Saturday, August 15, 2020

7 last minute ideas for #virtualclass

 It is almost here, FINALLY! I am so tired of professional development and agonizing over every last assignment and detail of class. I have never been more ready to get started. The 2020 school year starts here fully virtual on MONDAY! So here are some last minute tips that are helping me:

1. Have a daily check in form. -  I will not be able to judge students moods when they walk into the room, which I think is a crucial part of how class goes for the day. I created a quick Google Form. The one for the first day includes some questions about their background in Spanish as well.  When creating a Google Form, don't forget a question for their name.

2. Print those rosters. Print them in a spreadsheet format (it is a report choice in Infinite Campus) so you can quickly note nicknames, attendance, grades. Also do a run through of names so you don´t butcher them too badly on the first day. If it is a tough name make sure to ask how the student pronounces it....and try to say something positive!

3. Set those alarms! - The alarm to wake up is important, but I have set alarms on my phone for 5 minutes before each class starts so I can remember to get logged into the class meeting so students can get in. Did you know that if you use the class meeting code through Google Classroom, students can´t enter before you do? Works for nicknamed meetings too. 

4. Post ¨Getting Started¨ items - There are many students and parents with questions and having a few things posted they can do right away not only makes me look organized, but makes them a little more relaxed as well. I posted the syllabus with a Google Form to indicate acceptance, the code to join Remind, and the code to join the Flipgrid class. 

5. Reread all the directions - I know, I know. Students are not famous for their direction reading ability. However, it is our job to OVEREXPLAIN. Try not to give any excuses to a student for not doing the work. If possible, even have someone else read them to try to make them as clear as possible, especially in these first days.

6. Host a live Q&A - I sent a message to all parents and students with a meeting code (nicknamed of course) and a time so that they could come a a Google Meet and have the chance to ask questions. I did it on our Open House day. I had a meet from 3-4 and from 7:30-*=8. I had about twenty parents/students show up and they got the chance to ask some questions, and I had the chance for some one-on-one interaction with a few of my students.

7. Have a mantra - Mine is positive change. All of these changes in the world are happening because we needed to make positive changes. I am going to try to project this idea (especially the positive part) as much as humanly possible. I know virtual wasn't the start most wanted, but there are some great things about it. (How am I doing?) This also helps when there is one more meeting, one more PD, etc. Just keep saying it to yourself and try to project it.

I hope this helps. Wishing everyone a great start to the year. I know many have directives that are challenging to implement, but just focus on those relationships with the students. It will be a year of changes, but we've got this!

Monday, August 3, 2020

Let's get organized - Organizing your virtual classroom

The hardest part of planning for virtual learning is trying to organize information and assignments so that it will be easy for students, parents and me to keep up with the class information. In the spring, I just utilized Google Classroom and grouped content and assignments together week by week. This worked, for some but there were still some that were confused and used it as an excuse to give up. I knew I needed something better.

I have seen all the Bitmoji love, and was reluctant to jump in because I know how much I love the chance to be creative and thought I would get lost down the rabbit hole. So, I decided to go with an online bulletin approach to keep things simple. I think this makes is clear for parents and students and is easy to follow. Best of all it was pretty easy to create. I started a new Google Slides presentation, chose a transparent background, drew some shapes, inserted text boxes, and linked everything. And yes....I did update my Snapchat Bitmoji to Spanish and used it a little bit. 

My plan is to post this each week to Google Classroom and send it home via email to parents. As for the actual assignments, I am going to create a Topic for each week and then add this board and the assignments for the week as well as the recordings of the live class under that topic individually. This should simplify the view for students so there is no confusion about what is due each week.

Here is a picture of the landing page. I still have a few things to do, but the ideas are there. I am excited to record myself saying all the vocabulary we will be using so students can refer back to it. I worry about connectivity issues when everyone is streaming live, so I thought this was a good backup.

I added another slide for each class day. (We are going to alternating blocks with Friday for extra help.) With the block, Monday and Tuesday are together and Wednesday and Thursday are together. I made sure to have the Unit Goals and the State Standards just as I would for lessons in my classroom. You never know when an administrator will pop in! Those are both Google Docs. 

I decided I am going to list assignments for the day and provide links to Google Classroom. Originally I was going to link to each assignment and then I realized how much updating that would be on my end, and decided against it. By using the list, parents can follow up with students about each specific item.

It is not fancy, but clear and simple. I think it will work well and really help keep me, students and parents on the same page. If you want the template, or have any questions or comments I would love to hear from you.

Check out the whole board live here. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Ready for Virtual Open House

Virtual Open House is a great idea that is long overdue. It may be one of my favorite things brought about by COVID. My past experiences with Open House have shown that it is not the most productive thing teachers do. Virtual Open House give students and families the opportunity to get the basic information quickly and easily. There is great collaboration going on everywhere online about how to make the "perfect" presentation. I encourage everyone to remember there is no "perfect" presentation or video. We all want to make a good first impression, but don't stress out over it more complicated than it needs to be.  

