Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Teacher Tuesday - Online Teaching

So this is a post that I feel overwhelmingly under-qualified to write - but I feel like that's why some of you want to read it.  How a non-online teacher is setting up an online classroom is for sure something that I was googling last week - and as most things in teaching - sharing best practices is how we all get better.  Ideally I would have a month or more of this under my belt before sharing, but I know lots of y'all are in the same boat as I was/am and so I'm sharing today.   So... take from this what you find helpful and leave the rest.  ;) 

I want to preface this with by saying that I feel like if there's a "sweet spot" in this situation I feel like I'm sitting right in it.  I'm teaching one subject area (instead of an elementary teacher prepping allllll subjects for every day) and I can be a little more relaxed on assessment because it's not high school (where GPAs and graduation and all of that is involved).  

Since my resources (notes and homework pages) were already created and ready-to-go I knew that I wanted to continue using those as "normally" as possible.  I also thought that the more consistent I could keep things, the easier the transition would be for my students.   So as far as getting those materials to students I knew that Google Classroom was going to be the way to go.

I was already using Google Classroom as a means of communication with my students - posting announcements, supplemental material, etc. pretty much daily so my students were used to interacting on there and all of my classrooms were already set up electronically.  Thank GOODNESS there wasn't a learning curve in that aspect.  

The main part that I was struggling with was HOW to get the lessons to students.  I considered teaching "live" on  Zoom or Google Meet but knowing that not every kid would have access to a computer all day, that some kids may be watching siblings during the day while their parents work, etc., etc., etc. so I decided to pre-record my lessons instead.

I ordered a  "selfie ring light/phone holder"  (affiliate link) onAmazon, got myself set up and started recording.  The ring light was for my papers, not my face :) hahaha

I walked through my notes pages just like I would in class... but had to improvise with some of the examples.  I used my phone to record them and then edited them in iMovie.  

Here's where I ran into some major issues.  I really didn't worry about making my lessons perfect on the "first take" because I figured I could just cut and paste and piece them together in iMovie since I was comfortable with that.  Unfortunately, that's when all Hell broke loose.  For whatever reason certain parts of my edited movies wouldn't export out of iMovie (not all of them which was the weird part) and I spent HOURS AND HOURS of frustration getting these uploaded to Vimeo (some are on YouTube too... I got desperate and uploaded them to wherever I could) . 

I've started prepping my lessons for next week and I'm doing "one take" and have no plans of editing anything because #aintnobodygottimeforthat ;)

Once I had all of my videos uploaded I was able to schedule "announcements" on Google Classroom that included the links to the videos as well as blank copies of the notes for them to print and fill out. (side note: I did a survey of my students last week making sure everyone had access to printers)

I scheduled a week's worth of announcements ahead of time to take that off of me for the week.

I created assignments in Google Classroom and students are printing off their homework paper, filling it out and then submitting it in photo or pdf form.  I like that I can see who has turned it in and that everything is organized... way more than if I was trying to keep track of emails with attachments.  Again, I scheduled a week's worth of assignments set to publish every morning.

So the piece that I was missing was the face-to-face interaction that you get in a classroom (in-person or in a "live" video setting).  The ability to ask questions and get verbal responses, engage, etc.  

I decided to jump on the FlipGrid train and set up grids for my classes.  I was able to combine some of my class periods just to simplify a bit and it was SO EASY to set up.  Once I had them set up I posted the invitation code on our Google Classroom and kids were up and running.

The premise of FlipGrid is that a teacher can post a question/topic and then students respond in video format.  We tried it out over the weekend with sharing our pets :) 

My plan is to post a new "topic" every day with a quick "good morning" video and then students can reply to that with video questions.  Obviously this just started yesterday but it was better than I thought - as kids were watching the notes or working on homework they filmed their questions and I was able to respond back showing myself working it out, etc.  Math questions can be hard for kids to ask/answer via email so this app has been a huge asset.

The last component for me was communication - this was brand new for everyone and students and parents are anxious about this "new normal".  I wanted to make sure my communications were clear, concise and covered everything I needed them to know at the same time so they could refer back to it throughout the week.  I created this little "week at a glance" and sent it out to parents on Sunday night and my plan is to edit it and send it out weekly.

