Simple Ways to Plan for Remote Learning
Classroom, Science

Simple Ways to Plan for Remote Learning

No one could have predicted what countries would face with the pandemic of the CoronaVirus (Covid-19). As a result many school systems have been chosen to close for weeks and have been trying to prevent learning loss through remote teaching and learning. Here in Colorado, we are one of the many states significantly affected. However our school district began discussions about remote learning about a week ago, it now is our reality.

So, I am not claiming to be an expert, but I realized that given the right tools we can be successful as educators with remote learning and will continue to refine these. During this time I know I will learn a great deal, but also realized that we have the tools to be successful and likely already utilize many of them in our classrooms with students. So rather than stress on what to do, embrace the tools we have and put them to work.  Additionally, these challenges will allow us to think broader about how to continue learning when our students have to stay at home due to weather and other emergencies. 

Below I have compiled tools that can be used by all K-12 educators for delivering content, communication, and resources for planning and lessons. For those who specifically Science, like me, I have made a list of on-line science resources for you too. At the end of this post I also put together some information from the steps my school examined last week to plan and prepare for remote e-learning. I hope this helps everyone with their e-learning endeavors. And if you have additional ideas please feel free to place this in the comments at the end of the post. We are all in this together.

Simple Ways to Plan for Remote Learning

General E-Learning & Communication Tools

  • Google Classroom: This is an easy way to deliver announcements and assignments in a variety of formats (Google Doc, Slides, Forms, etc). Students can access through their phone with apps.
  • Zoom:  Using the website you are able to host a virtual class meeting with your students from home through features of virtual conferencing, web conferencing,  and even group collaboration. 
  • Google Hangout: This is a collaborative tool where you and your students can host a video chat conversation. You can send students questions ahead to prep for the conversation or have it in the moment. And students can access from their phone with the app.
  • Go To Meeting: This tool was built for e-learning and has a variety of communication options from video chat in real time, recording and distributing and much more. It as also built for schools to use. And they currently are offering 3 months free due to coronavirus for educators. At other times you get a 2 week trial.

General Digital Actitivities & Ideas:

  • Hyperdocs: creating hyperdocs allows you to design assignments using web resources to learn content in a unique ways. 
  • Digital Escape Classrooms: Digital escape rooms is a great way to have students work with content as practice, review, and much more. To create your own or find ones already created click on the link from experts. 
  • Digital Notebooks: Just like any student notebook they would normally write in, these can be transformed digitally in Google Slides. You can likely find already created ones on Teachers Pay Teachers or create your own easily. 
Google Suite on Phone

General E-learning Resources and Lessons:

 

  • Edpuzzle: Edpuzzle is an amazing resource and it can be used for Free. Once you create your teacher account you have access to thousands of video based lessons with embedded questions. You can choose to create your own if you choose or search for those already created. 
  • Nearpod: this tool allows educators to find already made lessons or create their own. Additionally it is very versatile and allows students to interact in a variety of ways and for teachers to collaboratively work together. It also integrates with apps students can access on a variety of devices from phone, tablets, laptops, etc. 
  • NeoK12: this educational resource is not free, but very affordable. Here you will find a variety of resources that were created for education so they are 100% safe. NeoK12 includes videos across all content, interactive diagrams, quiz games, flow charts, vocabulary activities, puzzles, brain games and ways to create your own digital presentation on-line. 
  • Kahoot: this competitive game allows students to practice what they were learning in a fun way. You can easily search the Kahoot library and find one that matches your content or you can create your own. Students can then participate individually or they can join together and have fun competing with each other. Super fun and engaging.

Science Specific Resources for E-Learning:

    • PheT Simulations: Put together by the University of Boulder, Colorado, these simulations serve a variety of science and math topics. Additionally, included are descriptions for lessons and already made student handouts. You can easily take these handouts and format them for google docs for your students. 
    • Glencoe Virtual Labs: these are great and simple labs you can use for your classroom. They do require Flash in order to use them.  I usually create a digital google doc for students to record their answers in and have them submit it.
    • HHMI Biointeractive: this site is amazing and takes real world science, from real scientists and includes real data that was used to create interactive and engaging lessons. They are geared toward middle school and high school students. My favorite is Rock Pocket Mice for natural selection and genetics. 
    • Virtual Dissections: this site allows you select a virtual dissection for a variety of living organisms. Just search for what you are looking for. 
    • Simpop: has a variety of simple simulations that students can explore science concepts at different levels. 
    • NASA Science Simulations: this site contains a variety of science interactives for elementary, middle and high school.
Sticky Note Planning

Planning and Implementing Remote Learning

Like many of you, I was told on that I would begin remote teaching on Friday and had to begin the following Monday. Not much time to prepare. My best advice is you that your plans for what to teach is not going to change, only the method for  delivering the lesson and receiving it might look differently. 

