Here’s the introduction to what I’m fumbling through today:
First, I want to start with two resources that have reinforced or shaped the thinking that is going on here. Start by going to the Global Online Academy to explore their resources. Then, check out The Emergency Online Blog. Caufield’s video “How I would approach the fall semester” is a much watch, and has helped with the models I’m conceptualizing here. While he’s writing to a university audience, his structure has merits for the K-12 population.
Continuing to build routines and procedures
At the start of any school year, setting up the organization of the classroom is an important part of classroom management. The organization of the course in our LMS is essential. Below is a mock-up of what my Schoology course will look like in the opening week:
In this mock-up, I’ve included essential items that will always be present within my course: a link to “office hours,” a “Help Desk” folder with How-to videos on technology related items, and a dedicated parent folder with the course syllabus and FAQ document or page. The entire course can be viewed on the screen. There’s no scrolling down to see items on the page.
There’s also a folder for the content of the week. The folder is dated, and the items within the folder have specific names and due dates included in the titles. Notice that there’s no links to PDFs or other documents. In the “Take the Quiz on the Syllabus,” I would embed a link to the syllabus within the quiz. While every grade level is different, I do very little reading of documents and review of documents and directions to students. With something like a syllabus, I would expect students to read it on their own, come to class with questions for clarification, and then take a quiz to show that they had read the document. This kind of move is even more important in the coming year where I’ll have little time in a face-to-face setting.
As I move week to week, I will either unpublished old folders or put older materials in to “Previous Weeks” so students can access.
This organization and design will be present and it’ll be maintain consistently. From the first day, students see the organization, it can be reviewed with them in those first classes. In this way, I’m setting a routine for them and how they access materials. I also build credibility with them–I’m organized, I’m taking care of you, and I have the forethought to put this together in a way you can easily consume. It’s another foothold for our relationship building when we get to the academic part.
What I’ve described above is one way in which Schoology can be used in a streamlined way that’s easy for students to consume. I have some other suggestions that I’ll get to in future blog posts.
Two Approaches to the Hybrid:
In my introduction, I summarized the current plan the district has to bring students back into the buildings through a hybrid schedule. Some students two days of the week and other students on opposite days. In the graphic below, I puzzle on how this might look:
Reflection on these models:
- Once I decide which of these to pursue, I would stick to the plan for the first quarter, and then assess through self-reflection and discussion with families and students.
- In-depth formative assessment is essential. The need to know where students are at when they are coming to a class session helps to give the best chance at developing a lesson plan to address those needs. Sure, quizzes and other objective measure are one part of this. But, I also see email, discussions, Flipgrids, and video chats being important to collect the “What do you need me to talk about in class today?” This is making me think that I need to model these student input pieces and make some procedures for them in those first weeks. I’m totally leaning towards Flipgrid as the go to tool for this, as students don’t necessarily need to be in their video.
- What is the best use of class time? In the above diagram, I use the phrase “Essential Direction Instruction.” While I’m an advocate for video lessons and students learning through watching video, there are times when I have a piece of content that I want a live audience for because there are always immediate clarifying questions or my need to check for understanding.
- As a writing teacher, the workshop model is valuable. In this model, the teacher provides some instruction at the beginning of the class, and then the students spend the rest of the time working on applying that concept into the writing they are working on. When students work, the teacher then is free to circulate to check on the application of the material, work 1:1 with the students, or conduct writing conferences. Is this the best use of class time in the cohort model? It seems less so in the “Zoomflex,” and perhaps even problematic.
- In his video, Caufield speaks to the use of breakout rooms as part of a class meeting, so that students can collaborate and connect. Additionally, if there are students in the physical room, they could socially distance by each joining a different breakout room. This will take some work to fully conceptualize and to figure out how to manage productively with high school students. However, I do see the application in a literature classroom for discussion, for peer conferencing, multimedia project planning. I also like the idea that in the “Zoomflex” we build an attitude of “together, apart.”
- My takeaway from items four and five above, is that class time should really focus on student interaction. Discussion, collaborative activities, and stuff that can’t be done through a screen. Like many, by April of last spring, I felt burned on virtual meetings. Given what we’re facing in the coming year, there will be lots of virtual and lots of video. If possible, can we use class time to reduce digital technology use, and be a bit analog in our work and in our relationship building.
- Does the cohort model essentially double the preparation load? I don’t think so, but I certainly will be grading each day to make sure I can be on top of where students are at. This works fine for me. I’m not someone who can sit for hours to grade all the students I’m responsible for in one sitting. Also, some of the “grading” is really assessment checks to guide lessons, and may not necessarily need the clerk-work of grade assigning or recording. This is another reason I like video responses from students in Flipgrid.
