This E-Hint is the second segment in a two-part series providing suggestions for returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. The focus of Part One was on meeting the social-emotional needs of students and planning to instruct the curriculum. Part Two (this segment) delves into onsite and online instructional options and checking for understanding in an online environment.
Sadly, uncontrollable factors during the spring last year, caused a loss and possible regression in learning for some students. Although a quarter of onsite contact time was lost in the 19-20 school year, try to avoid reteaching the end of the previous year’s curriculum. Instead, consider these options and use those that work best for your students.
Find a baseline for content and skills. Use questions from your summative assessments to create a pre-assessment aligned to your local curriculum for this school year. Many companies promote standardized tests promising a quick gauge of students’ current abilities. While these cookie-cutter assessments may seem appealing as a fast, easy solution, unfortunately, they do not give accurate information about your local curriculum. Additionally, they are not an accurate diagnostic measure to determine individual student deficiencies.
Provide a formative pre-lesson check. Ask a few brief questions to get a read on student understanding for each lesson. You’ll need a quick response, so use instructional technology like Quizizz or Google Forms to gather results and guide your next step. Formative checks are for learning, so it is a natural fit. Using this option requires you to have a couple of lesson options ready for the day. If students are prepared to move forward, go with Plan A, but if they are not prepared, go with Plan B.
Implement looping for the upcoming school year to increase tracking and development of individual student skills. Looping is the educational practice of assigning students to the same teacher for two or three consecutive grade levels. There are several advantages to looping students. On the academic side, teachers know their student’s strengths and challenges. By looping, you can save time without having to discover the best learning style of each student. Instruction can be more focused and efficient, which will translate into higher student success. Looping also creates social-emotional security for students as they already have relationships with their teachers and peers. Those relationships quickly grow in a familiar setting with familiar routines. Therefore, looping results in higher attendance rates. The sudden end to onsite learning last year robbed students and teachers a sense of closure. So, additional time together could change a negative situation into a positive one.
Use the Instructional Planning Resource (IPR) to plan your instruction. The IPR has been a part of the CLI Model for many years. It has evolved from hard paper copies to static electronic versions to real-time Google Docs. The IPR requires you to align your instruction to the local curriculum, and is often called an “educational toolbox.” Multiple teaching methods, student activities, and supplemental resources are included on the IPR to help you plan your instruction. The academic range of your students may have grown wider, so utilizing the differentiation feature on the IPR provides intervention and enrichment options to meet their needs. While teachers never expected to deliver so much online instruction, they did discover new tools to add to the old ones. Some even work better! Utilize new strategies, activities, and online tools as you move forward in a face-to-face setting. Not only will it give your instruction a fresh feel, but it will also create a sense of familiarity for students before there is a need to return solely to online practices. If you are currently planning for the new school year, create both onsite and online options for teaching the curriculum. Offering choices to your students is never a waste of time, and strategies that you don’t use for full group instruction may fit well with a smaller group who require additional options to reinforce their learning.
Use technology daily to support onsite instruction. Create student groups, establish classroom norms, and guide the use of technology while onsite. This way, you can provide immediate support and save time troubleshooting program features should you need to move to remote learning.
Checking for Understanding – Use Your New Tech Skills!
Solid instruction includes formative checks for learning and requires immediate feedback to the student. But, how can this still be manageable in an online setting? Here are some handy tech tools to help you be creative:
- Observe student work using the drawing features on a digital whiteboard. For example, when communicating through ZOOM, the student selects the writing instrument after the teacher assigns a task. Student responses are written in their handwriting and viewed by the teacher on the student’s whiteboard. This feature works great with math problems, handwriting practice, or original graphic organizers. Teachers can see progress and offer input in real-time.
- Some online learning platforms include a polling feature that can be used similarly to the traditional bell ringer. When students enter class, pose them with a question. When submitted, their answer is accessible to you, the meeting host.
- Another easy check is to ask all students a question in chat mode. Students can respond directly to you, who can then provide feedback in real-time.
- Google Forms are a quick and easy way to gather student feedback. Individual responses from students are collected, compiled, and organized with charts and graphs, quickly allowing you to determine the next steps for instruction.
- Several standards require collaboration between students. Google makes this expectation easier by sharing features. Students can review a piece of work with you or their peers through Slides, Sheets, or Docs and offer suggestions. Making digital comments is speedier than handwritten feedback!
- Finally, frequent emails to your students can keep them on target through personal messages. You can include parents on your emails to help their kids at home and to keep them accountable.
The best approach for an uncertain future is to prepare with options. Create a plan and provide structure for students and parents, provide opportunities for interaction and feedback, and address the social-emotional needs of your students. Flexibility is a common characteristic of educators, so take a deep breath, do your best, and remember that you’re only human. You’re going to need to remain flexible, especially through the upcoming school year.