Today, you’re facilitating your weekly online lesson and the focus is transition words. As usual, your ‘regulars’ are doing what they do best – answering questions, participating in discussion, and sharing examples. Your quieter ones are sending you chat messages when they have questions or are confused. Who you’re not hearing much from are your English Language Learners, or ELLs. They are on camera, smiling through the lessons, even raising a ‘thumbs up’ when you ask the class if everyone understands. But you’re having doubts about how well they are comprehending. You can’t easily stand next to their desks and check work. Your aide isn’t there to do a double-check or ask a question in the native language to ensure understanding. What can you do to help your ELLs in a virtual classroom?
Assessment isn’t a new idea or one limited to teaching. We assess daily – What is it that I like about this TV show and should I watch it again? What criteria will I look for in my next sofa purchase? What is my diet goal and how will I check my progress in meeting that goal? Learners of all ages are regularly assessing things like clothes, games, movies, even social media platforms according to a set of criteria.
Math questions and story problems have the unique reputation of being the focus of many memes on how confusing they can be (Question: If you have 3 pencils and 6 oranges, how many waffles will fit in a car? Answer: Blue because ducks quack.). Now imagine a teacher repeating, reviewing, restating terms and solution steps so that students finally understand. A scheduled one-hour lesson can easily take half a day! Now imagine that scenario in a virtual environment. (I can already hear the crying…from teachers, students, and parents!) Thankfully, G Suite for Education has tools that can support math teaching and learning, while making the experience engaging, interactive, and successful.
As we have all learned recently, not only can teachers adapt well to change, but they can do it quickly! Having been accustomed to in-person interaction — roaming a classroom to check ongoing progress, meeting with small groups at the “round table” for personalized instruction, and generally just being able to be with their students -- shifting to a remote, distance teaching environment has been a challenge. Yet, millions of teachers have done so with an enthusiasm and grace that is astounding and admirable.
From when I was little girl, I have always wanted to teach. Many of my teachers influenced my decision, most especially my high school English teacher, Ms. Weiss. She was generous with her time, taught in a calm but engaging manner, and above all, always made me feel like I mattered. I can imagine that if Ms. Weiss was still teaching today, during this time of social distancing and stay-at-home directives, she would be checking in with each of her students via email, text, or phone, setting up one-on-one virtual chats to provide help with assignments, and facilitating collaborative writing sessions with her classes. Teaching, and students, was her heart.
How many of you have watched videos featuring a popular chef whipping up a dessert, or a lost puppy being rescued? I know I’m not alone in saying that watching these types of compelling, engaging, and short videos has led to experimenting in the kitchen, sewing a simple face mask, learning a new dance move, and playing with the idea of adopting a new pet. Videos have made an impact on how we learn things for daily living and are essential for our young ones who tend to be more engaged and focused on short lessons via this medium. Why have more and more educators turned to video?
You may have seen media stories of the air being clearer since stay-at-home directives have been implemented in different areas of the world (Los Angeles, India). NASA satellite data actually shows a 30-percent decrease in air pollution over the northeast United States (click on the link to view slider image: Drop in Air Pollution). What does this all mean for our climate? How are your children and/or students reacting to the changes? Do they realize there are changes at all? This may be an opportune time to include climate change into your instructional plan, especially with the focus of Earth Day 2020 being climate action. So how can you do it? Here are 7 ideas to try:
Now that most of you are finding your rhythm with distance learning, here are some reasons to start using Google Classroom*, if you’re not already.
We’re a couple of weeks into spring and most of us are hunkered down at home, trying to create fun learning experiences for our children and/or students. With limited access to science kits, labs, and high tech tools, what can be used at home to boost STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning? Here’s a list of our favorite 10:
It seems like Day 227 of forever of home learning and you and your children are at a loss – of education-related things to do, learning anything new and exciting, and the motivation to look for fresh ideas. Unlike many families you know, you don’t have the means – or desire – to purchase the latest and greatest in gaming consoles (so no one is creating a virtual school in Minecraft). There are game apps you and your children play on their devices, but not too many support learning in your view. So now what? How about adding a twist to games you already play? Or better yet, creating an original game? Before we start sharing a few ideas, let’s review why games are valuable for learning.