August 11, 2020

Easy Organization for Virtual Teaching


Like many across the country, our school is heading back virtually to stat the year. We have yet to formulate a real plan and as an ELA teacher for kindergarten this leaves me with certain anxieties. However, I know we're beginning those important conversations and I know we'll pull something together that is cohesive and works for our incoming families.

Teaching virtually isn't ideal for any teacher...that is, unless you're teacher. Working with primary students, it can be difficult to form those necessary connections, establish a strong and safe classroom community, and begin learning content if we're not even sharing the same space. That's why it's so important that we all begin our years differently than we have in years past.

Here are a few ideas that I'm excited to try out this year and a few inspirations from teachers from all over who have gotten creative about this whole virtual learning business!

Create a pacing guide

I first began creating myself a pacing guide because it was one thing I wasn't prepared with when I first started last year. So, I took it upon myself to create a document that I could add, edit, and change things as the year progressed. However, I didn't account for Covid-19 and the eventuality that it would cause all of us to be flipped on our heads. Now that we're starting the year virtually (and quite possibly this way for a long while) it's ever so important to have a foundation and a pacing guide can be just that.

To create mine I simply started a document where I listed out the kindergarten ELA objectives I need to cover within the year. I used this as a reference for my own guide and adapted it to what I specifically needed. I also added columns for sight words and the Alphafriend we'll be learning each week for quick reference. I then broke it down week-by-week and started filling in each section with the read alouds I'd want to use, the objective I'd introduce, and the activity I planned to teach related to that objective. Once I had that laid out I simply moved things around, accommodated for 1 or 2 week units, and planned vacations or breaks. 

I'm so glad I began this document and even with us teaching virtually, the guide can easily accommodate for extended time at the beginning to teach and practice Seesaw, logging in to Zoom for class time, and the behaviors required for virtual classes to be successful. I also know we'll be spending more time on SEL and get-to-know-you activities.

Create a Google Classroom or Site

Now more than ever do your student families need access to important class information. Distance learning requires us to present our curriculum in a way that's easy for parents and students to access and navigate. I am personally attempting to use a Google Sites this year for English class so that parents have a one-stop-shop for all things distance learning for English. I love that sites easily allows me to directly link to documents in my Google Drive and to external sites like my YouTube channel or our Seesaw classroom.

No matter which you choose to use, there are so many tutorials out there that can help you get set up. Another great way to make your site more user friendly is the use of those awesome Bitmoji interactive classrooms (like mine above)! I'm so amazed at the creativity of teachers!

Create a schedule for yourself and your students

Since learning/teaching from home is quite a change in learning environments, it's so important that we all schedule ourselves out and stick to it. Students thrive with routine and predictability and parents appreciate it when they know what to expect each day/week. So, try and create a schedule that allows everyone to work smarter and not harder this back to school.

I personally love sharing a graphic with families on my class site (see example above) that gives them a framework to go off of. It also helps them keep perspective about their child's day and what should be expected in terms of school work and screen time. Some parents assume that their child should be plugged in and busy with school work for a full 8 hours during the day (like they would be while at school) while others are more relaxed and may see schooling as optional. However, that's just not realistic nor is it healthy. So, by sharing a visual schedule to parents that outlines the school day while learning at home (keeping within guidelines for age appropriateness) will help give parents the proper perspective heading into the year.

**the graphic above is just an example of a similar routine for lower elementary students.

Start the year slow and steady

Learning online is very new for everyone, even if you or your students dipped their toes in the DL pond at the end of last year. We all need to have grace for ourselves and our incoming families because starting the year where you can't hug or play is going to be hard. With that said, start your year with a ton of SEL, emotion check-ins, and behaviors associated with using Zoom (or whatever video conferencing program your school is using). Some ideas include: getting-to-know-you activities, All About Me units, a ton of read alouds about back to school, feelings, and making friends, as well as games and icebreakers. It's our intention to make back to school just as fun as we would if we were in the get creative and hook your kiddos in!

Here are some more activities that can easily be adapted to teaching virtually:

Although starting the year online is not ideal for anyone involved, just know you've got this! The most important thing is that we have all been called to be there for our students and their families the best we know how. I wish every single teacher out there the best of luck as we all enter into an uncertain school year!

Happy back to school!

August 9, 2020

Homework Menus Perfect for Distance Learning


When we received word that our school would be starting 100% virtually to begin the year, I knew I had to begin adjusting my approach to lessons and homework. I had spent a big part of my summer getting organized by creating a pacing guide for myself and even updating my homework process. Now, with Covid and new ways of doing things, I was yet again forced to rethink how I would assign and receive homework during the year.