This is a good start at capturing the two models as I see them currently and at starting to evaluate their effectiveness. Sorry, no outro video today, but maybe next time. Do you have other ideas for how it might look in the hybrid model or what other models for the school year have you heard about there. Leave a comment or DM me.
Let’s start with a quick introduction to this post:
Why the right book at the right time? Well, they captured my feelings about the first several weeks of school and what I’ve got to ready myself for in September. My previous post starts to reflect on the important moves that I’ll need to make in September, but I appreciated the way that Fisher, Frey and Hattie capture this in the success criteria in “Module 2: The First Days of School.” I’ve listed them below and the language in the parenthesis is mine:
I can establish norms for students.
I can develop class agreements.
I can identify (a)synchronous distance learning classroom expectations.
I can teach organizational and procedural routines (and tech tools).
I know my students’ names and interests.
What follows is how I’ll try to accomplish these items.
What do I want to accomplish in the first day?
In the past, when I thought about the first day, I wanted to do three things. First, let students get to know me a little. Second, let students get to know each other. Third, introduce a procedure that we would be using almost everyday in class.
Here’s what I do. The activity is called “Frayer a Friend.” The idea comes from the great tech blogger, Matt Miller. The idea is simple. Students find a partner, conduct a short interview of each other, and then after a designated amount of time, introduce their partner to the class using the information gained in the interview. I actually model the activity by sharing a frayer that I completed with information about me. At the end of the activity, I’ve accomplished all the goals I listed above.
By sharing the model, I’ve introduced myself and shown a bit of my personality. Because of the nature of the interview process, students have a low risk way of sharing something about themselves, and because their partners introduce them, they don’t have to talk about themselves.
Using our LMS, Schoology, I put the assignment, linked above as a Google Drawing, in as a Schoology Google Drive assignment. Once students go into the assignment, they see how I will give them materials in Schoology, how to open them, and then when we are done, they also know how to submit. Routine 1: Accessing and Submitting Assignments…check!
However, I get a bonus here, because using a Frayer as a concept attainment strategy is something I use throughout the year. When I get into my first set of vocabulary, we use the Frayer as a way of learning terms and sharing them. Kids already know the template!
Now, doing this in a face-to-face class is probably pretty straight forward. Doing this in a synchronous session in a virtual meeting is also easy, if you have the ability to do a breakout session. Asynchronously, it gets a little more tricky, and honestly, if I had to do asynchronous, I would choose a different activity.
A note on routines and procedures
What are the routines and procedures that are essential for your instruction and that you train students on in the first weeks of school? While everyone has individualized procedures matching personality, content, and grade level, there are some core items that everyone does:
- What do you do when you come into the classroom?
- Where do you put your stuff?
- What should be the items on your desk at the start of class?
- How does the teacher give signals about when to focus?
- How do you access materials?
- How do you turn them in?
- What do you do when you need help?
- How do you move about the room?
- How do you work in groups?
- When is it okay to talk to a peer?
- When can I pack my stuff up and leave?
There are probably a lot of others that you’ll have. Please leave them in the comments. Some may be asking, but what if I’m teaching remotely? Think about the list above rewritten for virtual classrooms and meetings:
- What should you do when you get into a Zoom meeting?
- What should be in the camera view when in a Zoom meeting?
- Before the Zoom meeting, what should you do to be ready?
- During a Zoom meeting, how do you let the teacher know you have a question or want to participate?
- How is the course organized in our LMS or website?
- How do you get into and out of breakout rooms?
- How do you get help outside of Zoom? When is it okay to talk to peers about work?
- When is it okay to leave the Zoom meeting?
The moves are the same. I’m also asking these as questions because everyone’s answer is going to be a little different. When I’m in a physical classroom presenting material to students, sometimes I want questions from students as I go, and sometimes I want them to hold them until the end of the instruction. In a Zoom, sometimes, I want them to use the chat, and sometimes, I disable it. Context is everything, right?
However, looking at the above list of questions, one thing that I know I need to do is to generate a document that has my Zoom meeting expectations, and I need to develop either an activity to practice this, and I might also need to build in a conversation about Zoom meetings as part of our class agreements. Developing class agreements is a post for another day.
