Quick Reference Guides from Norton Books in Education

As schools resume classes this month, teachers and students are engaging in online learning to an unprecedented degree.  To help educators meet that challenge, Norton Books in Education has recruited experts in remote instruction to address the nuts and bolts of teaching online.  The practical tips below are excerpted from five Quick Reference Guides to be released this fall:

  • Teaching English Learners from a Distance by Laura Alvarez
  • Teaching Math from a Distance by Samantha Bennett & Alaina Barkley
  • Teaching English from a Distance, Grades 6-12 by Troy Hicks, Andrew Schoenborn, Sharon Murchie, Janet Neyer, and Becky Schwartz
  • How to Design Interactive Online Learning by Stephanie L. Moore
  • Six Teaching Moves to Tactically Close Gaps in Learning by Suzy Pepper Rollins.
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Just-In-Time Skills: Creating Videos for Scaffolding

By Jonna Kuskey

Make room, Steven Spielberg. I’m going into the movie business. 

Well . . . sort of. 

As the old adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and the pandemic that forced us to move quickly to online learning forced me to make movies.  With a big box office budget of zero dollars, no big-name actors, and no brilliant CGI, I made videos to teach concepts or explain assignments so students could access the information wherever and whenever they needed or wanted. (Thank you, free version of Screencast-O-Matic!)

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There should be no “best practices” for in-person teaching during COVID-19 – because it shouldn’t be happening

By David Nurenberg

As a teacher preparing to begin an unprecedented new school year in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been consumed with reading, and writing, tips and best practices for online and remote education. Preparing for this new world alone is an enormous task for teachers already grappling with all the other stresses of this time. But as September draws near, I am feeling even more nervous, and even less prepared, about how to conduct in-person education in this new climate.

The federal and state governments are requiring schools to develop plans for both full and partial/“hybrid” returns to school. That means teachers’ plans for setting up our classroom must account for disinfection and hazardous material handling. We must somehow figure out how to conduct class activities without ever bringing students closer than 6 feet from one another, how to conference with students or intervene in discipline situations from that distance. We have to figure out how to cover required content and meet student learning goals when classes might be meeting only half or one-third as frequently. We must include, and teach, entirely online and remote versions of every lesson for absent students, find ways to catch up students who miss large amounts of school, and figure out how to emotionally support anxious students – and ourselves.

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The Spider Web Approach: How to Facilitate Effective Online Discussions

By Alexis Wiggins

Most of us are facing another school year in which at least part of our classroom work will need to be translated to an online environment. Some teachers worry that it isn’t possible in the distance learning environment to have the kind of effective discussions facilitated in the classroom, but I’m here to say that by following some key protocols and staying flexible, teachers can absolutely design for strong online discussions.

I’ve spent the last 15 years immersed in the research, design, and practice of student-led discussions. It began with a job early in my career at a Harkness School and eventually developed into a method I call Spider Web Discussion, which asks teachers to train students how to begin, facilitate, and assess their own discussions while the teachers themselves are mostly silent. (You can see it in action in a ninth-grade classroom here.) In the current environment, I’m getting a lot of questions about how to conduct class discussion online.

Here are my tips for success:

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Feedback as a Critical Tool for Distance Learning

By Matthew Johnson

The first time that it fully dawned on me just how much Covid-19 might change our lives and our world was when I saw those pictures in early March of sports teams around the world playing in front of empty stands. I remember looking at those images and wondering what it must be like for the athletes to play without the cheering, jeering, and general noise of thousands looking on. How strange it must have been to suddenly hear every crack of the bat and kick of the ball and to have more than a few moments of silence in between.

Little did I know that within a few weeks, I, too, would suddenly exchange my busy and loud work environment for the relative silence of a small and hastily constructed basement office. Overnight, the noise of my day—the hundreds of tiny interactions I had with students, the greetings and goodbyes at the door, the ambient buzz of 35 bodies learning in one room— disappeared, replaced with mostly silent asynchronous education where I was separated from my students by both time and space.

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Distance Learning for Students on the Autism Spectrum: Just Keep Swimming

By Barbara Boroson

This spring, life as we knew it was whisked away as abruptly as bottles of hand sanitizer from drugstore shelves, leaving us suspended in a state of frantic disorientation.

As we all struggle to course-correct in these uncharted waters, our students on the autism spectrum are especially off-balance. They tend to be destabilized by unexpected change and deviations from routine. And now, not only are their comfortable routines toppled, but the rules that they cling to in order to feel safe and calm have been tossed aside. Self-constructed rules like The school day starts with a bus ride; without a bus ride, school cannot start, or Teachers teach at school; not at home, can make remote learning a nonstarter for these students.

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