Since March, Demonstrated Success has helped over 35,000 teachers build an effective virtual classroom by providing professional development training, tools, and support. Our webinars have helped teachers utilize all aspects of Google Suite, create virtual assessments, meet the needs of special learners, and share ideas with grade level colleagues. If you would like to view our webinars, visit our YouTube channel.
From the ideas shared in our webinars and Community Conversations, Demonstrated Success has developed “QuickTips” below. These tips are intended to be practical and actionable.
Build Your Remote Community
Aim to build a virtual classroom community during the first few weeks of school. Some helpful tips: 1) Co-develop classroom expectations and norms with students so they are invested. Norms and expectations around staying connected, handing in work, conducting conversations on a virtual platform, are all essential and will be different than in the typical classroom setting. 2) Set aside time specifically for connection, 1-1 and in small groups. Students, especially students in transitional years (elementary to middle and middle to high) might have higher anxiety than normal this year, and establishing systems for more personal communication will be essential. 3) Motivate students by setting goals and celebrating milestones, no matter how small they might seem. Having all students turn an assignment in on-time or getting everyone logged into a platform with no difficulty are reasons to celebrate.
For students and parents alike, consistency is key. Take time to make sure all stakeholders understand classroom expectations, systems, and tools. Choose carefully and sparingly, and stick with those procedures. Work with your grade level team to determine what practices, like morning meetings, and/or office hours will be helpful for students, and commit, leaving room for different teacher’s styles. Once you’ve determined your expectations, systems and tools, communicate clearly and often where they reside so students (and parents) easily know where to access lessons and homework assignments. Finally, keep a consistent schedule to help families stay organized and meet expectations.
Collaborate with Colleagues
Don’t let your PLC or grade/department team meeting fall by the wayside. Meet as a team weekly. Stay strong in your understanding of content and grade level standards and prioritize together, what needs to be taught. Divide and conquer: have one team member take responsibility for creating instructional videos for ELA, another for math, and another for science. Work smart. Also, establish time for vertical and cross content conversations to gather and share good ideas from colleagues, and strengthen your staff community.
Be Intentional with Technology
Research shows that reading printed texts improves learning compared to electronic texts. Encourage students to print what they plan to read. Print helps students retain information and develop more fluid reading skills. Handwriting assignments and class notes results in higher test scores, so encourage your student to annotate and handwrite notes and initial drafts. Handwriting and reading print is better for eyes, better for focus, and develops stronger fine motor skills and more creativity. Tech tools should be leveraged out of necessity to foster engagement, collaboration and accessibility.
Tips on Virtual Instruction: Best Practices for Administrators
Save Time for Celebration
Build rapport, connection, and resilience, by holding a weekly meeting for staff that focuses on positive events. Open by having staff share something personal like a hobby, a picture of their family or a funny story. Every now and then, get silly and work together on fun brain challenges, or online pictionary or have everyone pick a song to represent their week.
Create a Google Doc or Blog to Share Comments and Advice
A collaborative journal of sorts, this allows teachers to vent their thoughts and ideas quickly if they don’t have the time to physically talk to someone. Encourage staff to comment on what others have said to build rapport, give advice and share solutions.
Prioritize 1-1 Connections
Set a goal of connecting with two or three teachers individually for ten minutes each week. This will help them feel supported and help you keep your finger on the pulse of morale and sense of efficacy. Any virtual platform makes this easy. Create a sign-up and put it out to teachers to pick a time and place that works for them. These one-on-ones will convey to teachers that you value them and the work they are doing.
Stick to Your Personal Care Routines
This school year will be likely more challenging than any before. As a leader, it is very important that your rudder stays in place so that you can support your teachers and students. Identify what you need to stay centered, be it sleep, food, exercise, therapy, family time, or indulging in your hobbies, and make time for those essentials. You owe it to yourself and your school community.
Tips for Administrators and Teachers to Support Families
Create Opportunities for Parents to Communicate Directly With You Administrators should host a weekly parent hour with coffee, and invite parents either in person or virtually, to come in and share their thoughts and concerns. Teachers should hold a weekly office hour where parents connect virtually to get their questions answered and share their child’s experience. Lastly, use social media, virtual platforms, phone calls, and notice boards to connect parents with one another, so families can support one another around babysitting, rideshares, and academic supports.
Provide Resources in Multiple Languages
With 350+ languages spoken in the United States, chances are, you have students whose family speaks a primary language other than English. Use programs and resources like Microsoft Translator for Education, Talking Points, Remind, and Colorin Colorado to help provide content in multiple languages to help ELL parents remain informed and able to support their students. Collaborate with your ELL teachers and translator services to assure that communications are timely and to the point.
Inform About Learning Targets
At the start of the year, and each subsequent quarter, share the learning targets for that time period. In addition to sending them home, hold a virtual parent meeting where parents can ask questions about what content specific words mean, and what an example of a target actually looks like. Send home a vocabulary sheet that explains what the language from the math program means, with examples of what their student should be able to do at the end of the unit. Parents are our partners this year; we are depending on their efforts to help children learn.
Show Parents How to Help
When giving assignments to students, give clear guidelines and instructions so that parents know what is expected of their child. Sharing rubrics via Seesaw or other digital platforms, showing examples of quality work, or recording step-by-step directions are helpful. Because some students need more help beginning an assignment, provide suggestions of how parents can get them started (start with the end in mind) and how to scaffold the project. Also, give parameters for how little or how much involvement parents should have in student work. Have one team member create a tip sheet for parents suggesting language for parents to use to scaffold for students in a productive way.
*These tips were developed by Karen Matso, Director of Professional Development & Literacy Curriculum. To learn how Demonstrated Success can support remote learning in your school, email Karen at karen.matso@DemonstratedSuccess.com.