Last year was my first year at my current school and therefore it was a year of learning the pace and figuring out what worked well from my previous teacher and areas I wanted to improve. One component of my English program that I wanted to rethink was the homework. Previously it was a journal that went home and I would introduce the weekly assignment, model it for the kids, then send it home. I found myself having to also email parents a PDF copy since the physical hardcopy may or may not go missing from a child's backpack to when it gets home. It added more work for me and even though many of my students worked hard on their assignments I felt I could make the activities more meaningful.

So, I started working on a weekly packet that I would print and send home that would have 1 activity for 4 nights. The students would complete the work then send the packet back on the due date. Simple, right? Well, introducing Covid to the scene last year really put a wrench in my plans and here I was having to rethink, once more, how I could incorporate homework that wasn't overwhelming for me or my students...

Homework Menus and why they work

I had seen these being used over on Instagram and Pinterest and they really seemed to be useful in more ways than one. 
  • It's simple prep on my end - just insert the activities for the month and print.
  • It gives students choice over the activities they want to work on each night.
  • It allows for flexibility since students have the entire month to complete each activity.
  • They are very customizable and can cross subjects easily!

How I plan to use them for English class

Using Homework Menus are a great way to keep kids engaged and practicing key concepts taught during their live class sessions. My homework is more than just busy work and I make sure to cover a variety of skills including ELA, social-emotional, and doing something kind for others. I find that making menus like these allow you to really make each assignment fun and meaningful while touching on key skills students should practice independently at home.

Easily customize your homework activities!

One thing I was really going for in making these is to make it less work for everyone involved. For me, I really enjoy plugging in my activities and being done with it. In my resource I've given you the control on how to customize it for the needs of your class - just type directly into the document and it automatically fills for each month. Change activities as you need to and change up the words and letters for the month. It really is the easiest things you can prep for this year whether you're in-person or teaching virtually.
I hope you find these homework menus to be a useful tool in your teaching this upcoming year! I know the future looks so uncertain, but just know you got this!

August 3, 2020

Back to School SALE 2020

It's that time of year again and oddly enough it's feeling a bit daunting given that I (and so many teachers across the country) am going back virtually for back to school. Where there once was an excitement around getting back to the classroom, setting up, and eagerly awaiting my new students...this year is leaving me with a feeling of uncertainty.

How will I get to know my students through a computer?

How will they get to know me?

What will the first few weeks look and feel like being back virtually?

There are so many question and yet so little answers. But, what does remain the same is how connected this online community of teachers are. From bloggers, Instagrammers, to teacher-authors on Teachers Pay Teachers...we're all in this together and helping each other out with amazing resources. Even better is when those awesome resources are ON SALE!

That's right! It's time for TpTs annual Back to School Sale and I am so excited to share a number of my favorite products that are on sale Aug 4th-5th this week!!

Customer Favorites

Year after year I get so much feedback about this bundle and I am so glad so many teachers have found these lesson plans and lessons so helpful as they prepare their groups! Be sure to check this out as it's been saving me so much time up front!

There's nothing more precious for a teacher than a management system that runs itself. These "think sheets" have worked wonders in my class because it makes students accountable in the moment and provides easy communication for parents at home. See how this has quickly become one of my top sellers!

When I taught 2nd grade citizenship was a social studies objective and aside from learning about the basics of communities and the like, I created this activity that gets students thinking about this Pledge we recited every morning. Take your students on a vocabulary tour while learning about the purpose behind the Pledge of Allegiance.

NEW Covid Resources!

It's such a weird feeling to have to even discuss this at the beginning of the year, but being honest and getting students involved in the process of staying safe during such times makes all the difference. Read this post to learn more about what's included in this activity!

No matter what, primary teachers always start the year with hygiene and washing hands - this year, however, it's super duuuuper important. This is a great way to combine some content ELA standards with this discussion and get kids not only thinking and practicing washing hands, but becoming experts and sharing about the importance of it.

Back to School Favorites

Kickstart your school year with this amazing bundle of resources! It includes 3 of my most popular resources: Guided Reading Bundle, Behavior Management Bundle, and Literacy Center Rotation Cards! This is an amazing time to get 25% off this entire resource filled to the brim with activities and tools to get you started!

PLUS! With every purchase you receive a BONUS Star of the Week SEL resource absolutely free!

The first week back to school is made up of a variety of lessons that aim to establish your classroom culture, rules and expectations, and appropriate behaviors. Let me take over for you with this awesome resource that has you covered. It's a complete lesson plan for the first week of school which includes recommended read alouds, printables, and interactive tools for students.

There's so much to dig into this BTS Sale and I can't wait to stock up myself for the year ahead! Thank you in advance for shopping this sale and supporting your fellow teachers out there. Good luck to everyone heading back to school and hope to connect with you here and on Instagram!