Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Distance Learning Update

Happy Tuesday, friends!  We have two weeks of distance learning under our belt and I thought I'd share an update on a couple of things and a few "hacks" that have proved super helpful for us. 

This was me the first week of online school...

... I was STRUGGLING because I honestly felt like I couldn't get more than 7 minutes of time to sit down and get anything done and by 2:00 in the afternoon I was completely frazzled.  I'm having to rethink and reformat my classes, record videos, etc. and with what felt like constant interruption from my own kids it just wasn't working.  My own students are working during the same hours that my kids are so I don't have the option of just putting my work off until after dinner or something like that and EVERYONE needed me at the same time - something had to give!

Enter... Mason's task board. 

Mason gets easily overwhelmed by projects that he deems too long or difficult and we've learned that he works so much better with things broken down into smaller tasks.  During the first week I printed off a checklist for him, but he was REALLY struggling with how long the list looked and had a hard time moving onto a different section or task if he didn't know how to do something in the previous section.  Prioritization and just getting started can be a struggle for him which meant he had A LOT of questions and needed A LOT of direction/redirection from me.  Last weekend one of my friends posted that she had a post-it system set up for her son on a whiteboard in their office and I immediately thought of Mason.  We didn't have a white board but I did have a project display board that Luke didn't use for the science fair and so I busted out some post-its and a Sharpie and got to work...

I color coded his tasks mainly because it makes things seem more manageable... it segments things for him so it's not just 15+ yellow post-its and made sections for "to-do", "workin' on it", "explain please" and "done" and then hot glued on an "in progress folder" (I had this on hand from our back to school brinner)

The folder holds work that is multi-day and has helped so much in keeping him organized.

His teachers send out the lesson plans on Sunday afternoons and they're documents for each day.  I take that document every night and write the tasks for the next day on the post-its and put them on the board for him.  When "school" starts mid-morning he gets started he works on each post-it, moving it to the "workin' on it section" and then to the "done" section when it's complete OR the "explain, please" section if he has a question.   It was a bit of a struggle at first, but he's gotten so much better about waiting until his to-do section is empty and then coming and asking me for help on the "explain please" post-its.  It's given him more confidence, a clear visual goal and it has helped me SO MUCH because he's working for much longer stretches of time independently and is actually asking fewer and fewer questions every day.

This simple system has produced A LOT of confidence and independence and I definitely think he'll use it for our time distance learning and hopefully will take the organizational skills he learns with him when it comes to prioritizing and completing tasks as he moves on in school (and life!) 

Luke is handling his work on his own and aside from a couple of check-ins, he's got it covered.  Griffin's teacher has set up her days with online videos where she walks them through steps in various subject areas and everything is VERY clear and laid out simply enough for her to handle most of it on her own.  If that changes for either of them I'll 100% make them a board too!

As far as "teacher life" goes - my first couple weeks went as smoothly as I could have hoped but I did learn that having students submit scanned copies/photos of their homework to me was not ideal to say the least.  Because I teach math they have homework for me every day and trying to grade their submitted papers was SO HARD!  Their files were teeny, upside down, taken from what seemed like 12 feet above, etc. and MY EYES WERE ON FIRE from having to grade them all staring at a screen.  And yes - I sent out instructions (and videos!) about how to scan from your phone - but alas :)  #middleschool

I've started using Google Forms to assess instead and while there is a bit more work up front with creating the forms the fact that I can have them essentially graded for me is PRICELESS.  I will say that there's been a bit of a learning curve using Google Forms (particularly the short answer section on "quiz" mode) but I think I have it figured out at this point :) 

I mentioned in my original post that I'm using FlipGrid as a way for students to communicate with me in "real time" to ask questions and have me respond - but I did host a few ZOOM calls last week for test reviews and realized after the first one that it was really hard to explain things to kids 1) without a white board and 2) with the camera in reverse (because it flipped the paper I was trying to hold up).  My quick fix was to use my phone clip stand thing to hold my iPhone and then join the zoom call from my phone as an attendee with the phone pointing down onto my paper.  That way I could talk and the kids could click on my second attendee (my phone) to watch what I was doing on my paper...

