Sunday, January 10, 2021

Find the Good

Back to Square One

I have had many challenges in my teaching career, but nothing like I experienced over the last 9 months (as every single teacher). Every day was like starting all over. I had no idea what I was doing and was just trying to survive each day while keeping my students' education and social-emotional well being at the forefront.

Despite the struggles I had outside of the classroom, my students were(are) a blessing.  They became the focus. How do I construct my lessons to be a good fit for my students? How will I remind them that their mental & physical health is a priority? What do I say? How do I listen?  

And looking back, I am pleased with how I laid out the semester.

Know Your Audience

I know my students.  I know them really well.  I know their strengths and I know their weaknesses. I know they need structure and someone to hold them to high expectations.  I know they are highly dependent on their teachers to support them. I know they are great at social media and horrible at academic technology. I know for many of them school is a safe place.

So with that in mind, I started the first few weeks with Google Classroom instead of Canvas.  I knew that distance learning would be a huge stress on my students for so many reasons. Many of my students have no self-contained study area, siblings to take care of, chores to complete, lack of technology and/or internet, no or very little parental/caregiver support, etc.  In my experience, a big roadblock to getting to know my new students virtually would be for them to learn a brand new platform remotely by themselves. Google Classroom has been used by many teachers for several years by now, so familiarity is a good place to start in times of such stress.

The feedback that I got was confirmation.  Most of my students were relieved to be using a familiar platform and understand how to access & turn in assignments.  I got nearly 100% engagement right off the bat. My students and I were chatting back and forth.  They were doing the work.  They were coming to class.  And that was so important. I knew I needed to work on building a relationship with them and learning a new platform would serve as an impediment. Students would be focused on the tech instead of adapting to a new environment; as I verified to be true later.  

I know it's become a cliche, but it's so true: Maslow before Bloom.

Easing Into Change

After that, I started using Canvas and dialing up slowly the amount and  intensity of work. Many students commented in their final exam screencast that was a plus. One of the things I started week 1 and continued through out the semester was what I called "Attendance Questions." The schedule was limited to live classes only twice a week for 80 minutes.  So I knew getting kids to come was imperative. That was my "hook." But the questions didn't require kids to attend live class, just encouraged.  

Mos of the types of questions focused on light & silly topics.  Examples of different topics would be: "Is the Kool-Aid man the jar or liquid?," finding hidden objects, math puzzles, "What color do you feel like today?," which one doesn't belong, finding the math, etc. The feedback from my students demonstrated how important these were each week.  Many students commented that it was an opportunity to "destress."  That just made me smile ear to ear.  That was exactly my intent.  I wanted to weave in assignments that would support a healthy mental state and allow them to forget the world, even if it was for a few minutes.

Here are some images that students really enjoyed: 





I started to give "Weekly Assignments" about a month into the semester. There would be one or two that students would have the entire week to complete. This was a tough one as I knew an overwhelming number of my students were professional procrastinators.  But I wanted them to give them flexibility and to learn time management.  In the beginning I started to give Deltamath as these weekly assignments.  But then I changed gears.  

I instead gave activities that were game like and involved art along with some other ideas.  The kids loved the "Pumpking Carving" activity from Desmos along with the "Maze Builder" and "Legend of Zelda."   I gave one a bit more serious on bullying towards the end of the semester. I am glad I gave this at the end of the semester instead of the beginning as students were more open to sharing. I had many students who really opened up about their own experiences. I was honored that they felt they could do that with me.

Here's an example of what kids produced on mathigon.org using the Polypad: 



Key Practices


Other than my choice in what I gave my kids, there were two key practices that really made this past semester work for me and my students.

One was the learning cycle I adpated from Audrey McLaren. I had attended a webinar during the summer where she shared how she structured her time with her students. Before that, when I was trying to plan, I was so lost on how to maximize the time with my students. So I adapted what she did with the schedule we had. 



