Pre-COVID-19, minilessons looked and felt quite different. For one, students would be gathered around me and my chart paper. Active engagement might involve turning and talking with a partner after trying out a strategy in the writer’s notebook. Students were close to each other and to anchor charts. This year, minilessons feel so different. Everyone is far away, seated at a desk behind a sneeze guard. Charts are hard to see through the plastic shields. Students can’t turn and talk to a classmate.
Changes had to be made.
One solution I’ve worked out is to use Pear Deck for active engagement. My district has a subscription to Pear Deck and I’ve been utilizing it across subject areas this year. Pear Deck allows you to take an ordinary Google Slide and make it interactive in different ways. Students can slide an object to indicate if they like or dislike something, they can answer multiple choice questions, draw on the slide, and….write in text boxes! (This one is especially helpful for writing workshop!)
Recently, my third graders have been learning about personal essays. I’ve been teaching them that their introduction should contain a hook to catch the reader’s attention. I taught them about various hooks they could use, with examples, but I found they weren’t transferring what was taught to their writing. I thought Pear Deck could be a way for them to actively engage and try out different hooks. The video below shows a Pear Deck I created for writing hooks, which allows students to try out different hooks one at a time. At the end of the presentation, they can choose a hook for a new topic.
The Google Slides/ Pear Deck presentation can be found here. You do need to have a subscription to Pear Deck to be able to make the presentation interactive for students to use.
Pear Deck provides the option of having the presentation be Instructor Paced or Student Paced. When you use Instructor Paced, the teacher advances the slides and students can only see what the teacher has up on the Smartboard. This could be a good option for having the entire class try out the strategy you are teaching, similar to what might have been done in a minilesson before COVID-19. Student Paced would allow you to differentiate for students and create individual or small group active engagement sessions. Students could work on the Pear Deck while you confer with other writers. You can make the Pear Deck specific to the writing skills your students specifically need.
One other idea I have is to flip some of my lessons, especially for conventions like using ending punctuation. Then, I could utilize Pear Deck as a way to see if students are applying what they learned from the video. I would only need to share this with the students I’ve identified as needing extra instruction and practice in this area.
Do you use Pear Deck with your students? What digital tools or techniques have you tried to make active engagement better in our COVID-19 classrooms / remote learning?