2020 has been a whirlwind so far. Back to school, is no less confusing and anxious for me. It’s been difficult for me to write this tips for remote teaching post, because many teachers plans have truly been up in air. I will be returning to work in a few short weeks, and my district has yet to finalize our teaching plan. We are currently slated for a hybrid model (both remote and in person learning). They have, however, made it clear that it is subject to change.
As a veteran teacher, I know how to prepare for in-person learning and have published many blogs with tips for preparing for a new school year in-person. Preparing for back to school remotely is brand new for all of us. Here are some tips I am planning to use.
1. Lining up Remote Teaching Lesson Plans
Last spring, I found many platforms which I used in conjunction with my Google Classroom. They allowed me to teach new content live to my students in a streamlined method. My favorite new tool was NearPod. I have a free account, and I load my literacy Google Slides lessons directly into NearPod. Then during my live Google Meets, I open two windows in my browser. I can see my students, while I’m going through my lesson. I have questions built into each lesson, and pause to ask them to my students. They raise their hands, and I call on them – just like I do in class. I even call on students whose hands are not raised – just like I do in class.
In the Spring, I found myself planning which Google Slides lessons I would use each day, along with follow up practice Google Slides, or Google Forms. I am using these last weeks before classes begin to do the same thing for my fall remote teaching lessons.
2. Planning Which Platforms to Integrate into my Google Classroom
I experimented with many different platforms. Some were hits, and others – not so much. There are two I will continue to use on a regular basis.
The first platform is EdPuzzle.com. All of the lessons I taught this spring were not live. EdPuzzle allowed me to pre-record short lessons, and build the questions directly into the video. They have a feature which prevents students from advancing the video until they have answered each question. Questions can be multiple choice, or short answer. Finally, you can search for videos other teachers have already recorded. Then, they give you the ability to edit the questions they created – and even change the audio. This will be a platform I’ll definitely stick with.
The second platform I enjoyed using was SeeSaw. It works well with younger students, and allows me to record directions, and easily create and upload a variety of activities for my students – which brings me to the next tip.
3. Planning Social Emotional Lessons
For community building and Social Emotional lessons, I have truly fallen in love with SeeSaw. This platform allows teachers to easily create lessons for young students. I have found many great free lessons on SeeSaw which will allow students to draw pictures and then record themselves talking about their family, their feelings, and their hopes. It really is a great way to get young students to open up.
SeeSaw is also great for reading and writing lessons as well. This will definitely be a platform I use this school year.
4. Using Self-Checking Assessments
Our profession is changing with remote teaching, and one of the tips for remote teaching has to be using self-checking assessment. Let’s be honest, grading is always a chore. Grading the many assignments my students completed in the Google Classroom, was quite cumbersome. I love Google Slides for daily practice, but they are not easy to grade. When it comes to self-checking assessments I have fallen in love with Boom Cards, as they provide great practice of skills for students, and they are self- checking.
Google Forms are also a great way to assess students with a self-checking option. They are also fairly easy to create.
5. Scheduling, Scheduling, Scheduling
When it comes to tips for remote teaching the scheduling option in the Google Classroom is one of my favorite. I fell in love with this last spring. I was able to upload daily practice assignments, as well as assessments and then schedule them to appear automatically on the date and time I chose. I could even create a future topic which students would not see until the assignments under it were scheduled to go “live”.
This feature was great for assignments which I was breaking up over several days, or weeks. For example, I was able to break our month long Science unit into four different lessons and assignments. I scheduled them all at the same time though, which allowed me to remember exactly where the last lesson left off.
The 2020-21 school year will continue to redefine our profession, and challenge us as educators. We will all continue to learn and grow together. I am wishing all of you a wonderful school year! Please stay safe, stay healthy, and find new joys as our profession continues to change.
6. Maintain your Personal Space
As teachers, we love to go above and beyond for our students. While teaching remotely, however, it is easy to work longer hours than face to face teaching.
First, pick a small corner or wall which will be your teaching space. This way you don’t need to worry about a family member accidentally walking into frame. More importantly, you are not imposing strict rules on your family about where they can and can’t move about in your home. You can also control what portion of your home you share with your students and their families. By using a wall or corner, I don’t have to hide a section of my home I didn’t clean over the weekend or change my living space.
Each day when I am done teaching, I do a five minute clean up. I sit my computer on a small tray table while I teach (because my desk faces a larger portion of my home, and I prefer for my students to simply see the backdrop I created). When it is time to clean up, I put any props or teaching materials away. I also fold up the tray table and put it to the side. This is the equivalent of leaving work for the day for me. Once I’m done working for the day, I do not do anymore work. This allows me to maintain a healthy work / life balance.
7. Buy a Ring Light
I live in Chicago, and there are plenty of cloudy days. I don’t always have enough natural light for the students to see me, and my teaching tools clearly. Normal house lamps are not enough. I purchased this ring light, and it helped a lot. It comes with a lightweight tripod, so it works whether I’m sitting or standing during my lessons. I do NOT recommend shining the light directly on your face. It is too powerful, and if you’re teaching all day it will dry your eyes out. I turn my ring light so that half of it reflects off of a wall.
An Interesting School Year
This school year promises to be interesting. None of us knows what the future of education will look like. One thing is certain, we will be a large part of determining which of these many changes will stay with us and which ones will go away. If you have any tips, please leave them in the comments below. Have a Wonderful School Year!!!