Planning for Distance or Blended Learning

Hey, y'all. Planning for distance or blended learning seems like a super daunting task doesn't it? There are so many things up in the air. Here are a few tips for getting organized and ready to tackle anything this year throws at us:

1. Assess the digital resources your district has available and what you'd actually use. 
Most school districts have subscriptions to at least a few online learning resources. Popular options are Brainpop and BrainpopJr., Reading A-Z and Kids A-Z, Mystery Science, Padlet, among others. Google Classroom is available to everyone. Most districts have an online math program and reading program available to students. Boom Learning and Seesaw are inexpensive tools. You get the idea. 

2. Think through what a "normal" day would look like in the classroom. 
I check in with my students first thing in the morning and we start morning meeting while we wait for the announcements to get going. We have SEL lessons (Social Emotional Learning) at least every Monday, if not more often. We have reading, writing, and math daily. We alternate between science and social studies. On Fridays, we have a little fun with art or STEM challenges. List out your subjects so that you know what you need to plan for. 

3. Start plugging apps and resources into the different subject areas.
For instance, for 2nd grade reading I may have students practice spelling on Boom Learning, then log into the reading program to read the book of the day, then head over to Google Classroom to do a written response to the story and a writing prompt. For kindergarten reading, I may have them use the reading program to listen to the daily story, head over to Boom Learning for a few reading and letter identification games, then jump onto Seesaw to snap a picture of their writing and reading response. It's up to you how you structure it, but be sure to keep your kids' age level in mind. 

We had all our apps in one Clever Portal website so the kids just logged in there and they had everything they needed. But too much jumping around causes confusion. If you're going to use multiple apps (which is not a bad idea, it will just take time getting used to), be sure they are consistent--the same apps for reading each day, the same apps for math, one central place for getting assignments, etc. 

4. Write up family letters with the expectations and login information. 
One of the toughest things about online learning is getting the kids logged in. Consistent expectations are going to be key. Families need to know exactly where to go to login for each subject area. When we started online learning in the spring, I included step-by-step directions for my families. My students knew how to login with their classroom QR codes but not with their typed in login info. Make sure each family has detailed information for each step.

And if you're starting off in the classroom but you are concerned you may move into online learning again in the future, then start off on day one teaching kids how to login to things! I wish we had had one day to do that before the state shut-down. 

5. Be consistent. 
Of course you will probably find another great resource or ten to add into the mix as you go, but when you're just getting started, stay with what you know. You can slowly add in things as kids get the hang of them, but in the beginning, go slow to go fast. 

6. Split Groups
If your district decides to use a split group model (half the kids there some days, the other half the next days), plan for it like you would plan with small groups. What I mean by that is when you teach your guided reading groups, you have some kids with you (your A group) and some kids working on independent tasks (your B group--in this case, independently at home). When you think of your split groups in this way, it makes setting up home learning a little less OMG. Introducing a project when they are at school and giving them work time on the project at home is also a great option. If you can, implement Genius Hour for "homework" or independent research projects. 

This year already looks crazy, but it could just be the push we need for some major education reform. This is our time to think outside the box and let kids be kids! Let's embrace it! 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you gained some new ideas for the upcoming school year. If you have any questions or want to bounce ideas around, feel free to email me or leave a message in the comments. 

Have a wonderful week and stay sweet!