Re-Think & Re-Imagine – Teaching is Hard!

Teaching in 2020 is hard, challenging and difficult. We have all heard this through conversations at the grocery store, families, co-workers or even the news. I 100% agree. It is hard. It is challenging. It can be difficult.

The reason why many teachers find it challenging is not due to the fact that they don’t know their curriculum, it is the fact that teachers are having to rethink and redesign their lessons during their remote teaching blocks to help make learning as impactful and meaningful as possible. Teachers are not able to take every single lesson that they have taught before and ‘just’ put it online. Much more thought goes into making sure the lesson makes sense.

Two recent activities speak to the notion above, a mathematics and a science example. Pre-pandemic, in both scenarios, the teachers would be able to make photocopies of an activity they wanted students to complete with paper and pencil/color pencils, in either groups or individually. Seeing as though students are experiencing the lesson remotely at home, the teachers had to re-think and re-imagine how the lesson could run. It all came down to what was the true goal of the activity and how they could design the activity to fit the current situation that we all find ourselves in.

CHEMISTRY EXAMPLE

Mrs. Nutting, along with Mrs. Anderson, came to our office wondering how they could take a lesson that they had always done in person and flip it so that students could complete it during a remote learning block. The goal of the lesson was for students to be able to graph data and summarize what they discovered. In past, students would hand plot the points in the graph and then answer some questions. To see a sample of what is being described, click HERE. A question that came up was “how can I get students to annotate on top of a graph?”

We knew that taking a picture of the work was not going to be an option as the teacher wanted to be able to truly see what was created. (sometimes with taking pictures, full details can not be seen) We had to rethink the lesson. Instead of trying to mimic everything that was done through a Google Document, we decided to reimagine in a Jamboard file.

Why did we decide to do this? 1. We wanted an easy space where students could annotate on top of a graph. 2. We wanted a space that was visually appealing and felt different from ‘just’ sharing another Google Document. Basically getting away from filling out a worksheet. The gif below shows the transformation.

In creating the Jamboard file, click HERE to view, we also reimagined what we wanted students to tell us. Instead of having them answer three questions in complete sentences, we decided to create a word bank where students would drag the appropriate answer into the appropriate spaces. What ended up being created was a nice summarization activity for the students that they can access at a later date. Three different colors were purposely changed on the stickies so that the teacher could quickly get an idea of whether students were on the right track. This should help with assessment purposes. (Yes, students could change the color or change the words, but we were trying to think ahead on how to help streamline the digital review process of student work).

You will also notice that in the Jamboard file, on slide 2, a gif was created to help walk students through the process of creating a graph in Google Sheets if students did not have that prior knowledge. Students were also shown how they can upload a screenshot of their work into a Jam file. The idea here is that we are tying to predict all the issues that might arise so that during the remote learning block, students can truly focus on the task and not have to worry about whether or not technology is going to get in the way.

MATH EXAMPLE

Mrs. Kerns came to me with a lesson where she would typically hand students a worksheet with four different quadratic functions in factored form. The purpose of the lesson is for students to learn how to graph quadratics with the help of knowing key facts about the functions. She had to re-think and re-imagine how to do this activity since she was going to be teaching her students in a remote block.

Questions that came to mind: How can I easily see the work that they completed during the remote block without having students take a picture of their work or show a piece of paper through their small window in a Google Meet? How can I get students to draw graphs easily who might not have touch screen chromebooks?

The gif below gives an idea of what the Google Doc looked liked and where we landed with the Jam file. (Yes the math in the demo is wrong 🙂 ) Click HERE to see the Jam file.

We landed on creating a Jamboard file. Each slide has the quadratic function with a place for the student to graph the function. You will also notice that there are stickies created where students can click and drag the correct answers to the appropriate characteristic of the function. Circles (points) were also provided below the graph so that students could place points in the correct location of where the graph was located. Is Jamboard the only application a teacher could use to mimic a paper/pencil activity? No. We could have implemented a Desmos activity, but landed with Jamboard.

REFLECTING

In both scenarios, teachers were not able to truly mimic the in person activity during their remote block. I think that this is what adds to the stress on teachers. They want what is absolutely best for the students. They want the students to gain all the skills and knowledge, but in the setting that we are in, we all have to understand that students will not necessarily be able to gain all of those skills. The teachers each had to make a sacrifice through the re-imaging process, but in the end, I think they were very happy with the end result. It took a decent amount of time from initial conversation to creation of the re-imagined activity. And this was just one lesson.

I am really proud of these teachers for being willing to re-imagine and re-think their lesson. Math and Science are those two fields where paper and pencil are still used heavily in the classroom and it is a bit more tricky to find ways to make things work in a digital environment.

These two examples also go to show the potential with Jamboard. This tool really has been helpful for teachers and students during remote learning blocks.

If you would like to chat about how you can re-image and re-think a lesson, you know where to find me. All the best to the educators out there! Pat yourself on your back for all that you are doing. Teaching is hard. Teaching is challenging. Teaching is difficult. Also remind yourself that teaching can be also be very rewarding and why you got into the profession. We all will get through this unique time with the help and support of one another.

And that is my Spiel…

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