Takeaways from the First Weeks of Hybrid
Our division has slowly begun to roll out the hybrid model. Currently, some elementary students are choosing to come to school two times a week and receive instruction remotely the other three days, while others are receiving all their instruction outside of the school building. As a result, teachers across the division are having to develop an entire new toolbox of strategies for teaching face-to-face while also engaging students who are learning from home.
As we continue to roll out this hybrid model to all grade levels, it’s important that teachers leverage their time and energy to prevent burnout. After talking to teachers who are already immersed in the hybrid model, here are some takeaways from the first couple weeks:
Relationships Matter. When creating a digital learning environment, connections with students are extremely important. This is especially true for our primary learners and students transitioning to new schools. To foster connections, teachers must create safe spaces that encourage risk taking. Educators can build classroom communities between all students by using tools such as Flipgrid, Zoom, and Google Suites. Teachers should consider allowing all students to join in meaningful conversations no matter their preferred learning environment. In addition, make all learners comfortable in participating by introducing students to tools such as immersive reader, voice typing in Google Docs, and read aloud so that they can access instructions and content without assistance. Taking a student-centered learning approach will make all students feel more welcomed and encourage participation.
Keep it Consistent. Our division has been using Seesaw and Google Classroom to communicate with families. It’s important that even though students may be returning, we continue to use these tools to send out messaging and assignments. You may feel tempted to switch up procedures, but if what you were doing was working---keep it! Establishing routines within the face-to-face school day can help with transitions at home. Teachers currently teaching in the hybrid have praised checklists. Checklists for students are a great organizational tool for students as they move back and forth between home and school, and when designed well can make it easier for families as well. In addition, checklists allow for choice and student ownership of learning--both important pieces of blended learning. Something else to consider to assist students, families and guardians in the back and forth between in person and remote learning, be consistent in the naming and distribution of work. This will be especially helpful as students become ill or classes have to quarantine. The learning can continue.
Different Location. Different Strategies. The hardest part of teaching hybrid is trying to figure out how to integrate the remote learning experience with face-to-face instruction so that they integrate naturally and amplify one another.
First, it’s especially important to consider backwards planning in hybrid and remote learning. What essential understandings should all students have at the end of the unit? What assessments and performance tasks will you use to measure student understanding and growth? Backwards design helps educators develop learning goals that focus on the learning instead of the teaching. Even as we shift back into our classrooms, teachers should continue to have common planning times with their PLCs. Universal Design for Learning and the use of assistive technology is a valuable method for creating lessons that can help make learning accessible to all students.
We must consider what teaching strategies are best for in-person learning and which strategies are best for remote learning. For example, content delivery can be done remotely, but practice of individual skills is best done in person with small group or individual teacher support. Even at the elementary level, consider pre-teaching through flipped lessons. Deliver the content through a Brainpop or Edpuzzle video, a website, or have students complete the “Explore” and “Explain” pieces of a hyperdoc remotely. Critical thinking activities are best done in person, or synchronously for our remote students, when teachers have the ability to facilitate discussions and deeper connections. When planning for your week, the question “Can the student do this on their own?” should be a primary factor in determining what work you set aside for remote learning and what you do in the classroom.
When considering what activities are better suited for in person or remote learning, use the table below to help guide you.
Keep it simple. Technology alone is not the magic answer. Have your favorite tech tools and keep using the same ones. Rather than starting by shopping around for educational technology, start by identifying the problems felt by the educator and student and then use the support of your colleagues and the Instructional Technology Resource Teachers (ITRTs) in your building to help identify the technology that may help alleviate some of these problems. For the learning to be effective, best practices in instructional methods need to be considered, as meaningful digital experiences can not rely on the novelty of technology alone.
Keep in mind the skills not only students will need to support their learning, but also that their families and guardians will need to support them. Providing tutorials for students and families can be extremely helpful during this time.
When faced with the unknown, we look to the research and experiences of others. As teachers we need to remember to use the expertise and resources in our buildings and division to help us navigate these constantly changing times in education and at the same time, lead with care for our students, their families, and, very importantly, for ourselves.