Also, looking at the list above, I need to develop an FAQ page for students and parents. I’m not quite ready to do that yet. Currently, my district plan is a hybrid model where students come on different days of the week, so I still don’t have a concrete picture of how the schedule will look, developing an FAQ that listed how I will give help outside of class isn’t clear. However, according to Fisher, Frey and Hattie, good FAQ documents for the coming year will respond to the following:
- Where can I find weekly and monthly schedules?
- Where do I find assignments and materials?
- How do I submit work?
- How do I find graded work and comments?
- When can I get help?
- How do I get technical help?
This is a helpful list, and one that combined with the procedures, would give us even more to think about in terms of our training of students.
More on connecting to students and learning their interests
An activity such as the Frayer interview I describe above is an easy way to start to get to know kids. They’ve submitted their interviews, so later I can pull them up and use them to guide my work. However, I want to start to get to know them and their interests more deeply.
Interest surveys abound and are a good way to continuing the process. However, I want to dig in a little more deeply.
Two things I’m considering are below. These activities move beyond that first day of class, first encounter with students.
- Five-things listicle blog: In it’s simplest form, students write a “blog” post on their five favorite songs and explain about why that song is so important to them. It’s easy to give choice here, too, and allow them to write about any form of media. I use the term blog loosely, because not everyone is going to have a blog. Instead, I’m suggesting that given the technology available, students can embed links to YouTube videos to create a multimodal composition.
- Using Robin Bowman’s It’s Complicated, students continue with their interviewing, and create something more long form and personal. Thanks for the idea from Marchetti and O’Dell in their excellent book Beyond Literary Analysis.
Some final thoughts
It sounded like a good idea at the time: The Documentation Project.
The end of August was rolling around and I was starting to think about the school year. What were my goals? What key pieces of instruction did I want to take on? What were going to be important milestones and projects?
In thinking about these questions, Angela Stockman (@AngelaStockman) posted in the Building Better Writers group on Facebook. She was offering a year-long session in documentation of learning, creating, a private group called “The Documentation Project.”
Currents were converging.
The offer of documenting learning would keep me honest about a goal, and perhaps help me to both step up my instruction and really learn from it.
At the end of August, all this sounded like a good idea. Last week, in the middle of a 20-point To-Do list, not so much. Additionally, Angela was pushing us along, asking What we were going to document and how we were going to do. Again, not so much.
However, last week and over the weekend, some stuff kinda gel-d for me. This blog is what I came up with.
I’ve decided to document the learning about writing that goes on in my IB English 11 class. We spent the first 4 days of class creating student run Edublogs, and populating them with several different kinds of posts and pages. Students will blog once a week, writing about either personal interests, mentor-text reading, or in further their thinking about current texts under discussion.
One of the questions that I’m asking about blogs is do blogs and blog writing create better writers.
I see the learning and documentation coming from weekly reflection on what I’m seeing in their blogs, and the lessons that I plan coming from this cycle or process.
For example, in the first round of blogging, I asked students to comment on each other’s blogs. Here, students are in groups of four, commenting on blogs in these groups to keep it manageable.
After the first round of blogs and comments were submitted, I asked students to reflect on what we’ve done so far. Flipgrid was an easy tool for collecting this feedback. The primary feedback I got was that commenting on other student work was the most difficult part of the process.
When I teach giving feedback–whatever kind of feedback that might be–I use the Stanford Design school technique of “I Like, I Wish, I Wonder.” This gives students a way of looking at student work and moving feedback from something personal to something constructive, and that is both positive and critical simultaneously.
Certainly, commenting on the work of others is a challenging task. No one would disagree. It requires us to carefully consider, to understand intention, to think about the effects of writing on our own experience as the consumer of a piece. Then, to articulate those noticings into writing.
Today, we’re going to look at some mentor texts by looking at public comments to the New York Times blogroll to see what we might learn about the moves we need to make as participants in a conversation.
I use that phrase, “participants in a conversation,” intentionally. From looking at blogs and my students reflection on them, my purposes behind blogging with them are clarified. Better writing means, for me, increased engagement in a conversation. I want them to participate with each other in a conversation of ideas and thinking.
Teaching commenting and giving feedback is one way to do this.
The other aspect that’s come clearer for me this weekend, was that blogging, for all its coolness, offers a challenge to today’s high school writer (and perhaps today’s high school English teacher): There is no right way to do it. In a Regents-exam driven classroom, where the answer for how to write the essay is clear and easy to teach, the blog form does not lend itself to “This is how you do it.”
Instead, the blog post is, perhaps, the most complex of rhetorical situations students might have to respond to. Worthy territory for writers, indeed.