There were issues using Kami within Canvas, so I decided to table that.  I also really was looking forward to using Fluidmath, but my students weren't ready first semester.  (I am hoping to use with my honors this semester.)  Edpuzzle wasn't working well for 100% of my students within Canvas, but I decided that platform was necessary to introduce the concept for the week.  So students ended up having to go directly to the website to access.  It took some time to get used to, but now students are a pro at knowing where & when to go. I also cannot imagine what this past semester would have been like without Desmos and all the great activities created by teachers and the Desmos team. Being able to see what students are doing real time is priceless. And kids loved how they could see each other's responses as well as get my feedback to help them.  It wasn't like being back in the classroom, but it helped feel like it just a little bit.

On Monday's we only meet with 4th period.  So doing a lesson would throw everything off.  So that day was perfect using Edpuzzle. So I assigned an Edpuzzle for  all my students on that day. Their responses gave me good feedback on how and what to do for the first synchronous lesson.  So then the first day with my students would be a Desmos activity to practice and play with the concept they were introduced to.  Then the off day would be a Deltamath assignment to give them practice. (This didn't happen on a regular basis mainly because I forgot to set it up.) The second day I see them would be to wrap up the lesson for that week and give an assessment if they were ready.  It took students most of the semester to get acclimated to this cycle, but based on the feedback from their final exam - it worked. It gave me and the students a nice routine.  We all knew what to expect whenever we met.

The second successful practice was to have my students do a portfolio. 

I have wanted  my students do one for years now. Part of the main reason I never did was that I think I just had no idea how to go about helping my students curate one.  But with the closure of school and being 100% virtual, this opened the door to trying one more time. Plus, I had an awesome support system in my Twitter PLN. There were lots of ideas and examples of all the different ways I could have my students do the portfolio.  The top three were: Google Slides, Blogger & Desmos.

After a lof of thinking and brainstorming with colleagues, I decdided to use Desmos as the platform for my students to create their portfolio.  There were quite a few reasons I landed on using Desmos.  I really liked the fact that I can see all students' progress easily on the "Teacher Dashboard."  I also really like the feedback feature that is integrated. It was also easy to keep them from editing after the due date.

I had my students do a total of 4 portfolios over the course of the semester.  Each one covered a 3 week period of the semester.  Each portfolio that I created got a bit better each time with what I got back from students along with the indirect feedback I got.  Most students took until the fourth portfolio to see the value.  But they came around.  I could understand as this was completely a new idea in a math class.

Originally, I had thought since everything was laid out in the modules in Canvas, it would be obivious what should go into the portfolio.  But it clearly wasn't.  So after the first one was done, I gave the kids a rubric that specified exactly what I wanted to see.  Unfortunately, because I was planning from week to week; the rubric came a week before they had to turn it in.  But the rubric clearly helped students understand what was and wasn't needed and how many screen shots to put in.  

Focus on the Good

After a lot of reflection, I have been reminded to focus on the good.  And to help my students do the same.  This is of course especially important as we are in the midst of the country going through so many trials and tribulations.  I am resilient and so are my students. We will all come out of this just fine.

I didn't recongnize my successes as I was surviving day to day.  

But taking the time to write about it forced me to find the good.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Portfolios All the Way

Plans change...

My goal was to write my weekly plan.  Well, failed that one.  I just realized that my last post was a few weeks ago.  Where did the time go?

So I am throwing that out and simply writing as I am able to.  For this post, I am going to write about something that I wish I had started years ago - portfolios.

Now is the time...

I have always known that portfolios are a valuable tool to use as evidence of learning.  What I didn't realize is how valuable it would be to get students to see the direct relationship in the quantity and quality of their work to their grade. And that has been especially important now where students are struggling to motivate themselves to follow through on the simplest of tasks.  

As much as I adore my students and think of them as my own children, motivating them on a daily basis was an exhausting endeavor when teaching face to face.  So I knew I was going to be in for the challenge of my life in this new environment.  I am looking out at a sea of black boxes with names. Virtually no faces.  Occasionally, I will hear a voice here and there or read a private chat if I am lucky.  

How do I keep them accountable and on task? 

That's where Desmos, Classkick, and Deltamath have been immensely helpful.  I am able to see what they are doing in real-time. And providing them feedback as they are going through the activities in Desmos and Classkick has been the closest thing to feeling like I am back in the classroom. And these platforms help me continue to teach using my constructivist philosophy. But somehow that just wasn't enough. So I had to find another tool to wake them up figuratively and literally. 

