feel this is becoming more and more important in our world today. It is something that is so simple, doesn’t cost money and can be done by everyone. Below I put together a toolkit of resources to help encourage kindness in the classroom.

Projects and Lessons:

The Certified Kind Classroom Challenge  (From the Book Wonder)

Kindness Ninja Challenge

World Kindness Day (Nov. 13th)

Be Kind People Project

The Great Kindness Challenge

Random Acts of Kindness

Books:

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins

How Kind! by Mary Murphy

Harry The Happy Mouse

The Berenstain Bears: Kindness Counts

Kindness Ninja: Recruiting The Team

Kindness Counts: A Story for Teaching Random Acts of Kindness 

I have more books listed on my Random Acts of Kindness blog post.

Videos:

You Never Know Who’s Day You Have Helped

9 Random Acts of Kindness

A 1st Grader’s Act of Kindness Just Restored Our Faith in Humanity

Articles:

The healing power of kindness

The Science of Giving: Why One Act of Kindness is Usually Followed by Another

12 Ways to Promote Kindess in the Classroom

Kindess Collection: How to Guide for the Classroom

Please share in the comments ways that you have spread kindness in your classroom or school.

Move It: New Favorite Chrome Extension

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.” By  Carol Welch

I love many chrome apps  but a new favorite is called Move It! Move It integrates brain breaks through reminders that pop up on your screen. You get to set how often you want to be reminded to move and then a random brain break or exercise pops up for you to complete. Here is an example below:

Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 1.59.37 PM

Once you complete it, click done and you will return to your screen. If you are in a  groove and don’t want to stop you can just click done to go back to your original screen. When introducing this extension to your students. Set up rules and expectations of how this is used in your classroom. It is easy to keep active with the Move It extension for your chrome browser!

 

 

 

 

Engage Students Through Creating Podcasts

“Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator.” Michael Fullan

Podcasts are a series of audio recordings that you can listen to at anytime. Podcasts are great in the classroom because students can show what they know in a different format and other students can listen to them and learn too. Here are five ways you can use podcasting in the classroom:

  1. Book Talk: When students finish a great book they want to share, they can create a podcast highlighting the book for the book talk series. Other students can listen to the podcasts to see what book they might want to read next.
  2. How To:  This podcast series can be subject based on open to all areas. Students post “how to’s” to show what they know and help other students. For example: How to annotate text or how to apply properties of operations as strategies to add, subtract, factor, and expand linear expressions with rational coefficients.
  3. Student Spotlight: Spotlight a student each week. Students share about themselves to help build classroom culture and climate.
  4. Untold Stories: Students choose a different perspective of a historical event, book etc.
  5. Current Events: Students chose a current event, summarize the event and why it is important.

iphone-voice-memos-app

It is important to plan, produce and the publish! Before the students record their script, they must have it written out and get it approved by me. Then the students produce the podcast using the voice memos app that is on the iPad. Below are the directions that are posted, which I have previously modeled for them. I also have a podcast helper if a student gets stuck. 

  1. Press the record (red button) and start your podcast.
  2. When you are finished click on the record button again to stop the recording.
  3. Then click done and it will ask you to save your voice memo, click save.
  4. Label it with your last name and episode number. Example: Thompson E1.
  5. Click on your recording again and it will open up and give you three options share, edit or delete. Click on the share button and email it to me (the teacher).

Once they send it to me, I edit the files using iMovie to add the theme music and take out any pauses etc. You can also use Garageband to edit as well. Depending on the age level students can do this process too.  Finally you publish; I chose to use my website as the host for the podcasts. This way the students always know where to find them.

Here are a few other tools that have helped with podcasting in my classroom:

Podcasting tips: Use this resource before writing your script to get ideas.

Script Timer: Use this web tool to help determine the length based on your script.

Benefits of Podcasting:

  • Students are practicing reading, writing and listening based on multiple content standards.
  • Students are using high order thinking skills to create and critically think.
  • Students are being assessed in a different way.
  • Podcasts don’t have to be individual but students can collaborate too!

 

Please share ideas you have done in your classroom using podcasting!