It’s difficult to manage new technology while you’re also trying to manage your class and teach content. In order to make it easier, create an outline template that you can follow to stay on track.
45-Minute Lesson Example
Greet and Hello, -00:10 to 00:00
If it’s possible, open the classroom 5 to 10 minutes before and let students chat and catch up with each other. This is a good time to do a wellness check on students and start taking attendance if you are required to do so. You can display standards and objectives in the chat box, or if you have a “scrolling” feature, display them across the bottom of the screen.
Start the official lesson on time. It’s tempting to wait for more students to arrive, but once you get into that habit, students learn that you aren’t going to start on time and quit showing up until they know you’ll be starting.
Opening “Hook”, 00:00 to 00:10
Start your lesson with an interactive game, some sort of novelty, and/or something fun! You want them to want to show up on time and participate. This is especially important if you’re having attendance issues.
Offering something engaging is a good way to get kids to show up (and so is the 10-minute meet and greet before class, for some students - they are especially in need of familiar human contact right now, so use that to everyone’s advantage).
Whenever possible, do NOT complete the “fun thing”. Save part of it for the last 10 minutes for the same reasons. You want them to want to stay throughout the entire class.
Content Presentation and Interaction 00:10 to 00:35
Try very hard to keep your content presentation to 25 minutes or less. The longer you go, the more their minds will wander.
Start with review work to activate prior knowledge and give students a “hook” to hang new knowledge on. Review completed work, helping students see how to arrive at correct answers
Assign any new work you may have. Explain any content that is new, and remember to leave time for them to ask questions.
Closing Hook, 00:35 to 00:45
You may be tempted to skip this, but it’s so important to leave your students with something fun and interactive.
Remember, they aren’t locked in a building right now. You have to give them a reason to connect right now - you’ve got to make attendance worth their while.
Complete a game you started in the opening, do a completely different game or fun thing, and say your goodbyes. If a student sneaks out, call them. Send them an email or a “snail mail” card. Let them know you know they were there and left early, and that you miss them when they are gone.
Before you leave the classroom, quickly remind students what they learned. Ask them to do an exit ticket, typing something they’ve learned in the chat box for a quick check.
Then be sure you mention something fun you plan to do the next time. Make sure you connect with each student on their way out and invite them back. Tell them you’ll miss them. Ask if they are doing well. Make a connection that will plant a seed for them to return for the next class.
Because, the time to start drawing them into the next lesson isn’t the ten minutes before you start. It’s the last 5 to 10 minutes of one class, and the 24 or 48 hours in between that class and the next.
Live Lessons are Primarily for Focusing on Student Wellbeing
In the average circumstance, we spend a lot of time focusing on Bloom’s - helping students develop and use higher order thinking and executive functioning skills.
This is not that situation, however. Right now we are in Maslow’s territory. Basic physical, mental, and emotional needs are taking first priority - and they should be.
Does that mean you should abandon higher order thinking and executive functioning? Goodness, no! Continue offering opportunities to use those brain “muscles” and do heavy lifting. Some students are perfectly fine. Some students actually need that challenge, or they won’t be okay. Routine problem solving that has nothing to do with personal survival, and the challenge of learning or practicing learned material is precisely what some students need.
Just be careful to keep in mind that not all students can get there right now. Don’t overtax those whose brains are in survival mode.
Conscious Discipline, the social-emotional curriculum by Dr. Becky Bailey, suggests routines like breathing exercises and well-wishing for students to take their worries and fears and consciously place them on the back burner, setting their minds for learning time. That may help those students in the middle bridge the gap between “Maslow’s” and “Bloom’s”.
This is an excellent way to begin class. It only takes 30 seconds to a minute to invite students to take some deep breaths, silence their busy minds, and refocus on the learning at hand. It’s a good way to begin the content-portion of a lesson (and it’s a good habit to form and continue once you’re back to face-to-face teaching again).
Keep in mind that now is just not a great time for a lot of new or heavy content in general, even for students doing just fine. Allow for that modification.
45-minutes’ worth of content per WEEK is enough, which is why our suggestion above is for 25 minutes of focused content delivery. Some content is easier to teach and learn. Some content is denser, more challenging, and all-around more difficult. You know what your students struggle with each year and should be able to support them and adjust accordingly.
Your live lessons should be heavily focused on the students themselves. You can always record denser material for easy and on-demand access.
The Topsy-Turvy World of Online Education
Parents are teachers, students are working alone, and teaching time is very limited. You may be feeling completely out of place and even sort of unnecessary right now. Many teachers are so frustrated that they have so little control over what’s happening and so little opportunity to make what feels like any difference in their student’s lives.
Many teachers are feeling like relationship-building is impossible in this situation.
We want to encourage you. You are able to continue building relationships. You can invest in your students. It is not impossible.
It is different.
In the face-to-face classroom, you are not encouraged to call your students directly, meet them in a chat or online classroom, or bring paperwork and leave it on their doorsteps.
Now is a time for all those things.
Be safe. Be aware. Record everything.
But check on your students. Get permission from their parents, and make those connections.
You may be doing less teaching and more relationship-building now than you ever have before - and that’s okay!
Check on parents. Check on siblings. Do parades with the rest of the staff (each person a safe six-feet away and in their own vehicle). Leave toilet paper on doorsteps. Use the time you would be using for deep, in-depth planning and teaching for thinking of ways to connect.
When we can’t build the Bloom’s, we’ll build the Maslow’s!
Office hours are probably one of the new essentials required by your district leaders, and you may be at a loss as to what exactly you’re supposed to be doing during this time.
Basically, the idea is to just be available to family members and students. Many teachers try to contact students they haven’t seen, families that may have questions or need technical help, or use blocks of this time for tutoring and helping students catch up as needed.
Word to the wise: this doesn’t need to be more than 3 or 4 hours each day, at most. If possible, schedule one of those hours during the early evening (maybe between 6 and 7 or so) once or twice a week for those parents who are essential workers and are gone throughout the day. They may need to catch up with you then, and they might even be helping their children with schoolwork during that time.
Although you may not enjoy meeting anyone on camera, it may be one of the best ways to do it. You can often record conversations, which can help you and the family remember what was discussed (hopefully saving you some clarification calls and emails).
It’s also nice during this time when we feel isolated from each other to be able to see the person or people you are talking to.
When you are not actively pursuing conversations with parents or students, tutoring, or otherwise engaging, use that office time to do whatever else you’ve got to do to satisfy the requirements of your school or district. Grade, plan, make spreadsheets, create worksheets - whatever you need to do.
We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: please, please take care of yourself. Don’t work more than 8 or 9 hours a day, including everything from learning new online systems, all those Zoom meetings (many of which should be emails and not meetings), talking to parents, grading, and planning.
Because you are likely working from home - your safe space - it’s very easy to slip in a few hours here or there, especially when you have your own children.
Don’t do it.
It’s not good for your mental or physical health.
And if you don’t do 8 hours a day?
You have got to take care of yourself and your family right now. That has to be your first priority. Everything else is secondary. Yes, our little workaholic friends, even your job.
Take care of yourself. You are so important to us.