The Answer...

But how do I collect a portfolio virtually? This is part of the story where my wonderful MtBoS colleagues came to the rescue! I can't thank them enough! I got support from so many exceptional & generous educators. 

There was a furious flurry of Tweets going back and forth of all sorts of great ideas: Google Sites, Blog, Google Slides, and Desmos AB.  I am/was so grateful as it got my creative juices flowing.  I started to think about what I wanted my students to do and what I needed to do to give feedback and grade them.  

One of my primary goals is to teach students to be reflective humans. I think if one is reflective, one is a life-long learner. There are other habits of mind like skepticism, resourcefulness and creativity too; but reflection is the cornerstone. So the medium needed to have the ability for me to include opportunities for my students to reflect throughout the portfolio. 

The next piece was how was I going to facilitate this process. I am one to take something existing and use it in a new way. I like to think of myself as someone who thinks outside of the box. And so I began to think a lot about Desmos AB after a fellow Twitter colleague mentioned it as a potential contender.  A big problem, I had no idea on how to create my own AB. But again, my MtBoS colleagues were there for me.  I have never worked with such a more collaborative and generous group of people!

(Thank you Idil, Allison, Adele, Michelle, Juan, Druin, Laurie, Diana, Trey, and all the others that were in my original brainstorming phase. I am so sorry that I can't find that thread to mention you all by name!)

After several iterations and lots of "poking holes," my colleagues helped me come up with my first portfolio! It wasn't the best looking Desmos AB, but it was a start and the bones were there.  

Requiring a portfolio has really forced my students to confront what they have or have not done over a period of time.  Their quantity and quality of work stares at them shamelessly. And that has been "The Great Motivator." Especially as I required kids to present it. (This was done in small groups outside of class. About 30% of my students did not do the portfolio or did not present.) I could hear kids pause or quickly go over certain portions.  But at the same token, I could hear students pause and revel in what they were able to accomplish over the 2.5 weeks.

A few things about the first portfolio, I did not give them a list of assignments to go back and take screenshots of.  Mistake. (Spoiler alert: I did not learn from this mistake when assigning the second portfolio.)  I incorrectly assumed since everything was listed in Google Classroom as weekly learning goals and assignments were clearly marked, it was obvious. 

So as I graded their 1st draft. I was constantly giving the same feedback: Where is that? Where is this? Why do you have that?  So I added a list including how many screenshots. This definitely gave them the guidance I should have given them before.  It also helped me grade the portfolio.

Reflect... 

Looking back, there were two clear things that I really like about using Desmos AB to create my portfolio. The first was that I could see if my feedback was read by students or not.  The second was that I could "pause" the portfolio while I worked on giving feedback and grading.  The feedback was really instrumental in supporting students asynchronously. Nearly all students read the feedback, but unfortunately, there were a good many that didn't follow through.

Other things that I can see that are working is that the flexibility in adding a variety of slides.  I could add sliders to ask the kids to check in. I could add a card sort, marbleslides or have them graph their name as part of the portfolio. (Hmmm...I think I will have them write their name using the Desmos table feature on the next one!)

Students just turned in their second portfolio a few days ago and am anxious to look through if I can get through all this lesson planning nonsense and grading all the other assignments. On this one, despite my mistake of not giving students a list of things to add, I think this was a subconscious decision.  I wanted to force my students to reflect back and ask themselves: What did I learn? How did I learn that?  I have set up my modules in Canvas by week, so it would take just a tiny bit of work.  But nonetheless, I want my students to do that and not me.

One thing I emphasized too late for this second portfolio was to take screenshots as they were doing the work.  In the first portfolio, students had to go back and take all the screenshots.  And I think this was not the most efficient although it had its hidden benefits.  So hopefully, for the next one coming up, this will help considerably.

Better late than never...

I so regret not doing this many years ago.


Sunday, August 30, 2020

My Plan: Week 3 & 4

Survival

I am going on the 4th week of distance learning.  And I want to rename it "distance surviving." 
I am preparing week by week which is the complete opposite of what I normally do. I have each unit planned out in advance and just make adjustments here and there.  But not now.  This is so uncomfortable. 

