More and more schools are opening up to in-person learning, even as we get closer to the end of the school year. Regardless of if they have two months or two weeks left in the year, the excitement of being in their classrooms with their classmates and teacher can be overwhelming. We celebrate in-person learning and the effort it took to ensure everyone’s health and safety but after the initial frenzy of first day, first week, first recess, what can be done to get students focused and ready to learn?
April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, a day that recognizes the rights of those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). What is ASD? It is a developmental disorder that can cause people to behave, communicate, interact, and learn in different ways than most others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov), in 2016 there were 1 in 54 eight-year-old children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) across the United States.* What does this mean for classrooms across the country? Teachers need to be prepared to teach students with ASD, using a variety of strategies and tools including educational technology. Read some tips for supporting your students with ASD in the classroom.
We are at the mid-year mark (Spring Break…woohoo!) and it’s time to really look at how students are progressing. With the challenges of school closures, it is important to know how much students have been able to retain and identify the learning goals that still need to be met. This knowledge can lead to personalized instruction that is tailored to each student, meeting their academic needs, strengths, and interests. Not sure where to begin? Here are some quick tips for increasing personalized learning:
Have you hit your rhythm with lesson planning, teaching, meeting with students, and grading assignments? Are your students excited each time they walk in the classroom or turn on their web cameras for a live virtual lesson? Do you wake up each morning with so much energy that the cup of coffee you pour is really unnecessary? If your answer is ‘Yes’ to the previous, Kudos to you! (I’d also like to interview you for my next blog.) For the rest of you, there may be moments of ‘Yes’, ‘Sometimes’, and ‘I wish’ for each of these questions and that speaks to your hard work and effort to make learning an enjoyable experience for all.
“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” – Art Williams
As most of us have experienced, heard from friends, or seen on the news, remote learning has its challenges. Difficulties have ranged from tech glitches and connection issues to students not showing up to any live virtual lessons. In addition to these challenges, teachers are making every effort to tailor instruction for students with special learning needs, including regular review of students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and/or 504 plans. This can be quite overwhelming for everyone involved, especially the parents at home trying to balance home responsibilities with their child’s specialized needs. How can all involved work together to support the child? Here are some recommendations to consider:
Coming into this new school year has been a mixed bag of emotions for everyone: anxiety, disappointment, frustration, excitement, sadness. Because many schools are starting the year with remote learning, add stress and hopelessness to the list especially for those juggling more than one child in school, work responsibilities, and maintaining some semblance of balance at home. There are quite a few social media posts of children trying hard to be excited for learning online but struggling (haven’t we all seen the little boy lying across his chair out of view of his teacher during a virtual session?!). Understandably, this leads to concerns of substantial learning loss for our students.
I love feedback. I appreciate how feedback has helped me to improve in different aspects of my life. I believe in giving feedback that makes someone feel good about a job well done. For me, feedback is essential to growth! Yet, I can remember countless afternoons struggling to write feedback on all my students’ essays before the next class session. I wanted to be thorough and write about all of the points I’d reference in the lessons but my hands would cramp, my brain was mush, and by the last student’s paper I was barely writing a sentence or two that I hoped would help them improve. It wasn’t until a colleague showed me what she did — quick notes on each student’s work as she walked around and observed them during independent work time — that I began to feel like my time was being used more effectively and my students were able to implement recommendations as they worked. I also found that because I was saving time, I could talk with each student and really understand their comprehension and academic needs. Those quick convos with each student were some of my favorite times as a teacher.
Talking about math is more than merely describing the steps in solving a problem (“First, add the ones, then the tens. If you need to regroup, do that.”). Math discussions are focused on the process of working towards a solution, understanding how others’ think about that process, and developing a plan for similar problems. Students should be pushed to think beyond an explanation of steps to an explanation of process, including making errors and how those were resolved. They should also be encouraged to use different methods and tools when solving a problem, then sharing these ideas with others to build a bank of strategies. In a physical classroom, this can be challenging so how can it be done while distance teaching? More than that, how can it be done successfully?