COVID-19 crept up our doorstep and altered the way we do things in life and in education. I never expected the bell dismissing my sixth graders for spring break was going to be the last official bell of the school year. It is crazy how a virus can make such a significant impact on everything we do.
As with most educators, I felt sadness. I knew I was going to be missing the fun in person learning I had planned for the rest of the year. I wondered about what would happen for all of my students, worried what I would do each day to reach each of them, and yes, I worried about my students who come from rough homes or have little to eat on a regular basis. We all worried about these things.
Schools scrambled to find alternatives to fill the learning gaps that were to come. Some schools required online learning while some made it optional. Some schools sent out packets for students to complete, again as either mandatory or optional. The major problem that exists is that technology is not equitable. The main concern became how do schools supply equitable learning opportunities at a time of crisis.
.......and then the worst news came when state governors started announcing that school would remain closed for the remainder of this academic school year
So, with that said, as educators we have all pushed through this obstacle and created new opportunities to do all we could to make learning happen. I will walk away from his with a new appreciation for some tools we use every day and some that are new to my toolkit.
My Virtual toolkit
I started out like most of you, unsure of what direction to take. I did some read aloud videos using PowerPoint with embedded video. I tried some Flipgrid videos of touring my property and animals, fun scavenger hunts, I created digital geography scavenger hunts, and others. But, in the end, I finally settled on a format. I create a weekly agenda based on a theme. Our virtual meetings were about enrichment, not introduction of new material.
The weekly agenda included weird holidays for each day of the week, sometimes with a connected activity on Padlet, Flipgrid, or Poll Everywhere. I added learning in the area of reading, writing, and/or social studies. I shared with my partner teacher so she could add math and science activities. We had a weekly challenge. I even included fun facts related to the theme. Another part we added was Wellness Wednesdays.
A reading activity could be a reader's theater, which they love to do. However, this past week, I did an article related to the weekly theme which was video games. I tied it to current events as much as possible. Here is the activity.
We did a writing activity as well tied to the theme. This was a five-minute timed writing. The stories the students produced were fun. Each student shared their story and we applauded just as if we were in the classroom. Here is that activity. As a quick note, students did not see the writing opportunities unless they selected that tunnel.
There were math and science activities as well. for the week shown in the presentation, my partner teacher even found a couple of video game related Quizizz' to do. We had a lot of fun. She and I discuss many activities, but overall she is in charge of her specific contents If you have any questions about math and science I know she would happily provide me the answer.
Of course, we offer other fun tasks throughout the presentation.
We always ended our meetings with reminders, upcoming tasks, and also the answer to that riddle from the beginning.
COVID-19 created a shift in education, in the sense of virtual education. Many of scrambled trying too many things because of the wealth of resources. I think my biggest take away was to stick with what I knew, integrate meaningful resources for my students, make it very interactive, and most of all have fun with the students in a stressful time for many. The agenda and presentations I put together helped to tie it all together and they can give you some ideas, too
I have taught several years, and I can say without a doubt, I have had a little more fun this year. Today, my focus will be on my introduction to Europe unit.
Years ago, as part of the unit I taught on Shakespeare Stealer, I bought a Black Death Simulation from Teachers Pay Teachers. I decided to pull that out and use it to introduce students to Europe. It was a hit!
Not only did the students love working through stations to try to figure out what they thought was the underlying cause of the Black Death, they loved the "little extra" i added to the day. Let me walk you through the entire day, including my extension into reading.
Engage the Mind
To begin the lesson for the day, I start with showing some fly over videos of London. I start with early London and end with modern London. As they watch the videos, I give them some questions to guide their thinking.
Recapture Previous Learning
This is when I want student to reflect on what I have taught in geography so far this year. First, let me start by saying that this is not a step I remembered when I taught this lesson this school year. However, it is a key element I will not miss in the future. I honestly, was just winging it with this lesson as an introduction lesson.
For this coming school year, barring any Covid-19 shut downs, when I do this introduction and get to this part of the lesson, I would start this discussion by probing what the students remember is necessary to think about when learning and defining a place geographically.
As a side note, we focus our geography lessons on the Five Themes of Geography. I need students to not key elements to all five themes. I also know that students struggle more with separating location and place. Since I had given them the location of London, I might want them to say the country, continent, or even hemisphere to describe location. As far as place, they can describe what they noticed in both introduction videos.
Dive Right in
After I have had those conversations, I stepped into the hallway for my transformation. The student’s reactions were priceless. I had students requesting to take photos with me and telling me how "extra" I am.
So here are a few pics, taken by a wonderful para I had in my room.
As a note, my child already had the mask from a few years back. I just bought what was supposed to be the costume and it ended up being a cape. I made it work. I do plan to buy a new costume for this coming school year. That will help with my last-minute kitchen gloves. My other son had the hiking stick I borrowed.
The costume might seem like a little much, but the experience my sixth graders had was worth it. Additionally, to have them evaluate parts of the costume in relationship to the time period and the illness were amazing. The holes in the mask are one example of that.
I introduced them to the simulation tasks and had them find a partner to work with. I then sent them off to work.
Get your hands dirty
And they are off....
A couple of options, the first can be found here. I had an older version before it was Google compatible. Since then, there have also been some added artifacts. It is good, but you need double class periods to make this one work. I used it, just had them do ten of the artifacts to cut down on some time.
Another option can be found here. This one is a combination of role play with discovering causes. I did not use this one this year, but a colleague of mine did. She did say her students enjoyed it.
Honestly, I think I want to take the best of both and combine the concepts. The second option has scenarios that could be integrated into reading time.
Capture what You Learned Today (Exit Ticket)
Students finished by authoring a report. First, they explained what the Black Death was. Then, they shared what they believed caused the Black Death to spread as well as several falsehoods people had at the time surrounding the Black Death. Then I had them explain how geography was affected by the Black Death. Remember, I did this as an introduction to Europe geography.
At the time we did this activity, COVID-19 was just starting to spread across places globally. The students had some connections. However, doing that lesson now, would have a different outcome with COVID-19 here locally. This will change the outcome some next year.
Extending and Connecting to Literacy
My daily schedule starts with a 40 minute block of social studies, and then I teach an 80-minute block of English Language Arts.
To continue my theme for the day, I was able to use some English Language Arts time. We were introducing theme as part of our objective today.
So I introduced a nursery rhyme appropriately with an eerie version of the rhyme. I had the students discuss what they thought the theme of the poem was.
Then I had the students work with a partner and analyze each line of the poem based on what they had learned about the Black Death. Afterwards, I showed them a YouTube video about the dark origins of nursery rhymes, which you can find here.
Let's just say, this lesson was memorable. The students still talk about it. And at the end of the day, don't we want our lessons to be ones the students will remember.
My life journey is that of a mother, wife, grandmother, weenie dog owner, blogger, conference speaker, mini-farmer, writer and an occasional mistake maker with over 24 years in education. Follow me on Twitter @CrazyCurrChic