I have such a short amount of time each week to do so many different things. And even at this point, not all students have access to technology. (This is going to really throw a wrench into things. How do I deal with the first month of school when they were absent? Worry about it when I need to.)

I feel like I am riding a rollercoaster in the dark.  (I don't like rollercoasters nor do I like the dark.)

Week 3

Last week started out rough after some feedback from kids sharing not having basic computer skills (organizing files in folders, taking screenshots, saving images in different formats, etc.).  So had to change plans quickly.  The first day was spent on how to create a folder, subfolder and use the "Snip & Sketch" tool. I had kids watch videos helping them learn at their own pace. (In retrospect, instead of giving them time, I should have just played the videos.) I gave kids time to start to take screenshots of all the past assignments just in case they needed help.  I went slow, paused, repeated, answered kids' questions.  I then had them start their "E-Portfolio."  All was going well. (Or so I thought.)

The second day was spent on what I needed to see in the portfolio.  I was specific, repeated, had kids repeat in the chat, took questions from the kids and again, thought all was going well. We then did break out rooms so that kids would be more comfortable talking and supporting each other.  I popped into as many rooms as I could.  I think I missed a couple in my 4th.  I have to remember to write down what rooms I have visited and need to visit. By 6th, I was getting tired, and I am sure that I missed several. Wednesdays and Fridays are where I have 3 classes (evens) and it's really draining on me.  Asked kids how it was going, most used their audio.  Tried to get them to screenshare, but lost that battle. Didn't think it was going as well as the 1st day, but not too bad.

And then started grading their 1st draft Saturday morning. And then continued to grade each class despite what I saw, or should I say what I didn't see. Then reality hit.  

All was not going well.  

Roughly half had only the 1st couple of slides done. And a handful had random stuff thrown in.  I am sure they thought that I wasn't going to look at it. Quite a few just put a small selection of screenshots out of the assignments we had done despite going over specifically what was needed.  I am so grateful for the feedback feature in Desmos as I used it a lot.

I graded it regardless and put it in the grade book. (Portfolio is worth 60% and practice stuff is 40%.) And their grades came tumbling down. I wasn't expecting the amount of students that didn't turn it in or did the bare minimum. I was expecting 20 to 25%, but not this many.  So was completely disheartened and disappointed.  I did my best to slowly acclimate them to coming back to school; maybe that was where I went wrong.

Sunday I started by setting up my Canvas some more, created the Deltamath assignments for all three of my preps and started calling whoever I could get through to.  I stopped at the 4th call.  It was going to take me several hours to get through to a fraction of those kids who didn't turn it in.  Time to revise my plan.

Instead, I texted the kids through Remind that they better be revising their portfolio right then and there and grades were updated.  That woke up some, not a lot.  Then a little more time passed and I have a feeling kids starting contacting each other and the barrage of emails and texts started coming through with questions of all sorts; many they already had answers too. Panic had set in - good. Taking this route was clearly more effective.

But then came the hard part, how do I proceed? 

Week 4

I was planning on doing some more community building and start teaching the standards this coming week. (A couple of my Tweeps shared some stuff that would have fit perfectly. That will need to get pushed to next week.) 

If I continued on my original path of starting the unit, I doubt many kids would take the time to revise and get help on their own; which meant that this 1st grading period would end on a low note. And I would have a difficult time motivating kids to work hard to bring it up. I know my population of students.  I had to get them to start with success so they could build on it for the remainder of the school year.

At 12:10, most of my kids call it an end to the workday (not much different than the normal school year). So my plan is to release the kids who are at an A or B and keep the kids who are at a C or lower for both days. I don't know if this is good or bad.  But I don't know what effect anything I am doing will have, so what's to lose?

The kids who I release can work on a Desmos activity (yet to be determined) and the weekly Deltamath assignment asynchronously. I need to set up something where they will check in with me at the end of the period.  I think that will probably be the Desmos activity where I pace it for 2 days, or I can find 2 short ones to do. Again, yet to be determined.

