Many school districts are working now on how to best support teachers and students in remote learning. Whether it is because students need to remain at home until the coronavirus subdues or there is just a massive blizzard that shuts down school for a period, remote learning is something to prepare for.
While I have not yet taught in a fully-remote learning structure, I began to use “blended learning” strategies a few years ago. Like it sounds, blended learning is a hybrid strategy that delivers some content online but also includes lessons in school to support student learning.
It was in this blended learning environment that I began to create and use “flipped classroom” videos to teach the basic concepts of some units. I recorded video lectures and uploaded them to YouTube. Students received guided notes worksheets and were assigned a video for homework. These were all fairly short and easy for students to complete on any device. They also saved us a lot of class time for more projects, hands-on activities, and student conferences.
Based on my experiences with blended learning, I thought I’d share some advice on how you can best transition, if needed, to remote learning.
One of the most important things teachers need to do is to help students to know *how* to learn at home. This is a new concept for most kids. They won't know how much time they should spend on your class. Explain your expectations clearly at the start and provide guidelines for each assignment. These should include time estimates, links and resources for where students can find extra information, and how they should ask you for help (email, Remind texts, message board, etc).
Keeping students engaged and classroom culture is going to be tough. One way to help is to use social media or text messages. A classroom Twitter or Instagram can be used to share updates, live videos, or messages from you, the teacher.
Try to provide these updates a few times a day. They can be something as simple as a message saying, “Good morning, students! I hope you all have a wonderful day today! I’m here at my computer if you have any questions. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!”
You just want to maintain that positive classroom culture you built up during the school year. Students are much more likely to give their best effort when they see that you haven’t forgotten them and are there to support their learning.
A remote learning curriculum should include multiple activities to help students best understand each concept. A video lecture is great, but you can't just rely on that to provide all the information students need to know. For each remote lesson, I include a short video lecture, during which students complete a guided notes sheet. Then, there is an online reading and activity in which students build upon the topics covered in the video.
I also provide comprehensive study guide packets for each unit we cover. These include essential questions and align with our assessments. This ensures students understand exactly what they need to know by the end of the unit.
Most important is to not overwhelm students. Many kids are already feeling nervous about the virus and what this means. This sort of situation has not happened before and even if kids are acting excited on the outside, it doesn't mean they are feeling that way on the inside. Sending kids home with a massive bulk of work to do could compound their nerves. We also don't likely know how long a break might be.
One strategy that I used when I had a student go on homebound education was to provide weekly lessons in sealed manilla folders. I knew if I gave her everything at once she would feel overwhelmed until she had it all finished. Since we weren't sure how long she would be out, I also didn't want her working ahead. The sealed folders were dated on the outside and she wasn't supposed to open them until that date. This kept her on pace with kids in school and helped ease her apprehension.
One common pitfall teachers might experience is to not check in with students to see if students are understanding the material and what differentiation might be needed. In the classroom, teachers are amazing at assisting students, differentiating, and providing support. This is much more difficult with remote learning. You definitely want to snure there is follow-up and accountability for everything assigned. Chunking the work and providing lots of feedback and check-ins is a great strategy to help with this. Check student work and provide lots of feedback.
I hope some of these tips are helpful for you in case you need to move to distance or online learning for your students. If you do think you will need more resources like flipped classroom videos, Google Drive materials, interactive notebooks, Digital Notebooks, and more, you can sign up to join Students of History and you'll gain immediate access to lessons for every day of the year!
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