Advice for Teaching Online & In-Person

Let’s be clear, there is no magic bullet to teaching both in-person and online, but I do have some experience with this effort now and can give some feedback on what has and has not worked.

Let’s start with the dumpster fires areas for improvement, and then we’ll move on to the good stuff. 

Let’s first acknowledge, this is hard:

Now, let’s talk about what’s not worked?

Being recorded while teaching in-person students live is just about the worst thing ever. You are not speaking at a Ted Conference, and you don’t have an audio and video team crafting your sound and lighting, so don’t bother with this avenue because it isn’t worth your time or energy. 

What else hasn’t worked?

Rehashing the same lesson 36 times so that each student can hear the exact same thing from you. Y’all, this surely isn’t it. It is so time-consuming and exhausting to teach this way, and I can bet that what you say and don’t say evolves so that even though you’re trying to be consistent, you’re not. 

Now that we’ve covered the “What not to-dos.” Let’s go over some options for what “to do.” 

What’s worked?

For me, I’m all about keeping it simple. I’ve housed all my lessons on my Canvas page, which I painstakingly built out to be kid-friendly and easily navigable, despite what feels like the developers’ best efforts to make it as cumbersome and obtuse as possible. For each lesson, my students can access their grade level from the main page and then access each lesson sequentially as we progress. Each lesson page contains each “step” of the lesson, so there’s no extra navigating.   

STEP #1

In the first step, I’ll Loom (that means record) the content “teaching” part that I want them to see for each lesson. Sometimes, I have one or two short videos–one from me and maybe one clip from YouTube embedded on my page. I keep these videos short and sweet–maybe 5 minutes, but never more than 10 minutes. (Bonus points if you add captioning using Veed.io.)   

STEP #2

Then, I’ll engage students with the content using PearDeck slides. PearDeck allows you to use teacher paced or student-paced lessons; you can see how many students are “present,” you can write to them directly in real-time, and you can accurately gauge what they are and are not understanding by their responses. 

The PearDeck slides allow students to drag dots, type answers, select multiple-choice options, and draw to answer your questions. You can even add audio to each slide with the click of a button. I’m fancy and bought a little microphone, which has dramatically improved the sound quality, but I suddenly feel compelled to share my skin-care routine, odd. 

STEP #3

Once they’ve completed both tasks of watching the video and engaging with the PearDeck portion of the lesson, I allow them to go to my “calm down” room. The calm down room is a virtual space I created for them on Google Sites that enables them to hear and see relaxing sights and sounds, play games, and even access meditation activities. The Calm Down room answers the “What do I do when I finish?” question that I’ve always struggled to answer.  

STEP #4

Because students have been working at their own pace, I’ll watch for their completion on PearDeck, and when everyone has finished, I’ll bring them all back together for a debrief both in-person and online. I’ll ask questions, comment on the work they produced, and address any areas where they all struggled. 

Whether in person or online, allowing students to work at their own pace means that I can provide individual assistance to the students who need it most and adapt their lessons as needed. 

Bonus Bit

The plot for 2020 is wild, and none of us could have imagined how different both our professional and personal lives look. I know you’re probably stressed; let’s be real, so are the kids. Your lesson will likely not elicit a round of applause from your students, and that’s okay. Remember that we’re all doing the best we can in challenging circumstances. Give yourself a break, give the kids a break. Maybe instead of a full-on lesson, you just need to create a safe space for kids to talk and hang out with you.

Not everything will go as planned, and that’s okay. In fact, sometimes it can be downright magical when things go astray. I accidentally created a “show and tell” during one of my first online lessons when a student asked if he could show me his dog, and the next thing I knew, there were 20+ animals on my screen. Our kids just want to connect–they want to see that we still care, that we are here for them, even if it’s different and weird. So, breathe, you’ve got this.