I will do break out rooms but will bring them back frequently to check to see what is going on as well as visiting rooms.  I will have them chat with me privately what they did, just to keep them accountable when I bring them back. I have a feeling that too many kids are interpreting break out rooms as a break. I plan on bring them back at least twice during the 30 to 40 minutes. The other thing I am going to try that I learned from a webinar and another Tweep is to create an extra room. That way I can put kids in that room, go have a chat with them and then put them back. And if that doesn't work, on my naughty list and call home.

My plan is to give about 15 to 20 minutes to work on the "E-Portfolio" and the remaining time to work on the weekly Deltamath assignment. They will need to screenshare and use audio in order to remain in class.   

I think 3 weeks was a good amount of time to get them to transition and adapt. At this point, if they wouldn't and/or couldn't, then I need to be more strict. 

Teaching isn't all about roses.

Monday, August 17, 2020

My Plan: Week 2

Reflect

Deep breath.  

The 1st full week of distance learning done.  I would say it was successful and a big part of that was taking it slow. A lesson that took me a couple of weeks to learn during the summer. But a lesson that I learned.

My objective as a teacher was to facilitate connections between my students.  I tried to do that by having kids come up with what they think collaboration looks like. The first block day I put students in break out rooms and they wrote and shared ideas in their notebook. I popped in and out frequently to eavesdrop and check in with kids.  

The last time I popped in, I had kids put their video on and put their notes in front of their faces. Kids thought I was checking their notes, but I really had an ulterior motive. I wanted to start to get them to use their video just a little bit. There were only a small handful that chose not to.  And I wasn't going to push them.

The second block day was to take that and put those thoughts into a shared "Google Slide Deck."  I was shocked when I surveyed kids before we started at how few had done this.  And I fully admit, this is the first time I have done this in math.  But rest assured, won't be the last!  So I went through some guidelines and demonstrated a bit. But not a lot.  I am a big believer in the best way to learn something is to dive right in and play with it. And it worked! Kids did great.  Just a handful that were a bit confused.  This brought to light that I need to find a way to check for understanding without looking at body language or calling on particular kids.

The next step is to do a virtual gallery walk with what they did to narrow down what collaboration looks like.  This will be next week.  This week I need to work on getting some things set up and more building relationships.  My Twitter colleagues have been great at giving me so many ideas! 

My objective for kids was for them to become independent learners.  Over 80% of the student population is highly dependent. And mostly because of all the hand holding that goes on from when they are little.  Just because kids are from a vulnerable and disadvantaged area, does not mean they cannot.  But that is the mindset that so many educators have.  If kids are given the opportunity and have scaffolding in place, success will happen.  

I help students become more independent when in the classroom, but I am really struggling with it virtually. Especially since when I call home, I am only getting through to a small percentage.

Thankfully, I am extremely obstinate.  I won't give up on my kids.

Revise

If I had to go back in time, I would start with more of what I am doing this week; which is playing games and doing some math art. And then do the "Collaboration" lessons.  I also would take more advantage of the "private chat" feature with students.  

One thing that is hard is that I have about an hour total with them each week.  This is because I am taking 80-minute block and breaking into 2 groups where I meet with them for 30 minutes.  I will have to rethink this in a week when I need to get into the curriculum. But for now, I think it's working.  Kids are able to stay engaged for the entire time.  Or as far as I can tell.

Day 6

Day 7

  • 10 to 15 minutes to work on the Deltamath assignment
  • #mathartchallenge by @anniek_p: "Looping Colors" (get kids to put video on and share their work when completed)
  • "Attendance" question - ask kids to rank how this week went on a 1 to 5 scale

So this week will hopefully build more connections.  But I wanted to slow down for me, kids and families to give some room to transition.  I spoke to many parents and caregivers over the last week who are overwhelmed and are dealing with a lot of hardships. I also need some time to deal with the increase mental strain distance learning is having on me.  It's just so hard to teach without seeing the kids facial expressions and body language. I need time for my brain to accept and adapt.

This is going to be a tough year all around. I will be so happy to see the end.


Sunday, August 9, 2020

My Plan: Week 1

First three days of distance learning are done.  

