Sunday, May 17, 2020

Virtual Teaching/Learning for the Week Ahead

The banner on top of our teaching/learning menu changes daily to update students, families, and colleagues about learning opportunities, celebratory events, awesome accomplishments, and important events. This helps us to foster an ongoing sense of team and strong teaching/learning relationships. 
This week of virtual teaching/learning will mark a big push with respect to student and teacher accountability and effort. There's a lot of tough teaching to do, but I'll push through.

Optimizing the Schedule
Like a first year teacher, I have to write down the daily schedule so I don't forget any steps. One key to successful online teaching is a good daily schedule. My schedule each day includes the following:

Three - Five approximately 45 minute lessons a day.
Students simply check the meeting schedule, find their names, and
click the links to attend their lessons. 
  • Reviewing the daily menu on the student/teacher learning menu
  • Review each lesson about 20 minutes prior to the lesson
  • Making sure all the tech is working
  • Opening up the lesson document and sliding it to the middle of the screen.
  • Opening up the meeting.
  • Welcoming students to the meeting with friendly questions and conversations. Responding to their general questions and affect.
  • Reminding students that they need paper, pencil, and coloring materials, and also reminding them to pin or spotlight the lesson to make it big on their screen. 
  • Introducing the lesson in an engaging way.
  • Teaching the lesson in an interactive way via multiple questions, activities, and share. 
  • Ending the lesson with students via a summary, next steps, and a time for questioning. 
  • Taking a few minutes after the lesson to reflect with the special educators, teaching assistants, and/or administrators and other educators who joined me for the lesson. 
Grade-Level ELA Meeting: Assist colleagues who lead this approximately 45-minute whole grade-level ELA Meeting

Homeroom Meeting: Greet students and teachers as they enter the virtual meeting room. Lead the meeting with a focus on students' questions and responses.

Biography Research Team Meetings and Individual Coaching: Discuss students' research efforts to date and set up times for individual coaching to help students complete these projects.

Professional Meetings: Engage with colleagues around topics of interest and need related to teaching the students well. 

Reviewing and responding to student learning efforts: Review who has completed the assignments and how they've completed the assignments. Provide feedback to students and family members as needed and beneficial. Analyze student efforts and use that analysis to inform follow-up learning and teaching activities.

Plan future lessons including practice, projects, and problem solving: Plan lessons that respond to what we know about advantageous remote learning and teaching.

Update the learning menu with motivational/celebratory images/quotes, important news, required learning and team efforts, and enrichment opportunities.

Co-write the weekly newsletter and distribute to students, family members and colleagues. 

Biography Research
The fifth grade biography project is a deep and challenging project that requires lots of coaching. I'll get up early tomorrow morning to read my team's research to date and make comments. I suspect that their notes will lead me to needed one-to-one and small group coaching throughout the week to bring them up to speed. This is work that's not as easily done online as in real time, but I'll push forward as I know that the result of this intense coaching will be the growth of great skills and a sense of real pride as students learn.

Geometry Teaching
I'm excited about the geometry lessons ahead. In a sense, teaching geometry at fifth grade is teaching students how to see and discern attributes related to how figures are similar and different. The challenge of these lessons is to reflect at the end of each lesson and update student notes in a way that leads well to the next lesson. Often children that struggle with number sense, are amazing at geometry. That's another reason why I'm looking forward to this shift. After weeks and weeks of number sense focus, it will be a nice change of venue for my young mathematicians.

Social-Emotional Learning and Team Building
We will welcome a Middle School teacher to our homeroom meeting to learn about the transition to Middle School. This will be exciting for the students as we have a great Middle School and they have a lot to look forward to. I will also work with colleagues on a couple of virtual end-of-year celebration efforts as well--efforts that will signify to students that although our celebrations will be different, those celebrations will still occur and provide the warm send-off we typically give to our fifth graders.

Professional Meetings
There are three significant professional meetings this week. The first is our PLC where we will host the Middle School Reading specialist and discuss the children who will be attending that program in the fall. We'll also spend a few minutes discussing and practicing for students' virtual clap-out.

The second meeting is our faculty meeting where more than fifty educators gather to learn about and discuss issues that pertain to the entire staff and school community, and the third is my grade-level colleague meeting when we'll finalize the weekly newsletter and discuss all the issues and efforts that pertain to the grade level learning/teaching community.

Professional Learning
I will explore a new facts software that I heard about. Since some fifth graders still have difficulty learning their facts, I'm interested in how this facts gaming site works and if my students will be motivated by it. I also want to refine the facts game I created and tried out with a small group of students last week to make it a better interactive virtual learning experience for students.

I will also tune into the school committee meeting this week to watch colleagues present their virtual teaching/learning efforts. I'm looking forward to their presentation as well as the questions the school committee asks. It is important that the whole community looks at this situation from multiple perspectives with both an open mind and an eye to the future.

As far as the long term goes, I'll continue to reflect and jot down notes about the best practices, resources, mindsets, and processes that support engaging, meaningful, and results-oriented learning programs that work both in-school and via remote learning and teaching.

It will be an amazingly busy week ahead of teaching and learning--one that will require significant focus and perseverance. I can do it!