A Return to Teaching in a Pandemic Year

By Kevin Scott

I’m a teacher. Simply writing that statement feels refreshing and comfortable, yet it’s an identity to which I only recently returned. I taught 7th graders in the early 2000s. My first year of teaching U.S. history included trying to explain the election of 2000 and Bush v. Gore. My second year began with 9/11, and my third included the D.C. Sniper, which forced every kid in the D.C. metro area to stay indoors for the entire fall. No sports, no P.E., no riding bikes—just fear. I stayed in the classroom until 2007 when I took my experiences to a national education organization to use what I knew in a new environment. If I’m being honest, I was burned out and had two young sons who wanted to know why their dad wasn’t at their preschool’s “Donuts with Dad” or the end of year graduation lunch with the rest of the parents in their class.

Continue reading “A Return to Teaching in a Pandemic Year”

5 Ways to Use Digital Storytelling with Your Students

By Kyleen Gray

If slews of Google Document essays and hours of Zoom oral presentations are feeling less and less bearable–you are not alone! As many North Americans approach the one-year mark of pandemic-induced school closures, remote learning fatigue is very real. Whether you’re teaching online, in a hybrid classroom, or in-person but behind masks, the time has never been better to introduce a fun and digital-friendly presentation format into your classroom.

Continue reading “5 Ways to Use Digital Storytelling with Your Students”

The Carousel Method: A Cure for Zoom Silence

By David Nurenberg

Since remote learning began, we’ve all had moments when we’ve asked a question of our class, only to be met with a grid of faces—or black boxes—that is utterly silent. Whether you’re trying to generate a discussion or assess learning, the hardest part can often be simply drawing the students out of their shells.

Of course, this dilemma predates remote learning, and teachers have developed many tools for shaking a class out of that stupor and making sure that all students, and not just the avid hand-raisers, get involved in an activity. One of my favorites is the Carousel: it gets every student engaged and cooperatively thinking about an idea. The pace is quick enough to keep them active, and both you and your students can assess knowledge or assemble understanding quickly and thoroughly. Fortunately, all parts of this activity can translate easily to an online environment.

Continue reading “The Carousel Method: A Cure for Zoom Silence”

Strategies for Engaging All Students during Hybrid Instruction

By Miriam Plotinsky

Most of us like to imagine that we are effective multitaskers, but research into human cognition says otherwise. The truth is, it is nearly impossible to do more than one thing well at a time, but people often expect it to happen anyway. As when children attempt the classic challenge of rubbing their bellies while patting the tops of their heads, at least one of those tasks is usually lacking in proficient execution.

With the move to hybrid instruction well underway in schools across the country, teachers are concerned about how to serve multiple populations in different places: to simultaneously and equitably teach students in the classroom and students working from home. While it might not be realistic to assume that every teacher can become an absolute hybrid aficionado, certain strategies help to ensure that all students, whether they join class from home or from school, get the attention they deserve.

Continue reading “Strategies for Engaging All Students during Hybrid Instruction”

Spark Your Students’ Creativity with These Zoom-Friendly Exercises

By Shana Bestock

Bringing creativity into the classroom isn’t only for art teachers! Creativity hinges on discovery, and as educators we can intentionally set the stage for those moments of discovery to happen. Creativity is also intrinsically tied to collaboration–whether individually, by engaging different aspects of the self in conversation, or collectively, by communicating with others to build something together. Creativity is about being ingenious, resourceful, and taking risks. Whether your focus is math or reading, science or history, coding or painting, creativity is an essential ingredient to learning, engagement, and sparking curiosity and joy. Every teacher, no matter their subject area, can borrow from the Zoom-friendly exercises below to jumpstart their students’ creativity and prepare them for the lesson ahead.

Continue reading “Spark Your Students’ Creativity with These Zoom-Friendly Exercises”

Three Myths of Distance Learning

By Ian Kelleher

I have a unique and marvelous job. I teach science to high schoolers every day, but I am also “Chair of Research” for my school, charged with answering this question: “How do we use the science of teaching and learning to improve every child’s whole school experience?” The days of COVID have been difficult, but a fascinating challenge – how can the science of learning help us in this unique time?

Continue reading “Three Myths of Distance Learning”

Why Bellringer Activities Are More Important Than Ever

By Mary McConnaha

Since moving to virtual, hybrid, or socially distanced in-person learning, many of us have had to adapt our tried-and-true classroom procedures to fit these new environments. As a middle school English teacher, I have always enjoyed engaging with my students through my “bellringers”—activities I’ve established for the first few minutes of class while my students get settled. Though it took some trial and error, I’ve found ways to continue these traditions via hybrid and online learning. What’s more, I’ve found it to be more important than ever to engage with and uplift my students through these small routines. Here, I’ll share my favorite ways to kick off my English class, whether in-person or online.

Continue reading “Why Bellringer Activities Are More Important Than Ever”

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.

Continue reading “The Unexpected Benefits of Teaching Virtually”

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.

Continue reading “Using Current Events for Online Assessment”

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.

Continue reading “The Power of Picture Books: Maximizing the SEL-Literacy Connection in Turbulent Times”