I have to say that it went well as far as logistics. I think it's because of two reasons.  One is that I taught summer school.  So that really helped me try out different ideas and get immediate feedback from kids.  The second is all the self-learning I did over the last four months.  Listening carefully to what others were doing when schools closed down mid-March, webinars and lots of conversations with the incredibly talented teachers on the #MtBoS.

I used the "less is more" to help guide my planning especially with all the tech issues and kids not knowing how to join. Another glitch was that admin assumed everyone would be using Canvas to start off with. I wasn't going to knowing that the platform had a bit of a learning curve and distance learning was already a huge curve being thrown at the kids.  

I wanted to start with something familiar; just like I do when teaching. Most kids are familiar with Google Classroom, so I am using that for a few weeks until I can build a decent connection and community with my kids.  Then we will ease into Canvas.  I am 100% certain that if I were to have started with Canvas, that would have been the focus; not the kids.  And I am so happy I made this decision.

One thing that really helped with time management was keeping kids in the waiting room and having them start on the "Attendance Question." I am definitely keeping this practice. 

The only way of communicating with families is email or individual phone calls. That made it extremely challenging and frustrating that our automated phone system wasn't set up so we can at least call en mass.  (By the way, it's still not set up and it has been 5 working days.) I have been calling home, but it's a slow go.  I can get through about 5 each day before I have to stop. Most take a lot of time because I am fluent in only one language - the one I am currently writing in. And the district doesn't have a department solely dedicated to helping teachers translating which is very strange considering how many of our families are more comfortable speaking a variety of other languages.

How many teenagers do you know that check their email regularly? I wager to say little to none. So that's a new habit.  That's why it was so important to get students signed up for Remind so we can text back and forth - a medium they are most comfortable in. 

My next task is to get parents and caregivers signed up for Talking Points. I have already sent out an email to parents and caregivers, but only 3 have signed up so far. So that's going to take some work.

One thing that I knew in my gut but pushed aside with all the insanity was how disconnected students felt from not being in school face to face.  The "Intro & Reflect" videos they turned in last Friday using Loom simply reinforced my intuition.

So that gave me the impetus for the upcoming week. But a quick reflect on last week.

 Day 1, August 5th:

  • Welcome each student
    • Use "Poll" feature in Zoom to check in with how they are doing
    • Ask: "How are you?"✔
  • Fundamental norms to follow on Zoom
    • Put distractions away✔
    • Active listening✔
    • Respectful & kindness✔
    • Use "Chat" only when instructed to do so✔
  • Students will sign up for Remind & Google Classroom, if they haven't done so already
    • Share code and get kids to sign up right then and there✔
    • Share screen showing who's signed up
    • Give students a few minutes to take "Attendance" question in Google Classroom✔
  • Students will create a Desmos account
  • Play "Collecting Numbers" by Kurt Salisbury, a modified version to fit my time frame
    • Set pacing to slide 1 & 2✔
Day 2, August 6th:
  • Welcome each student
    • Use "Poll" feature in Zoom to check in with how they are doing
    • Have students find something that represents how they feel and have them hold up and have them share why in the chat
  • Continue to practice online norms✔
  • Any students who haven't signed up for Remind & Google Classroom will do so✔
  • Give students a few minutes to take "Attendance" question in Google Classroom✔
  • Remind students to complete the survey with their caregivers as soon as possible
  • #mathartchallenge by @anniek_p: "Looping Colors"
Day 3, August 7th:
  • Welcome each student
    • Use "Poll" feature in Zoom to check in with how they are doing (period 6 only)
    • Ask: "How are you?"✔
  • Give students a few minutes to take "Attendance" question in Google Classroom✔
  • Ask any student if they want to share their #mathartchallenge from yesterday or take some time to finish
  • Continue to practice online norms✔
  • Give any students time who need to sign up for Remind, Google Classroom
  • Review schedule for next week & make sure students are signed up for Remind & Google Classroom✔
  • Let students know that their small group assignments during the 80 minute block will be posted in Google Classroom in the Stream and will be emailed Saturday morning(This is still in the works.)
    • 3 20 minute blocks
    • Average size of each small group will be about 12 
    • Small group will then be broken up into smaller pods of 3 to 4
  • Have students create a Loom video doing a quick intro and giving feedback to the 1st 3 days & turn into Google Classroom as first assignment✔
Now onto week 1!  After doing more listening and learning, I am changing gears a little bit. The goal is to move from me getting to know the kids to the kids getting to know each other.  From the videos that I have seen so far, the kids miss seeing their friends a lot. The question becomes then how do I build a sense of community online? Well, I really don't have a definitive answer. But I do know from teaching summer school, small groups is the key.

