I'm sure that my fellow educators understand what I mean when I say that there have been changes in education this year. I have noticed trends in my own classroom and it seems my colleagues are doing the same.
I am curious if any of you have found new strategies or activities as a result of teaching during the pandemic that you think you will carry into future school years.
Personally, the most impactful change for me is a slight change in my class structure. I've always used a set of "Nows" per day that are listed on my dry erase board. Beside them are a list of "Laters" that always stay the same. Pre-pandemic, I always listed the "Nows" and we would work through them during the class period. If, at any time, students finish an activity early, they can work on an approved "Later" of their choice. This structure helps my classroom run smoothly and eliminates (or greatly reduces) the "What do I do now?" question from early finishers.
Then came virtual teaching. I am a creature of habit and I needed something to keep my classroom running as normally as possible for me and to set up a structure for my students. In my district, we began with a hybrid model where half of the students attended two days a week and the other half attended two days a week. There was also a teacher work day rounding out the week. I started the year with the "Nows" and "Laters" structure when students were in the classroom. We then went to an "all-in" model with all students in class every day and that routine continued. Eventually, we went to strictly virtual for a little while and then back to hybrid. However, the hybrid model was now more flexible and teachers were able to structure it however we wanted to. Students still attended in person two days a week, but I was able to make any day students were not in class a virtual day. So, I was teaching everyone virtually one day a week and then running an in person class and a Google Meet class simultaneously the other four days a week.
When we went virtual, I added a Google Form for my "Nows" and added exit questions to the form for each section of the class. For example, if we were doing vocabulary, comprehension, and grammar sections in class, then students had an exit question for each. I also added possible "Laters" that students could do to the Google Form. Each day, I posted the Google Form Exit slip in my Google Classroom for each class period.
I know exit questions are just good practice. But, I'm not ashamed to admit that I rarely did them pre-pandemic. However, I do find a quick multiple choice question or short answer question provide quick data that was helpful when students were not in my classroom every day. Maybe I just was able to be more observant before and didn't find I needed exit questions much before. Or, maybe I just trusted the education I knew my students were getting before they came to me pre-pandemic. Then, everything changed and I can't really be sure of anything right now.
So, even though we are now back to having students in the classroom every day, I've kept the Google Form exit slip. I still list our daily activities and the students can check them off as we do them and answer a quick exit question per topic. I plan to carry this simple change into future years of teaching as well. It's very simple and an easy change. But, it provided structure and accountability for my students when they were not in my classroom. It helped my virtual classes run more smoothly. Simple changes with a lot of benefit are the best kind, as far as I'm concerned. Now, it gives the students more of an action-oriented link to our daily activities instead of simply reading them on the board and I get daily data on their progress.
I'd love to hear any changes you have made. Let's share some ideas and have something positive come out of this year of teaching during a pandemic!
Elizabeth Woodrum's Blog
Elizabeth Woodrum is the author of the children's book series, The Maisy Files. She is also a full-time teacher and creator of teaching materials that can be found on Teachers Pay Teachers. This blog is a mix of teaching and author topics.