  1. ACCESS: Students will need a way to access your lesson and you will need a way to communicate and access these.
  • Google Classroom: as described earlier this is free and you can easily create your own classroom if you you don’t have one already
  • Schoology:  this is another digital platform that some schools districts are using and can continue to be utilized.
  • Email: Even if you don’t have a method at your school, you can email assignments 

2. DIGITAL DOCUMENTS:  The best is t o use digital documents if at all possible, otherwise packets will need  to be sent to students or printed at home. 

  • Google Slides: This is perhaps one of the best tools. You can create an entire slide deck for the day or week for your students. It can have directions, embedded videos, links and so much more. 
  • Google Docs: You can create single assignments for students to complete and submit. 
  • Google Forms: You can create task cards, quizzes, surveys and many other ways to collect data from your students. 

3. PLANNING: You will plan mostly like you have in the past for your classroom (What content, how students will practice, how you will assess). 

First you should decide on how students will access their assignments and digital format(s) you want to you use. Once you have decided that then your are ready to plan. 

  • Plan your first day as a lesson on what remote learning will look like for your students. Let them know that things could change as we all learn together. (Example: Let’s say you decide to use Google Classroom–either find a short video online already or make one to walk your students through) If you are feeling ambitious then you can start with a Zoom class meeting and do it with them–sharing your screen as a way to walk them through. 
  • Go Slow to go fast like it is the first week of school. This is new and you need to give yourself and your students time to adjust. 
  • If you can, make yourself a schedule. I highly recommend this or you will find yourself spending 7 hours straight at your computer–like I did my first day. Your schedule can include when your doing Zoom lessons (face to face), when students should be working, and when you can answer questions.  But this will evolve based on if your are elementary, middle or high school. 
  • Try to stay as routine as possible. What I mean is continue with the types of lessons students are familiar with.  The biggest difference is they are now digital and may require a little more direction than before.  (Example: Maybe student get a Google Slide Show and the questions you would normally have on a document or paper is now embedded in the slide show). 
  • Know that it won’t be perfect and will evolve over time. That is OK. 

I know there is still much more I will learn and that you are learning around e-learning. But I think if we put our best foot forward we will find that strategies that work and allow us to continue to teach effectively and our students to learn while away from school. So if you have any other ideas, resources, and learning tools to share please feel free to put in the comments. Thanks to all educators doing their best to help our students!

Teaching With Inquiry
Science

Teaching With Inquiry – STEM It Up!

What does it mean to teach with inquiry. And why don’t we see more science teachers using inquiry as a central teaching practice. The simple answer is that it seems very hard and when done without guidance, students struggle. And we want to rescue them naturally. I decided to write this blog post because I have always been an inquiry based educator and I feel uneasy when I see students being lectured at with an occasional lab. But, when I look back at my typical classes and how I was taught it was notes, notes, lab, more notes, etc. So what made me an inquiry-based teacher? This goes back to when I was a child and my parents were very supportive of letting me explore our world, test my ideas, let me fail and then pick me back up. They were never dream crushers, rather they said “ok, how will you do that and let’s try that and see what happens.” This drove my love for science and it was likely that passion for learning that allowed me to sit through classes. Lets face it, science is more hands-on than other classes in itself.

Additionally, in college I loved my lab classes and was asked to be an undergraduate TA (teacher assistant) and teach the labs. Upon graduating I went into the zoology field and “did science.” I was gone for days at a time hiking and doing field encounter surveys for population counts. So when I decided I wanted to teach, I made a promise to myself, get kids doing science. And that is exactly what I did. So let’s get kids excited about science.