So this week forward, I will take the 80 minute block we have and break apart the class into small groups. But I think I will start with the whole class first and then the class will split.

Day 4: Learning Goals
  • Give 10 to 15 minutes to answer the "Attendance" question.
  • Assign students into one of 2 groups.
  • Each group's task will be to discuss and answer the following (20 to 25 mins):
    • What does working and learning together look like online?
    • What does working and learning together not look like online?
    • Students will jot down ideas in a notebook as they discuss recording who said what
Day 5: Learning Goals
  • Give 10 to 15 minutes to answer the "Attendance" question.
  • Students will be in same groups.
  • Each group's task will be to:
    • One person to create a Google Slide and share with other team members
    • Each person will contribute typing into slide based on what was shared last class
    • Add audio/video note from each person reading using "Record to Slides" Chrome app (not sure of this, might just have my Math 2H test it out for me)
The homework for the week will be to do the Desmos "Getting to Know you."

Monday, August 3, 2020

My Plan: Week 0

I have probably changed my mind on what I am going to do at least a couple of dozen times just within a week.  Most of those are because I am not jotting things down. So I will circle back to the same ideas over and over again. So I thought, why not use my blog as my planner? I can record what I am going to do and that way I have a record to go back to reflect, revise, and repeat.

So here it goes.  

Here's my course assignment for 2020-21:



I sent out an email Saturday (August 1st) morning with a video created by Loom introducing myself. It also included a link to a survey to collect information.  I was pleasantly surprised at how many responses and views I got within 48 hours. And still coming in.

I then sent out another email early this afternoon (August 3rd).  In this one there was another video, but this time it was a recording of myself and a dear former student who helped me translate into Spanish. (Thank you Valerie!) I also included information on how to join Remind and Google Classroom.  Again, pleasantly surprised.  Not at the same rate, but I will take it.

It's been really tough communicating with students, parents and caregivers because the only method is email.  Our automated phone school system (School Messenger) hasn't been set up and who knows when it will be. So I feel very fortunate at the connections I am making so far.

In fact, a parent and two students have emailed me back with concerns and questions. So all in all, not too bad. This is going to take a week or two to get everybody to get back into a routine of checking emails and texts. But for parents & caregivers, I am going to send weekly contacts every Saturday morning at the same time. I think that will make it easy and predictable for them - I hope.

Here's the "Bell" Schedule we've been given for August 5th through 7th.


Day 1, August 5th:
  • Welcome each student
    • Use "Poll" feature in Zoom to check in with how they are doing
    • Ask: "How are you?"
  • Fundamental norms to follow on Zoom
    • Put distractions away
    • Active listening
    • Respectful & kindness
    • Use "Chat" only when instructed to do so
  • Students will sign up for Remind & Google Classroom, if they haven't done so already
    • Share code and get kids to sign up right then and there
    • Share screen showing who's signed up
    • Give students a few minutes to take "Attendance" question in Google Classroom
  • Students will create a Desmos account
  • Play "Collecting Numbers" by Kurt Salisbury, a modified version to fit my time frame
    • Set pacing to slide 1 & 2
Day 2, August 6th:
  • Welcome each student
    • Use "Poll" feature in Zoom to check in with how they are doing
    • Have students find something that represents how they feel and have them hold up and have them share why in the chat
  • Continue to practice online norms
  • Any students who haven't signed up for Remind & Google Classroom will do so
  • Give students a few minutes to take "Attendance" question in Google Classroom
  • Remind students to complete the survey with their caregivers as soon as possible
  • #mathartchallenge by @anniek_p: "Looping Colors"
Day 3, August 7th:
  • Welcome each student
    • Use "Poll" feature in Zoom to check in with how they are doing
    • Ask: "How are you?"
  • Give students a few minutes to take "Attendance" question in Google Classroom
  • Ask any student if they want to share their #mathartchallenge from yesterday or take some time to finish
  • Continue to practice online norms
  • Give any students time who need to sign up for Remind, Google Classroom
  • Review schedule for next week & make sure students are signed up for Remind & Google Classroom
  • Let students know that their small group assignments during the 80 minute block will be posted in Google Classroom in the Stream and will be emailed Saturday morning
    • 3 20 minute blocks
    • Average size of each small group will be about 12 
    • Small group will then be broken up into smaller pods of 3 to 4
  • Have students create a Loom video doing a quick intro and giving feedback to the 1st 3 days & turn into Google Classroom as first assignment
I am crossing my fingers that this plan will work.  But after Wednesday, I will have a better idea. 