... this was before my meeting started and you can see on the left is what showed when I joined from my phone and on the right is me hosting the meeting from my laptop.

Whew! That was  a lot!  Hoping you found this post helpful and making took away something to implement and/or modify for your house!

Happy Tuesday, friends!!!


  1. Bless you and all the teachers out there right now. It's not just our medical/emergency personnel that are our heroes, you teachers are as well. Thank you!

  2. WOW. Not surprisingly, I'm so impressed by you and your ability to tackle the working and teaching from home. Mason's board is LEGIT. Your school kids and your real kids are so lucky!

  3. Hi. I read your blog and never comment, but, in this situation, I'd want someone to tell me - even a random stranger. While using your phone as a document camera is genius, there is a setting in zoom that allows you to mirror your image so students see the paper normally. While in a meeting, click at the bottom on the arrow next to the video icon and one of the menu items should be video settings. In video settings, click on "mirror my image." Simple! You can also click on "touch up my appearance" if you so desire.

  4. Hi! Did you see that you can use the Osmo to project the work you are doing? If you google how to use the Osmo to teach online, that could be an option for you?

  5. Hi Andrea! There is also a whiteboard feature on Zoom so you can make your screen a whiteboard for your students to see. I might be harder to write on your computer screen than paper, but something to try!

  6. Andrea, I am so inspired by your creativity! You are an amazing example of how to be attentive to your kids needs, how to think outside of the box to generate creative solutions, patience and resilience in the face of change and uncertainty...the list goes on. I aspire to be a mom like you in the future!

    1. I totally agree. Andrea, this is all amazing And you have no idea how much I appreciate the suggestion of a task board. Thank you

  7. Sending you all the positive teacher vibes! Teaching my class & my "personal kids" has been a challenge. I only have two - so I'm sure 3 is even more work! Keep at it & know I'm praying for all the teachers every. single. day.

  8. I have been using ziteboard for onine teaching, it is an online white board. I have two browsers open and hit present on my google meet and the kids can see the white board on the screen beside me. :)

  9. That board is a great idea! I can imagine my 10 year old son is going to be very much overwhelmed with what the teachers plan on sending Monday. Heck, I'm overwhelmed!

  10. "Mason gets easily overwhelmed by projects that he deems too long or difficult and we've learned that he works so much better with things broken down into smaller tasks."

    Me, too, and I'm 50. I take Adderall for a reason, after all. But it only works to a certain extent.I might try the board for myself. Thanks!

  11. Kudos to you! Loving my kids teachers even more during this time! I have an 11th grader and 7th grader. Fortunately this week is spring break! Hopefully your school is allowing a little bit of grace with the teachers and students as ours is.

  12. That is an awesome idea! I may need to do something similar for my 9th grader. He gets overwhelmed very easily.

  13. Hi Andrea... I am a third grade teacher. I brought my document camera home from my classroom. I also brought home 5 white boards that I prepare before my lesson. Zoom lets you screen share and I can toggle between my doc camera and me. It is really very easy and Amazon has inexpensive doc cameras. You can also screencastify (upgrade free at this moment) a lesson which means you record it. Share it through google classroom and then they can view it when the time works for them.

  14. You can also use your OSMO to write on your screen! It's awesome!!

  15. This is brilliant! Your students and your children are blessed to have someone who cares so much in their lives:) XX

  16. I love your post it idea. I am a teacher with three kids under 10. My oldest is struggling to work independently and this might be the solution! I feel like I can't get my own work done for more than 2 minutes!

  17. I love your task board. You should try using Kami during your video meetings. You can present and write on any document. It has been a blessing to my virtual classroom.

  18. I tried this board with my daughter when I was having to walk her through everything and try to work and it has been a game changer. She never wanted to do her schoolwork and now she even says the board is fun and makes it fun!

    Thank you for a great idea!


Blog design by Get Polished | Copyright 2016