Our district, like many across the country, is going to a hybrid model for middle and high school students. Half the school will go to class Mondays and Wednesdays, with online learning Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the other half will go to school Tuesdays and Thursdays, with online learning Mondays and Wednesdays. Everyone will be home for synchronous distance learning Fridays. Because I will physically see my students (each set) two days a week for 45 minutes, that will change a lot of how I deliver curriculum and support students.
At first I wanted to bury my head in the sand and not think about it at all until late August, when we go back, but I feel it will cause a lot of stress later if I don’t even think and start to put some things in place now. I also know that so many things are up in the air right now and the district’s plan will most likely be changed as a result. My new motto this year is flexibility and grace.
So, below are five ideas I am thinking about and going to start doing before I go back in eight weeks. Regardless of the current hybrid model, or the real possibility of going to full distance learning, I will be able to use these five ideas.
1. Create a homepage for my class using Google Sites.
Everything that is posted on Classroom has a category (independent reading, weekly newsletter, classwork, etc.). This has been helpful in terms of organization, but not when a student is trying to find the assignment to do, especially if notifications are turned off. Google Sites will allow me to have major announcements, class materials, etc. housed there and Classroom for just the assignments. That way, students can easily find what activity/assignment they need to do.
2. Convert as many PDFs to digital documents.
I started to do this with my resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, and if you purchased any resource from me (or from other TpT authors), see if it’s updated to a digital version. If you have your own PDFs or Word documents you want students to complete digitally, but aren’t sure how to convert, this video is a helpful tutorial.
3. More specific Weekly Newsletter and routine days.
I have been writing and posting a weekly newsletter with my 8th graders for three years now and it has helped some students (and parents) know what general lessons were taught that day/week. This all began because many of my students weren’t using their planner, and assignments were coming in very late. (I do have a weekly agenda posted at the front of the classroom, as you can see in the picture below, but it just gives an overview of the assignments and lessons.)
Come this fall, with being in and out of school, the more routine I can make the days the better it will be for students. For example, every Monday I book talk 2-3 books and students work on STEM words (prefixes, suffixes, and root words). At least two days a month, usually on a Friday, students work on an assignment with their independent reading book.
This coming year, the days in class will have to be direct instruction. Things seem to get lost in translation when it’s just a handout with written instructions. In class time will also be for asking questions, having Socratic seminars and fishbowl debates, and writing. However, I am going to have to rethink partner and group activities. This will probably be the most difficult for me, as so much learning takes place when students talk through ideas and thinking.
Whatever is decided, the more routine I can make things for students, the less stress they (and I) will have.
4. Days home are reading days and practice days.
I dedicate the first 10 minutes of every day to either independent reading or class novel reading. That’s 50 minutes a week of reading in school. Since I know students will be on their Chromebooks for much of the day when they’re at home, stepping away from the computer to read should be a nice break. So I plan to have the first day of distance learning reading. The other day they are home, students can study their STEM words (you can find my resource here along with a video I made on how I use STEMs in the classroom) or finish up an assignment that they began earlier in the week.
5. Continue to build community inside and outside the classroom.
I never go over the syllabus and classroom routines the first few days of school. (I wrote about my first two weeks last year and you can find it here.) That isn’t going to change with the hybrid model, but I will need to be more creative when it comes to group work, peer editing, stations, etc. Learning isn’t done in isolation, and students really do better working with others, so whether it’s a 6-foot distance or an at-home distance I will need to spend some thought with this. Regardless, my goal has always been to make sure students feel included, cared for, and heard. If that community culture isn’t build, established, and maintained, than learning will not happen.
I’m curious how many of you are in this hybrid model too. If you are, what are your plans for the coming year? It’ll certainly be another interesting one, but I am trying to be hopeful and optimistic with the learning opportunities I can give to students.