Nothing like being sheltered in place to force one to try new online tools! In my classroom, the technology and online tools I use are Google Classroom, Kahoot, Quizlet, and Padlet. So far in the past two weeks I have used Flipgrid and Quill.org (both new to me).
Before moving online, I was very aware of how much time students spent in front of a screen. My middle school students travel to seven different classes a day, and if each of those classes had 20-30 minutes on their Chromebook, that would be 140-210 minutes of screen time just in the school day. That doesn’t factor in their cell phone use or homework later in the evening that might require a computer. Our school’s history, math, and science textbooks have now all gone digital. So I was old-school, having students bring novels and paper to school. (Yes, students could read an ebook or follow along in an audiobook when we had independent reading time, and all essays were typed, but I really thought about how much time I was having them in front of a screen when creating assignments.)
All to say that because I was aware of this, I hadn’t tried the latest and greatest apps or newest educational tools (and there are so many, it feels overwhelming!). But with our new reality, things have shifted. Besides connecting with students and caring about their emotional health and well-being, my number one academic goal was for students to keep reading. I didn’t want them to lose what we had spent so long cultivating and maintaining all year–developing a reading habit. My second academic goal was to keep writing, and to do so as authentically as possible, with as much direct feedback as I could give.
My teaching partner actually introduced me to Quill, as he heard about it from Jim Burke and Kelly Gallagher (my teacher heroes!). This site helps students work on their grammar to be better writers. I gave a basic diagnostic test two weeks ago and was able to see not only how each student did, but areas each student needs to work on. (Apparently, capitalization is a bigger issue than I thought, as many of my students struggled with that section.)
Right now, students are working on this for about 20-30 minutes a week (5-10 minutes, four days a week). I can see who has worked on it, who needs a little encouragement, and who’s ready for the next set. What’s great about this is that students can work at their own pace and work on areas where they struggle. Each assignment is tailored. When kids complete sections, I can go in and look at the total quiz score, or each question. Then, I can assign more practice with a certain section or go in a different direction. (Right now students are working through parts of speech and capitalization, but we’ll be moving on next week to a new area.) When I do assign writing, which will be with their independent reading book soon, they can use what they learned and then apply.
In no way am I affiliated with this site, I just thought I’d pass on what I am trying and what has been working for me. I encourage you to give it a try! (And right now, it’s free!) And if you are using it, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Take care and happy teaching.