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The phrase, “This isn’t your mama’s classroom,” can’t be overstated enough when it comes to creating lesson plans in the age of online teaching. We’ve gone from textbooks to MacBooks and chalkboards to smart boards. Education is a landscape that is continuously changing and the demand for integrating virtual learning is higher than ever.
Our students are becoming more technologically savvy by the hour and keeping up with them can be challenging. Virtual learning has been described by some as, “building walls with a hammer and nails my whole life and they just gave me a nail gun with no directions on how it works.” I love the simile, but the context breaks my heart because teachers have been left in this difficult position.
I want you to know that you aren’t alone. I’m giving you permission to give yourself the same amount of grace you give your students daily. When taking on the task of creating virtual learning lessons, I want you to consider these four questions that will help you focus on what’s important when it comes to virtual learning.
This is one of the most crucial questions. I–and I’m going out on a limb to say most teachers at some point–am all too familiar with the occasional strain of trying to accommodate learning standards, best practices, and EIPs while also making lessons that will actually excite and engage your kids. It can feel like checking off a never-ending checklist. The last thing that busy teachers need is creating two lesson plans–one for in-person and another for online teaching. Save yourself time and sanity by choosing lessons that easily convert to an online setting.
If you aren’t sure how to make a lesson or activity you currently use in the traditional usable in an online setting, you’ll want to read this post with instructions for how to make a print resource digital. There is an instructional video included for all you visual learners
I want to be real and acknowledge that it’s hard to trust our youngest learners to work independently. Even our late adolescents can struggle. Questions that can arise frequently when our students are left to their own devices:
“Are we supposed to be writing this down?” Yes.
“Can I borrow a pencil? I can’t start without it.” What have you been doing for the past 15 minutes?
“What are we doing?” The directions are on the board, your paper, and I just said it out loud twice.
We also know that students get frustrated when they come across content they don’t understand. That’s normal. We can help them by being mindful and realistic of the work they are able to do independently.
Research suggests what teachers already know: student-led learning is the cornerstone of education when it comes to developing critical thinking skills. I know you might have a huge question mark over your head on how virtual collaboration looks. Let’s start with what you already know.
I want you to imagine… Excited feet pattering around the classroom. Their eyes light up with an unmistakable look; internal light bulbs going off in real time. They whisper to each other in hushed tones, peer around the room to ensure that no one is trying to steal their answers, and scribble down ideas.
This is a scene teachers crave: enthusiastic learners developing a growth mindset, unafraid to tackle deeper learning. This is a situation you’re already familiar with. Does that vision splinter when you look at the murky, unknown waters of online teaching?
I want you to imagine…curious voices chattering through laptop mics. Students are engaging with one another in a virtual setting. Screen to screen, they work on the same assignment through the wonders of technology. Fingers flutter over the keyboard keys as they navigate the challenge put before them. This new platform allows them to gain knowledge together, regardless of location.
Learning in a digital world doesn’t have to be scary. You and your students can thrive virtually.
Inevitably, making lessons fun and exciting does require some creative risks with online teaching, but when developing your lessons, you may want to consider if your students will be eager to engage. Will students ask thought provoking questions? Will they make those real world connections that bridges understanding to application?
One of my favorite ways to engage students in ELA is to use challenges that require students to use problem-solving skills. The Grammar Challenge Program, for instance, uses escape-room challenges to engage students in learning grammar concepts. Students must solve puzzles to escape dangerous experiences and crack codes to unlock secrets. The goal is engagement, and engagement can happen even with all of your students on a device.
Try one of the digital challenges for FREE here to help your students understand using commas in a list!
Is your brain buzzing with ideas? Take control of that creative energy. Don’t be afraid to invest in learning how to use Google apps so you can create virtual lessons that are interactive for your kids. Youtube is your friend! Learning how to do these things takes time and that’s perfectly normal. No one expects you to become a technological wizard overnight. Regardless of your self-perceived ability to include technology in your class, there is an app for you.
I cannot emphasize enough that teaching with virtual learning is a skill. No one starts a sport knowing how to play. Every teacher using virtual learning started somewhere. This can be your somewhere.
Lastly, my goal for Presto Plans is to make your life in the classroom easier. That has always been, and will continue to be, my mission. Whether it’s through my lessons or your own, I want you to feel like you can tackle all the challenges of virtual learning.
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