The Do’s and Don’t’s of Distance Learning
Oh my goodness. Y’ALL! What have we been doing for the past three months?!? It’s been a roller coaster or distance learning for sure. I think we all need to take a hot minute to cool off in our pools, decompress, and give ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back for the strangest quarter in our teaching careers to date. CONGRATULATIONS TO TEACHERS EVERYWHERE FOR MAKING IT TO THE SUMMER OF 2020! I didn’t know if we were gonna get here friends…but thank the lord and here we are.
Take a deep breath. And another. And another. There we go. And sip that coffee. Add that Bailey’s, no one’s watching and heck I ain’t judging. It’s been rough, tough and everything else. But we teachers are resilient. We are creative and I have to say I am so PROUD of each and every one of us who continued to stay dedicated to students’ learning and education even during a global pandemic. Who knows what the future holds for us and our careers?
But for now, we deserve some time to unwind and relax. I declare June the MONTH OF DECOMPRESSION. I will do ZERO WORK THIS MONTH. (We’ll see how that goes, y’all know me a little too well at this point. And of course I’m still selling these amazing teacher planners like hotcakes.) But for real, I will be slowing down, chilling with my handsome men at home and enjoying this well-deserved break.
Part of that wind-down includes some much-needed reflection. So, today we’ll explore “What I Learned” this quarter, just in case this distance learning continues into the fall we can learn from where we’ve been and build upon our experience.
What Went Well
Let’s start with successes. Dive into the positives first. Despite all the downsides of distance learning (don’t worry we’ll have plenty of space to release our frustrations in a minute), I did experience some major wins with my students this semester.
I scheduled 1:1 sessions with my students for Guided Reading at least once a week during our distance learning and it worked amazingly. It’s so much easier to pinpoint student needs 1:1 and without other students in the classroom to pull your attention or your students’ focus. I found this time was really fruitful with my kiddos. Plus, I decided to use Reading A-Z books so students didn’t need to prepare beforehand or purchase anything. I could share my screen or show the book and we could read together without any additional materials needed! Great for kids with limited resources at home. I created a quick tutorial for y’all to learn more as well.
Another thing that helped me immensely was to schedule through Calendly, which automatically added each appointment to my Zoom calendar. I know there are other calendar app integrations that work well and I definitely recommend finding a way to sync all your calendars in some form or fashion, this was a life saver for me!
We used the Class Dojo App to share read alouds and it worked fabulously. The videos had to be in 8 minute segments, which is pretty short, but I could easily copy a video from my phone and crop the videos to make them fit OR upload two videos for one story labeled as “Part 1” and “Part 2” or label by chapters. Our class read Charlotte’s Web during this time and it was so sweet to revisit that story one chapter at a time. We also explored a bunch of picture books as well. I found it really helpful to be reading both a longer story and shorter ones intermittently to accommodate different student attention spans and needs.
For more details about these Read Alouds and the answers to any questions you might have, check out this post where I take a much deeper dive into the subject.
Despite so much of my teacher world going online, it was vital for me to take notes in my traditional (and adorable) teacher planner. I could easily reference shorthand plans for guided reading without having to click to another screen and jot down notes in the moment to easily keep track of individual students’ progress. Plus, quick bullet points from Zoom staff meetings at the top of each week help me stay on target when planning lessons and serving the kids.
Assigning content using Google Classroom was insanely intuitive. I was so grateful for this tool and that my school adopted it quickly. It’s easy to see who has and hasn’t completed activities so you can encourage and check on the students who need it. Plus, it’s so simple to create activities — I had a lot of fun creating tally marks and graphing math activities, a fun game for telling time to the hour and half-hour, a game with 2-D shapes that my kiddos LOVED, plus a non-standard measurement activity that let kids get a bit creative.
I can absolutely see this tool coming in handy in the future, whether we’re back in traditional classrooms soon or not. I’m really grateful to have explored this tool and created so many fun resources for it!
What I’d Change
Honestly the more I think about it the more I realize that we may have done the best job we could have hoped for in these crazy circumstances, but in the spirit of reflection I do have a couple things I’d like to point out that I’d adjust if I could. So if we do have to continue distance learning into the fall — knock on wood! — here are some suggestions for myself and others.
Math Small Groups:
I will definitely try to schedule small groups to work on targeted math skills. Literacy may be more intuitive to work with kids 1:1, but there is a ton to be gained from small group math learning as well. Having had such success with 1:1 guided reading, I think it would be easy to transfer those skills and strategies to teaching math in small groups. Plus, scheduling 20-30 minute lessons means parents could find a slot that works best for them and whatever they’re juggling at home.
Someone send this one up the flagpole to the higher-ups please, because it’s a big ask, but I can’t even deal with grades right now. They are so subjective and I feel like a jerk for giving them at all. If students are learning and growing, I call that a success, especially in lower elementary where I work. If I could, I’d throw grades and attendance completely out the window. No more! Let’s hope that if we have some form of distance learning in the 2020-2021 school year that grades are addressed more appropriately!
What about y’all? Tell me your wins. Share your successes. Air your grievances. I want to hear how you survived this last quarter and how you managed to serve your students despite the world crumbling down around us. I’m proud of you. I’m proud of us. WE DID IT. And now, dear friends, we deserve a break. I’ll see you in a few weeks, I’m taking a staycation!
I’m so with you on grades and attendance. My class pretty much all earned A’s for the 4th quarter for participating. We did weekly packets and it was a true nightmare with the district mailing them, kids not getting them, many of my kids with limited or no technology, parents struggling to help with their own issues with English, etc… Also, my planner arrived! It was tough waiting with COVID but so with it. Thanks so much.
I hear you! Let’s hope that whatever the new school year brings, that it goes more smoothly! So happy you like your new planner! 🙂
With TEA saying we have to offer in face instructions as an option, I am looking for resources on how to design and implement social distancing within my classroom and small groups. Any ideas would be wonderful!
One of the skills I gained from going remote was the introduction to many software programs & apps. We used Teams and that had it’s own restrictions, but I am learning how to write on a pdf from my tablet and display on my screen. I already make notes for my students, this will just be another application that will allow me to wander the room while completing notes and doing independent me/us/you classroom work.
Great tip! I’m definitely looking into ways to share more ideas for the upcoming year. It’s going to keep everyone on their toes for sure.