Distance Learning: Things That Have Worked

Let’s talk distance learning a bit…and let me start by saying I am no expert! No one is, right? A little background on how my school year has looked: we’ve been doing distance learning since August. I had 10 students come back for a little in-person stint in October (a total of 8 days) and was still teaching 21 students remotely. Now we’re all back to learning remotely, and let me just tell you it’s been tough. I SO loved having some in-person kiddos and it broke my heart when things were changed back to distance learning for all. I had to have a bit of a mindset switch because I was feeling super negative about ALL THE THINGS! So this post is a little way for me to focus on some things that have gone well, focus on the good a bit! Hopefully some of these ideas will be helpful for you, like they have been for me!

#1: Start the morning off right!

I mean that just makes sense, right? So here are a few things I do every morning to start the morning off on the right foot:

>Morning Slide: I always have a slide showing like the one pictured above so students see this right when they log in to our meet. This slide has sort of evolved since the beginning of the school year, but a couple of must-have’s that I’ve always included are a timer and our house leader board! One thing I started including in my morning slide after a few weeks was a Problem of the Day. Students know to start on this right away (they just use good ol’ scratch paper) and then to go complete their morning Check-In (more on that below!).

>Music: I love to have music playing as students join the meet. This is something I do in the classroom so I wanted to do it remotely as well. I usually play a chillhop playlist from youtube or find some type of lofi playlist on spotify.

>Check-In’s: I always have my students complete a morning Check-In. It’s basically just a google form with some questions to get us started for the day. I first saw these on the good ol’ gram and started them back in March. I knew this was something I wanted to continue doing this school year, and I just love them. I stick to 4 questions: how are you feeling today? (and they select from a list of feelings), the answer to the problem of the day (they type in the answer they got for the problem of the day on the morning slide), a random question like “what’s something nice you’d like to tell a classmate?” or “what’s something fun you did over the weekend?”, and I always end it with “do you have anything you’d like to tell or ask Ms. L?” Simple and sweet!

>Community Meeting Activities: I always start our Community Meeting’s with an activity. I have a themed activity for each day of the week, here’s what they are:

—Marvelous Monday’s: I have a quote that I share on the slide and a question that we discuss, it’s the perfect little way to start a new week!

—Turn Your Screen On Tuesday: If you haven’t tried “Turn Your Screen On” with your kiddos it’s a good one and super simple. You basically just have all students turn their screens off, show a statement like “turn your screen on if your favorite color is yellow”, and students turn their screens on if that statement is true for them.

-Would You Rather Wednesday and This or That Thursday: I’m pretty sure everyone knows how to play these!

-Fun Friday: On Friday’s we always share our “Peak of the Week” (best part of their week) and then we always do a House Challenge. Some things I’ve done for house challenges are kahoot’s, 99math, scattegories, 4 corner’s, and a drawing contest.

I love kicking my Community Meeting’s off with a quick activity because it gets my students chatting and participating right away! I know that’s a lot but that’s it for our morning routine. I’ve found that keeping it simple, light, and predictable has been the best thing!

#2: Thank Goodness for Nearpod

Okay, I know everyone probably has their favorite platform and I’ve tried many, but nearpod seems to be my favorite and here’s why:

>Collaboration Boards: I absolutely love this feature! It’s easy to set up and a great way for students to share their ideas, as well as validate and respond to their classmate’s ideas.

>Draw It Tool: This has been the perfect way for my students to show their math digitally. Whether it’s shading in decimal grids or solving a multiplication equation using the standard algorithm, this tool is a quick and easy way for students to show their work! I’m not going to lie, it did take some time for them to get the hang of the whole click and drag action, but now they are all champs at that!

>See student work live: This is a big one for me! I’m a math teacher so seeing student work while they’re doing it was so important! Nearpod has solved this problem for me! The only thing I would add is being able to write private messages to students as they work (I think you can do this on peardeck if I remember correctly!)

>Showing student work: I absolutely LOVE using student work as an example in my classroom. It is so important to me that we build a culture where we learn from each other, and showing student exemplars as well as misconceptions is one way I do this. Being able to present student work from nearpod (you can also hide student names if you want) has been so helpful, and a great oppportunity for us to learn from eachother!

#3: Digital Organizers

I shared these graphic organizers for math on my instagram a while ago, but they have truly been so helpful! I was able to send them home with my students in their learning bags, but I have also been uploading the organizers to our nearpod slides so the students can use them digitally as well! I LIVE by these organizers in my classroom, so being able to have my students use them during distance learning was a must!

I have a resource on tpt with all of my math graphic organizers and I’ve included images of them so you can upload them to slides, etc…if you’re interested in checking those out click here!

#4: Math Websites

I have found some amazing websites for math and two of my faves are 99math and Happy Numbers, so I thought I’d share!

>99math: 99math is a great way for students to practice some basic math concepts. It’s free, simple, and FUN! I use this almost daily as a way for my fifth graders to practice their multiplication facts. They don’t need an account so it’s super easy for them to get started, I just drop the link in our Meet chat! Also,the kiddos love it! It’s sort of kahoot-ish (I know, not a word) but if you’re familiar with Kahoot it’s very similar in that there’s a leaderboard,etc and it’s essentially a “game” but they’re practicing math. You can also see a report at the end so you get some insight on how your students performed.

>Happy Numbers: Okay this website has actually been so great for independent practice! I love that it’s standards-based and students can work at their own pace on modules that are addressing their needs. Initially, when students log in to their account they take a readiness test. After your students complete the readiness test you get a report that actually gives them a grade level equivalence based on how they did on the readiness test. Then, they are assigned modules based on what they need to work on. The teacher can adjust which modules they work on and assign additional modules. Overall, this has been really helpful for me to identify intervention needs and supports during small groups and great for independent work! There’s even videos built into the modules which I think is AMAZING! If you haven’t checked out this website I highly suggest it. You do have to do a few more things in terms of log-ins and there is a free vs paid version, but I’ve just been using the free version and it has been great!

*Please note this is not a paid post, just sharing two websites that I truly love!

#5: Choice Menus

I have been assigning Choice Menus for special days like Halloween, or for students to work on independently. They have been great because 1. they’re pretty easy to set-up and 2. they give students some choice. They are also a great way to fit in some things for student interests, etc. I start with a template (here are some free templates if you’re interested)! Then, I upload the template as a background in Google Slides so students cannot manipulate the background. Last, I add activities and links in the menu so students can choose an activity, click on the link, and complete it! Super simple and fun!

Side note: If you’re interested in my choice menu templates, here’s the link! I’ve included them as images so you can upload them as the background in either PowerPoint or Google Slides. You’ll have to go in and add the activities and links, but I’ve included some brief instructions and notes on how to do this! Hope you find these helpful!

Welp, that’s all for now! This distance learning thing is tough, with a capital T but teachers manage to do things that seem close to impossible on the daily. If you’re reading this I hope you were able to get one little tip or idea from this post, but more importantly I hope you know you’re doing enough! You are amazing! We will get through this! And eventually brighter days will come!