I started small with just a video and then went a little further because technology is in my wheelhouse. All in all it took me about 1.5 - 2  hours. I might have been done sooner than that if I didn't have to keep saying, "Do I really look like that?" (Seriously those COVID pounds need to go....but I digress.)

Basic intro video:
  • Keep it short. You just want to be welcoming, introduce yourself , and convey excitement for the new year.
  • Use a recording tool you are comfortable with - that can be your phone, screencastify, camtasia, google meet, or any other tool you love. 
  • LIGHTING...LIGHTING .... LIGHTING  - One thing my (selfie queen) daughter has taught me is how lighting makes all the difference. Good lighting makes you look happy and healthy, and bad lighting makes you look like you will be teaching from prison. I recommend outside if at all possible. 
  • Make sure you look at the camera. It is so tempting to watch yourself....but looking at the camera is more welcoming for your students. 

Ok - Here is my basic video. It gets the job done and only took 4 takes.

Now after I did that, I wanted to do a bit I looked at sample videos with all the cute stuff. Made this little Hola video using Snapchat. I did it that way so I could easily share with my daughter (the selfie queen), but you can just record it on your phone as well. Truthfully this one took about 15 takes until I was happy. 

Once I did this I wanted to make it loop, but after lots of searching, I couldn't find a way to make it loop in Google. just have to let it go. 

I found this video that I liked, so I decided to adapt some of the ideas (and simplify).  I could feel myself going down the rabbit hole. Here is the final presentation that I made. 

If you want to do something similar - I used "insert shape" then changed the fill color to match our school colors and then "insert text box" on top. There are details about linking pages if you are unfamiliar with that in the YouTube video I shared.

Remember you don't need something complicated. You only need to briefly introduce yourself and convey your excitement for the new year. I would love to see your videos in the comments!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The only thing certain is change

Note: This blog has always been for my own reflection. I needed to get all of this out, but will understand if you don't want to read it. 

 I feel as though I have been struggling through the wilderness of my career. After 12 years at Elizabeth High School in Colorado, I have moved on. As I look back on it now, I should have done it sooner. I would not trade my time there for anything, but as I reflect, I now see things more clearly and hope others can relate. If my reflection resonates, please let me know.

1. The year before I left I was angry, actually ANGRY. Although I was one of the more senior staff members, it was made clear that I wasn't ever going to be considered for a leadership role. I had written curriculum, maintained the department standards as there was turnover and we dwindled to two staff members, and always volunteered to help with anything and everything. (Well, not the teacher vs. student volleyball game...I am NOT athletic). However, I FINALLY realized that nothing I did was going to move me to the leadership table. I could not even be named Department Chair. All I wanted was for my title to reflect the work that I had done and was still doing. 

2. My anger was my fault. I did not get into teaching for recognition. I knew what the school and district I was teaching in was like from the beginning. I knew that sometimes my mouth gets me into trouble (anyone who knows me can attest). It is a small district, and opportunities for advancement as a teacher were few and far between.  I was able to ask questions and give feedback and my principal had my back. I know that these are things that not everyone is lucky enough to have. If I felt unappreciated by the school or district, all I had to do was look at my students and parents and I would quickly see how much I was valued. I was looking in the wrong place for validation.

3. The longer you stay the harder it is to leave. Truer words have never been spoken. This is especially true in a small community where you can teach ALL the brothers and sisters. I had taught my two oldest children and got to hand them their diploma. Leaving is HARD. However, I think I had reached the point where I was looking for more from my career and my district wasn't able to provide it. I should have realized that sooner. 

So in the end we moved from Colorado in January of 2019. As it turned out, I was able to teach my students remotely for the remainder of the school year (which has come in handy now!). I left not for higher pursuits, but because my husband got a new job in Atlanta. We were happy because we wanted to be able to be closer to our older children who were at Auburn University, my brother in South Carolina and my parents in Florida. It is a move that has been good for you can't guess who has had the hardest time???

People, transitioning to a new school is hard! I spent the majority of the year feeling like a new teacher again. I moved from a district that handed me a book and said good luck to a district that has a curriculum map and common assessments. It has been a bit of a culture shock. I work in a department of 5 and my coworkers are all talented teachers. Just as I felt like I was hitting my stride, we shut everything down. 

Now I have decided to go back to what works for me. I am going back to the flip and I have plans of using it to require mastery (but of course, COVID again) but those plans will have to wait for another year. 

I am teaching Spanish 1, Spanish 1 Honors, and Spanish 2. I am recommitting to using the flip to help my students learn at a pace more comfortable for them and being able to better challenge my advanced students. 

2020 - The Year of Change. Let's do this.