Wednesday, July 29, 2020

What Am I Doing?

At first, when I was planning this summer for this school year, my focus was on how was I going to deliver content? So I looked through the standards and identified priority standards.  Luckily that part wasn't a lot of work thanks to my mentor Lauren Johnson (@mrsjohnsonCA).  She had already done so much of the work and even created pacing with activities embedded.  All I had to do was to think about how to pare it down some more.  I also attended webinars and looked at different platforms which helped me figure out how to structure my delivery - hypothetically of course.

But then teaching summer school changed that. Although it went better than I expected, there was an area that I regret the most I didn't invest enough time in the first week - building community and relationships.

So not making that mistake twice.

The only challenge is how to do that virtually? So I have been thinking about that a lot in the last few weeks. Here's what my plan (subject to change):

Week 1 & 2: "Getting to Know You" 

My focus is for me to get to know my students, my students to get to know me and to get kids to know each other.  This will be of course something throughout the semester. So here's the how:
  • Sending out Google Forms
  • Using Flipgrid & Kami as introductions
  • Using Desmos AB to check in (@AnkerMath recently posted a great one!)
  • Using Loom to record instructions along with texts/emails.
This is going to be really tough virtually.  My approach is to take things slowly when building relationships and be 100% authentic. I won't do things that are not me.  Kids can see right through that.  So that usually takes a couple of months or more.  I also rely heavily on body language. So I am not going to rush through this.  

Laurie Brewer (@BrewMath) recently gave sage advice:


So I am keeping that in mind.  Talking "at them" will mean I have lost them. And what kid doesn't like doing Desmos!

Week 3: "Communication is Key"

For the 3rd week, I want to help my students & caregivers develop a habit of two-way communication through different modes. 
  • Teaching email etiquette
  • Using Remind appropriately (students only)
  • Using Talking Points (caregivers only)
  • Understanding how to navigate within Google Classroom and use the different tools
I have tried in the past on how to properly write emails in the past, but I know I didn't do it thoroughly.  But after the emails that I received during the spring and summer from students and caregivers, I have to take the time to teach it explicitly.  The same goes for texting through Remind.  I think I may make these assignments. Using Google Classroom should be pretty straightforward since most students are already familiar. Then once we get a bit of a rhythm going, I can then start to transition kids to Canvas. But I don't want to overwhelm myself or my kids on juggling too many things at once.  Slow and steady. 

Week 4: "Practicing Tools"
  • Desmos
  • Flipgrid
  • Edpuzzle
  • Deltamath
So for this week, the goal will be to understand and practice using these particular platforms on a deeper level.  I going to use Flipgrid definitely starting the first two weeks. But now will be a time for me and my students to use it as a way to carry on discussions. (Not sure how, but will figure it out.)  Edpuzzle has certifications for students. One that I would like to assign is the one on "Digital Citizenship."  This week will also be to understand and practice how to learn from videos.  Sara VanDerWerf's (@saravdwerf) blog post on this is exactly how I will be doing this.

There will be some overlap, but want to make each week stand on its own. And again, things are subject to change quite quickly.  And coming from a person who is a planner and doesn't enjoy spontaneity - I am hoping not. 

Look out for the next blog post where I will be providing more detail!  


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