Well, there it is.  Now I'm just crossing my fingers that it all works like I think it will!  I'm planning a Google Meet for Friday with each of my classes to talk about what they feel like worked/didn't work and will be soliciting parent feedback as well and tweaking over the weekend.  I'll either update this post or do a second post talking about what has worked and what hasn't after I have a couple of weeks down. 

So here's where I need help from some of y'all who have MUCH MORE experience online teaching... I'm having a hard time figuring out how to mark and return their papers to them daily.  Right now I'm just going to write the problem numbers that they miss in the private comments section of the assignment so that they can get quick feedback - but if there's a better way PLEASE let me know!

HAPPY Tuesday, friends!


  1. I can't even imagine how blessed your students (and their parents!) feel with you being their teacher. xo

  2. We have switched over to Zoom instead of Google Meet in both of my daughters' classes. It was a much easier format for everyone to chat/meet in.

  3. Great info! 3rd grade teacher here- we are all just trying to figure it out. Thanks for sharing! Sending you lots of love!

  4. You can do this, friend! You are AMAZING and I'm praying for you!!!!! All sorts of love to you right now, and here's hoping that today is easier!!!! xoxo

  5. Thank you so much! I teach 6th grade math & science. We are only doing "extension & enrichment" right now as tech gets figured out for students who don't have access. If we end up staying home longer, it will transition to actually teaching new concepts and I had no idea where to start! All of this is so overwhelming!

  6. I always thought that you were amazing but this just confirms it! What you have done to help your students and their parents through this challenging time is nothing short of brilliant! What a blessing you are to them. Also, praying for sweet Mason as your story yesterday really touched this Mimi's heart.

  7. I wish our teachers would send a note at the beginning of the week like that! Instead for my 2 girls, I have 8 teachers emailing, posting class dojos and google classroom assignments. I am still working full time so to say it is getting overwhelming is an understatement. I have had to sit down at the table every night for at least an hour fishing through all of it to get the assignments and by then it is dinner time and assignments are due the next morning. It is a learning process for us all!

  8. This is so helpful! When I grade papers online, I use the document the student submits to Google classroom, mark an X beside the incorrect answers, enter a grade & click Return. Students can then see their grade and the ones they missed. I'll be anxious to read what other teachers say. I'm certainly open to faster or more effective grading processes!

  9. You're students are so lucky to have you!

  10. Thanks for sharing this! We are using Zoom as a district, but I haven't done it yet with my students. I think Google Classroom is so easy for grading Google Docs (because you can go into editing mode and mark right on the document as a comment), but I know it's a bit different for a picture/pdf that a student might be submitting. I think making private comments might be your best bet! Best of luck! We are in this together!

    1. I am a third grade teacher who used zoom for the first time. Our first meet was a "virtual playdate" we had fun. It was nice to see them all. I was able to mute them too which was kinda nice, not gonna lie, lol. I told them to all give me a thumbs up if they could hear me. They all showed me their pets.

  11. Hi Andrea!
    Is there anyway that you can please send me via email, the LAST page where you shared the Communication letter?
    I love your format....I'm wondering if it can be "editable"??
    Then I can just plug things in for my own Kindergarten parents communication?

    This is all new to us!!! YIKES!!
    Good luck and best wishes!

  12. I teach third and we are posting pictures of the worksheet at the top of a google form and then putting the answer choices in the Google Form. For example, if the worksheet has 8 questions, we’re posting the picture of the worksheet at the top and then there would be 8 questions with answers in the form. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but that was the easiest way we could find to have them submit answers! Good luck!

  13. HS History teacher here. For me having students put their answers in a google form is MUCH easier to grade. You can set it with the correct answers and it will do the grading for you when they submit. Then you can reply with comments. Now, if you are grading their work process that is different and you are probably doing it the best way already, but for a single correct answer a form is the way to go!

  14. You seriously rock! I wish you could be my daughters 6th grade math teacher!!!


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