A Few of My Favorite Things For Distance Learning

It’s the end of a memorable Teacher Appreciation Week. In the spirit of appreciation, I’m sharing a few of my favorite things so far during distance learning. I’ve heard it called connected learning, as well, and I prefer that term. Call it what you will…

One of my favorite “inventions” so far has been the development of interactive boards. Inspired by many of the interactive boards that people have shared including Franki Sibberson, Clare Landrigan, Pernille Ripp, Patti Shepherd, and Kathleen Sokoloski, I collaborated with kindergarten teachers and designed a board for caregivers of young children. All of these resources– whether they are videos or documents– aim at agency for young writers. You are welcome to share parts or all of it, and I also encourage you to make one yourself. If you use the writing conventions checklist, please acknowledge the work of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

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Access this interactive board through the link

Meghan Hargrave and I are working on a similar board for middle elementary students– if you have any suggestions of frequently voiced concerns, please share them in the comments.

If you are teaching upper elementary students or even middle grade students, then this next share is for you. I am loving Jamboards, as they are a great way to get kids interacting with each other, both asynchronously and also in real time. Here is one I created that could be used to write a shared story. To use it, you will have to make a copy and then open sharing settings for your students. I encourage you to use it as a template, using a Jamboard for any content area as a way to support interaction during a potentially isolated time.

This is the first page of the Jamboard I’ve created for students to interact and write a story.

Jamboards could be really useful for many things including class placement, other content areas, and many aspects of writing. If you haven’t checked them out, and your school uses Google products, I recommend playing around with them!

For those of you who want to stay with google docs, a similar resource could be an “Share Doc”, an idea that came from Heather Burns, a Staff Developer at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. By creating a table within a document that is shared with however many students you choose– I envision it as a small group document– you can invite them to respond to a prompt. I’ve set up one that you could use. Feel free to make a copy and invite students to share their thinking either synchronously or asynchronously; either could work.

Jen Merrifield, a teacher in Maine, has been a constant source of inspiration for me. Jen Merrifield’s Treasure Hunt could be used for any number of academic searches, as well as a great source of engagement and interaction for students of many ages. She has invited people to make copies of her hunt and make it your own. I worry about the students who haven’t shown up for much or who are disappearing as this connected learning continues. Maybe bringing in her element of play and theatrics could pull some students back in.

My final share could be for any of you, and it deals with time and vulnerable learners. Our district is using a template to track interventions, designed by our Elementary Curriculum Director, Betsy Gunsalus. With the data of participation trends, maybe we will be better able to reach out to the students who aren’t showing up and understand what could be getting in the way. While I have no doubt that internet and devices could be some of the problems, I also think there could be more to disengagement. When we know better, we do better.

I am sharing with you a quote I admire from Hugh Vasquez, Senior Associate, of the National Equity Project.

Let’s be clear. When the COVID-19 crisis is over, we do not have to go back to business as usual in our educational system, or any other system for that matter. We just don’t. The question confronting us at the moment is not can we prepare to come back differently but will we?

The National Equity Project has challenged me (and you, as well if you’re willing to take on the challenge) with being a Rebel Leader.

And I am leaving you with important words from Betsy Hubbard, one of our co-authors here at Two Writing Teachers.

When something seems invisible it’s easier to ignore, and now it’s more glaring. What are you going to do about it? There are conversations that are happening that haven’t happened before. We are knowing kids in ways we haven’t known them before.

We are all living and teaching during a historic time period. Our contributions matter. My appreciation is great for all of the teachers who are finding ways to engage students, connecting and teaching in unprecedented ways. Thank you.