The Unexpected Benefits of Teaching Virtually

By Danielle McAuliffe

The absence of bells and the cacophony of announcements in the morning is replaced with an unusual, peaceful quiet in the virtual high school. There are no loitering students in the halls, no calls to cover classes, no broken copy machines or parking problems. The usual hustle and bustle of what we associate with school is gone, and we are left with, well, time. Uninterrupted time to prepare for the day has become the new normal for both students and teachers. And I don’t mind it—in fact, I enjoy teaching remotely.

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Using Current Events for Online Assessment

By Benjamin Barbour

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed education and forced teachers to reconsider how they assess students. The virtual classroom demands something other than the traditional multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank test, assessments that even in the best of times often require little more than recall. Students learning from home have access to the internet and, in some cases, their textbooks as well. This requires teachers to “google-proof” assessments by asking questions that demand more creative and analytical responses.

Remote learning provides educators with an opportunity to try new approaches to evaluation. I have found that incorporating current events into my classroom in a more systematic manner has opened new opportunities for both formative and summative assessment.

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The Power of Picture Books: Maximizing the SEL-Literacy Connection in Turbulent Times

By Nancy Boyles

Soon after the world shut down last March and students fled the classroom to stay safe at home, teachers recognized the heightened need to address children’s social emotional (SEL) needs. These were strange, scary times: Were the kids okay? How were they faring away from their friends and teachers and the familiar routines of school? It was a scramble to reimagine school overnight, but teachers quickly saw the value of using picture books with SEL themes as part of their online instruction. Excellent, I thought. What a great way to connect thinking and feeling.

But in practice, it’s easy to fall into a few pitfalls that can lessen the impact of reading SEL-related picture books with students. Here are three tips to maximize the power of picture books to connect SEL and literacy whether teaching online or face-to-face in a classroom.

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Routines to Teach: Fall of 2020

By Mike Anderson, Reposted from Leading Great Learning

Last week I had the privilege of teaching two online workshops for teachers about getting ready for the upcoming school year. They were both so much fun! We played games that teachers can use with their students (either in person or online), shared strategies for co-creating rules with students in K-12 classrooms, reconnected with our deeply held positive beliefs about why we teach, and so much more.

One of the most practical activities we did was to co-create lists of routines we might need to teach this fall as we begin facilitating learning with students. One of these workshops was with Bedford, NH educators, who are heading back in a few weeks with a hybrid model. Students will be in school some days and at home others. The other workshop was held through UNH Professional Development and Training and was attended by K-12 educators from around New Hampshire who are heading back to a variety of settings.

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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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Getting Started with Teaching Online…Again

By Mary Burns

As we put the never-to-be-forgotten school year of 2019-2020 in our rearview mirror, we turn our attention to the 2020-2021 school year. And though we all wish otherwise, the upcoming school year will likely involve more online teaching. During the initial pandemic outbreak, many teachers focused on learning technology at the expense of instruction. Now that we’ve taken some time to learn new technologies, this school year should be about focusing on effective online teaching. 

Over the last few months, I’ve been helping teachers get started with online instruction. I’ve organized this blog around their most common questions about teaching online.

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Journaling: Creating the Feel of School Virtually

By Christa Forster

I miss the physicality of school. By “physicality,” I do not mean physical education, nor do I mean movement exactly. I mean all the ephemera we leave in our wakes as we sail—smoothly or tempest-tossed—through our daily schedules, together yet apart. Heads tilted toward one another, whispering or chatting, sighing or groaning; nods and waves and smiles during passing period; laughter in the halls during quiet moments in class; the pods of bodies in the cafeteria or library; the forlorn study guides, spiral notebooks, binders, water bottles, hoodies on the floors; lockers slamming shut; empty candy and cough drop wrappers littering the spaces. All of this “stuff” contributes to the feel of school and therefore to the feel of learning.

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Teacher Appreciation: How to Say Thanks from a Distance

By Ronnie Eyre

Teacher appreciation week approached us so quickly. March felt like the longest month of the year, and then April came and teachers and students alike were told to start distance learning. These teachers and kids showed up! They proved that they were able to handle working on their academics while still being kids. Teachers made changes to their lessons by creating their own document cameras. They created spaces in their homes for anchor charts and bulletin boards. Teachers pushed themselves harder than they ever have, recognizing that an education is so important and that it must continue even through distance learning, online video chats, and tons of emails. 

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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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Classroom, Interrupted: Rethinking Assessment in a Time of Pandemic

By Sharon Kunde

It’s now week five of my school’s pivot to online instruction. We’ve weathered the chaos of week one, the understated pleasures of weeks two and three (no commute! teaching in ratty old slippers! baking during intervals!), and the tedium of week four. The time for soothing words and procrastination is over: it’s time for assessment.

If hearing those four words make you feel like this talented music teacher, take a deep breath. As traditional assessments – from pop quizzes to the SATs, from oral examinations to student presentations – become increasingly untenable in terms of both logistics and equity, we can use this moment as a chance to reflect on big-picture pedagogical outcomes. I, for one, want my students to cultivate an ability to engage with the world. I want them to develop critical consciousness, which involves curiosity about why things are the way they are and how they could be different. I want them to realize commonality with disparate people. I want them to develop the capacity to concentrate and to notice, along with the technical skills to develop meaningful responses to what they see. Grades merely index those nebulous capacities – grades are a language I use to communicate the extent to which I see particular habits of mind and technical capabilities manifesting in my students’ work.           

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