Preparing for Back to School with COVID


Hello darlings!

School just ended for me here in Missouri, but like you, I am already thinking ahead to next year and how on earth school is going to look during this COVID-19 Pandemic.  My mind is spinning and I'm seeing all kinds of crazy pictures and recommendations on social media.

States are trying to decide what school will even look like.  Will we go back inside the classroom?  Will will stay home?  Will it be a hybrid of at school learning and distance learning?  Will students go on an A/B schedule with some students attending in the morning and some in the afternoon?  Will some students attend school on Monday and Wednesday and another group on Tuesday and Thursday?  Will we have to wear masks?  No more flexible seating? Desks have to be 6 feet apart?  And it just goes on and on and on, and guys..... I'm over it.  

I'm over the stress and the uncertainty.  I am a classroom teacher.  I am not in charge of making any of these decisions, and let's face it, I'm not going to have a say anyway.  So instead of ruining my summer, I am going to stay calm and focus on what I have control of.

You need to take a break my friend!  Seriously!  I know you hear about self care all the time, and remember that means your mental well-being.  Focusing on all the uncertainty and things you have literally no control over will NOT HELP.

Here is what we can control.  

1. We CAN brush up on technology and digital tools for next year.

2. We CAN get a jump on websites we can use in our classroom or virtually.

3. We CAN organize our resources and make them digital.

If you know me, you know I HATE wasted time.  Meaning, I don't want to spend time preparing for something that might not happen.  I am only going to focus on the things that will help me and my students no matter what happens!

1. Focus on Technology Platforms-Posting and Recording Assignments

My district uses Google Classroom, so I am making myself an expert with that. I used Google Classroom before distance learning to push sites and links out to my students and I will continue to do that no matter what, next year. Ask your district what platform they are thinking about using.

Google Classroom

If you want to see how I used Google Classroom during distance learning, go to my instagram stories here.

This is a Tutorial for Google Classroom that explains everything for beginners.

If you already use Google Classroom, here is a tutorial on how to post assignments and Google Forms.



I also created a Google Slides Assignment Template for my students to keep track of all their assignments.  You can grab the free template here.  


Recording Teaching Videos

Youtube App
The Youtube app was indispensable during the school closure.  I was able to record my lessons and read alouds right from my iPhone and upload to my own channel.  I even made all of my videos unlisted so that only my students with the link could view them.

I used the free version of Screencastomatic to record any videos that I needed to share my screen or create a tutorial on how to use something on the computer.  It allowed me to also show my face in the corner to give that personal feel.

I am still looking into Digital whiteboards such as Loom, Explain Everything, and Whiteboard.fi 

2. Websites for Distance Learning AND for in the Classroom


There are so many websites out there for student learning.  Thankfully, many of them were free with unlimited use during the school closures.  I am not sure how that is going to work in the fall, but here are the sites I recommend. 

I used this for math.  I set my students up with the 3rd grade program and they worked through it at their own pace.  It has videos and then exercises students must master before they can move on.  If we are in the classroom, I will still use this during math rotations. 

Freckle
I used this for Math and ELA even before the closure. It also has science and social studies. It allows you to pick the standards and decide on an exit ticket or assignment.  You can view the types of questions before assigning and view reports.  It also groups students for you.  The free version allows you one assignment per subject at a time.  It has reading articles, grammar, word study and so much more for ELA.

Prodigy 
This is my students' favorite math site.  It is basically like a little video game, but they are asked challenging math questions in order to advance.  I like that you can set the standards that they work on, or have them work in certain domains and they advance after they take a pretest.  This is free.

Get Epic 
This site is amazing for reading!  It is basically an online library with TONS of QUALITY books that you actually have in your classroom library, not obscure books.  You can assign books or allow students to choose.  You can even assign quizzes. It is currently only free until the end of June, BUT it was always free for students during school hours.

Flipgrid
This was my favorite tool during distance learning and I am going to continue it into the regular classroom as well.  Flipgrid is a platform in which you can assign students a task and then they respond with a video!  They can respond to each other's videos if you allow it.  I used this for my daily read aloud.  I recorded my read aloud in Youtube (Flipgrids's longest video is 10 minutes) and then pasted the link in my grid assignment.  Students then responded to my question with their video.  I am going to use it next year with having students video themselves teaching a lesson.  I did this with having students teach me how to tell time, and it was amazing!!  Watch how I used Flipgrid in my instagram stories. 


3. Organize Your Standards and Make Curriculum Digital


One of the other things I can focus on this summer, is taking my resources that I already use and turning them into Digital Resources.

For example: How can I take that writing assignment and make it digital to use at school or at home?  Easy- just take my directions and my rubric and create a Google Doc or Google Slide that students can type their writing on.

Take your math worksheets and turn them into self-grading Google Forms. You can use mine here. 

You can screen shot basically anything and save it as a picture, then insert it as a background in Google Slides.  Then just insert text boxes where you want students to type.   (For copyright purposes, make sure you check the terms of use if you are using a resource someone else created.)  Here is a Tutorial using PDF to Image to make it faster. 

Check your TPT purchases.  Many of your purchases from TPT are being converted into digital products for you.  Most sellers like myself, are including that in our paper versions so all you have to do is go to your purchases and redownload the new additional digital resource.


So... I am just going to focus on what I can control and not dwell on what could be.  We will find out soon enough what our classrooms will look like for Fall 2020.  Don't let worrying about tomorrow, rob you of your joy today!



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End of the Year Ideas for Virtual Teaching


Hello darlings!  Trying to end the year of virtual teaching definitely has be an emotional roller-coaster.  While I am glad to be finished with this computer based typed teaching, I am going to miss my students.  I hate not being able to give them a hug!

To end my year, I hosted a Virtual Class Party on Zoom.  You can do the same on Google Meets.  I created gift bags for my kiddos and then delivered them to their homes the day before our meeting.  I just set them on the front porch or by their door.   I told them not to open it until our meeting.


Party Bags


For each bag, I created a little tag with a poem.  I filled each bag with..
-party hat (Walmart)
-Caprisun (Amazon)
-Rice Krispy Treat (Target)
-mini notebook (Walmart)
-Invisible ink pen (Amazon)
-Photo of them and the class

Free Gift Tag Poem

Delivery

I used Map Quest to put in way points to create the fastest route.  Google Maps will allow you put in way points, but you have to know the order yourself.  Please note, Map Quest only allows for 26 entries. 



Virtual Meeting

I emailed the parents and told them to make sure students did not open the bags until we were on the meeting together.  This built up a lot of anticipation and excitement for the gift bags. Here is what we did during the meeting.

1. Open Gift Bags and put on party hats
2. I played our Class Photos Slideshow by sharing my screen. (this took 15 minutes)
3. We then went around and each student shared their favorite memory of the year.
4. I told them how proud I was of them and how amazing they had been through all of distance learning.
5. We did a virtual air hug and said goodbye to each other.  Sob, sob.

I hope this gave you a few ideas of how to close out this crazy pandemic year!  Here is a virtual air hug for you!  I know this has been tough!



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