Body Model

With the implementation of NGSS, the goal was to move more to an inquiry based approach to teaching science so that students learn to think and act like a scientist in the classroom. In this blog post I hope to support all of you who have dreams to stop lecturing and let kids explore their world, be curious about the world and guide them through doing science. And I know it not easy. But small steps will get you to where you want to be and you will never go back.

TIP #1: Start Small

I know we all want to do it all, but it really does take small steps. Try to pick one activity a week you want to be inquiry based. To do this, take an activity you already know really well and have the notes, lab, and any other activities that go with it and ask yourself, how can I have students discover this rather than tell them.

TIP #2: Reverse Your Lesson

Alright, you have your lesson, now flip it. Instead of teaching the students everything and then doing the lab. Have students go through an exploration by making small changes to your lab and then follow it up with a discussion. For example, if you were teaching students about cells. Rather than give the students notes, label a diagram and then do a lab. Flip these around. Allow students to view cells in the microscope and make drawings. For example, students might look at green leaf plant, amoeba, and cheek cells in the lab. As students look at them they can compare and contrast things that they notice (All have a boundary between them and the environment, all have a dark structure in the middle, all have fluid inside them).

Then after they have gotten a chance to explore you can hold a discussion about their observations.  You might be completely surprised and what your students observe and say. Use this to lead into your notes now in more interactive way using sharing and questioning as your instructional tool. For example you can ask questions like: 

  • How do you know where the cell is and the environment begins?
  • What did you notice about the inside of the cells?

These types of questions allow students to share their ideas, but also allows you to have them label things they already noticed like the basic organelles: cell membrane, nucleus and cytoplasm. Now they have some solid similarities and your ready to discuss differences. This is where your notes that you would normally give become more meaningful and students think they were apart of this discovery and it creates more memory. 

TIP #3: Don't Be Afraid to Let Them Fail!

I know we don’t want kids to fail. But that is just it, we learn more when we make mistakes because the learning process helps look at our ideas and make sense of them. Just like in the cell example earlier, they are not going to see everything you want them to. So when you have a discussion about the cells you help them notice some of the organelles and give them the name or do a follow activity for them to figure it out. So don’t grade their first trial. Have them see how they did and make corrections.

TIP #4: Put Students in Teams of 4

Table Numers

Break out of students rows and pairs and make your classroom into tables or desk where students sit in groups of 4 (add 5th if needed for odd numbers). Scientists are collaborators. So instead of asking students and having the same kids with the answers raise their hand, build in teamwork. Think ahead and plan the questions to ask, put them on cards and give them to your groups to discuss them. Then you get everyone talking and not just 4 kids who always answer. You can always follow up with a share out to make sure everyone is successful OR address their misconceptions you heard why they were discussing and address them immediately, instead of waiting to find out on an assignment or quiz.

Tip #5: Plan For Students To Talk

Begin thinking of yourself as a facilitator of their learning instead of the expert giving them information. Again take activities you already have and reformat them into question card for cooperative learning activities. Many teachers are afraid to give up the control to students. But they will totally surprise you and do better if they can talk about what they are learning. Start building student talk with non-academic activities and then shift to academic ones with structures you have set in place.

TIP #6: Use Graphic Organizers

Cell Graphic Organizer

You don’t always have to print them, students can create them. But whenever students are learning they should be putting pen to paper. Yes in the digital age we use technology, but research still shows that the kinesthetic writing supports remembering. I sometimes give students an organizer to capture their learning throughout an activity, but also have students draw them in their science notebooks.

 For example when students are viewing cells I gave students a simple organizer where the left side was 3 circles for their field of view and the right side was for observations. To support observations, I included some words to help them observe: size, shape, etc. (Grab your freebie by clicking: Cell Organizer). Then when your ready for your discussion, you can have students label their drawings with words like: cell membrane, nucleus, and cytoplasm. Last, if you consistently use similar organizers all you have to do is tell students–”set up your microscope observation organizer and they can draw it.” 

Leaf

So, I challenge you to take one lesson a week and turn it into an inquiry based activity. But here is something important you need to know whenever trying something new. The first time it might not go as planned and you might feel like giving up. Hopefully not, but if it does–you learned what you need to do to make it better the next time. Each time you will get better and better. Eventually it will feel comfortable and your students will think more critically, make better observations, and hold academic conversations. YES–they will be “Scientist.”