A Wakeup Call for Differentiation

By David Nurenberg

Even if a course is designated “honors” or “remedial,” anyone who has taught real children knows that there is no such thing as a homogenous class—unless it has just one student. Forty years of research tells us that just because two dozen students share a classroom, it doesn’t mean a one-size-fits-all approach will serve them.

Thanks to the pandemic, those students don’t even share a physical classroom anymore. Students are in so many different situations vis a vis their ability to engage with class, and the amount of support they have available at home, that we can no longer harbor any illusions that “teaching to the middle” will suffice.

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A Tactical Plan for Learning Gaps: What to Expect Post COVID-19

By Suzy Pepper Rollins

School hallways have been still for weeks. Normally bustling cafeterias, sports fields, and playgrounds prolongingly silent.  But most importantly, classrooms have been empty.  No science labs, no sharing of writing, no dissecting of poetry with an elbow partner, and no exploratory math stations.  No nods of approval by teachers or laughter at humorous sections of a novel.  No leaning over to a classmate’s desk for assurance on a tough math problem.   

What will the learning toll be on millions of students whose educational experiences were abruptly switched to remote, often online, learning?  Some learners may have barely skipped an academic beat and will return to school ready to move on. Others may have experienced daily frustrations.  And many will fall somewhere in between. 

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Sharing the Task of Learning: Using Think-Pair-Shares in a Digital World

By David Nurenberg

Even more so than in a physical classroom, teachers in an online environment can’t expect to only lecture—whether in real time or in a downloadable video—and have their students learn. Fortunately, some go-to strategies of more student-centered learning translate well to an online environment.

The “Think Pair Share” (TPS) is a useful tool for engaging every single student in doing something, and for holding them accountable for their learning. Students begin by thinking through a problem or question and writing down their thoughts. This writing can make for good formative assessment, but only if it’s graded on a “did it/didn’t do it” basis, or else students may be too scared to experiment with their ideas. Next, they compare thoughts with a partner, and both students refine their understanding. They share out further with a small group of four or five before the teacher brings the entire class back together to engage with the lesson.

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An Inquiry Approach to Learning Content with Newcomer Students

By Laura Alvarez and Lucinda Pease-Alvarez

 When trying to support their newcomer students who are also new to English, teachers often wonder if they can even address content area learning in English.  Based on our experience, an inquiry-based approach to content learning in English can be very effective. This approach involves students in actively constructing knowledge and doing work in the disciplines.  We have found the following instructional practices are helpful when structuring inquiry-based content units.  Many of these practices can be adapted when planning for remote instruction.

  • Articulate clear and strategic learning objectives
  • Engage students’ curiosity and wonder
  • Facilitate and make meaning of hands-on learning experiences
  • Involve students in accessible and relevant ways of applying and communicating what they’ve learned.
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Teacher Appreciation Week: Teachers as Treasure Seekers

By Cheri Borchardt

A common scene in many homes these days, during shelter in place, is a family gathered around the TV watching old movies on Netflix. As the wife of a history buff and a mom of a history professor, I am usually outnumbered! True to form, last week our family movie of choice was National Treasure.

The 2004 film National Treasure was a box office hit and remains a favorite of many teachers and students as a movie in the classroom. On the surface, the film appeals to the audience’s desire for adventure, action, and future riches, but on a deeper level, the film teaches us some important lessons about the relationship between teachers and students!

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Riding the Roller Coaster of Emotions: From Reactive to Responsive

By Wendy Baron

Right about now, you may be asking yourself, “When will we ever be able to get back to normal?” Unfortunately, we just don’t know.  And uncertainty about the future is causing many of us to be anxious! According to a recent study of approximately 5,000 educators by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence1, anxiety, stress, and fear are the most frequently felt emotions every day since we began sheltering in place and doing distance learning.

The Stress Response

In this moment, it may seem impossible to be centered and calm. After all, if you are like most of us, you have a zillion new competing demands—figuring out how to best design and facilitate online learning; connecting with students who are struggling and those who are not showing up at all; leading and participating in back-to-back Zoom meetings; and trying to manage all of this with your own children needing your attention for their school work. No wonder we’re anxious and stressed! 

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Why Reading Aloud is the Perfect Distance Learning Strategy

By Laurel Schmidt

Teachers seem to have an extraordinary ability to make order out of chaos, particularly when it comes to rounding up dozens of free-range children who are loath to give up their freedom.  They plunge in where others fear to tread and the next thing you know, they’re presiding over a group of kids who are seated, listening and more or less ready to work. But this is a much bigger challenge when your students are somewhere out in cyberspace. So, what can you do to ensure that they’ll show up on time, be riveted from the first minute and eager to return for the next session?

Read aloud. That’s right. Open a book and start reading in your most spellbinding voice. Don’t hold back. Ham it up! Trot out some of those voices you only use in the privacy of your own head.

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Proactively Building a Rapid Response Team

By Debbie Zacarian

On April 7, 2020, White House pandemic advisor, Dr. Fauci, stated that the pandemic “shine(s) a very bright light on some of the real weaknesses and foibles in our society.” Since the pandemic struck, I’ve been offering online and phone support to educators in their quest to stay connected with students and families, despite their schools being closed for in-person instruction. While the drastic move to remote learning has meant using technologies that none of us could have anticipated or even imagined, there is no question that our global health crisis has also shone a very bright light on what Dr. Fauci referenced—the structural inequities that are occurring in schools and society across the nation.  To name just a few startling statistics, consider the following:

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From our editors: a selection of recently published articles on teaching and learning remotely

TODAY’S LIST OF RESOURCES! And be sure to also take a look at our more extensive list of resources for teaching during COVID-19!

From The Marshall Memo:

Ideas and Resources during the Coronavirus Crisis

From Simone Kern on Edutopia:

Why Learning at Home Should Be More Self-Directed—and Less Structured

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The Connection is What Matters Most

By Bridget Vaughan, an ELA and Literacy District Coordinator and teacher advocate

Recently my job has changed. I now support teachers with remote learning. As a part-time online educator in higher education for the past 16 years, and a full-time middle school teacher and administrator for over 20, I thought I had this figured out. I transitioned to teaching online classes many years ago. Back then, college students opted to take these classes and paid for them, so they were eager to learn. For many years, much of this was about helping students learn the technology. But after time, I built in every question or piece of content that was unclear, and students got more tech savvy. Of course, it never replaced face-to-face instruction, but it was pretty much smooth sailing.

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