ONLINE LEARNING: Building Community in Your Online Classroom

(Note: This post was previously published in PBC’s Compass Points blog.)

Among the many challenges of teaching online is the need to build community in our virtual classrooms.  In the spring when we went remote, we already knew our students and had built strong relationships with them in person.  This fall, we didn’t have that advantage.

The teachers I work with at Great Oaks Legacy Charter Schools Network have spent the past month trying out various ways to build community in their middle school Zoom classrooms, and in a recent meeting, they shared what has worked.

Before class starts and in the first few minutes of class:

  • Greet students warmly by name.
  • Engage in mini chit-chat.
  • Invite students to type in the Chat responses to personal questions such as “What are you doing this weekend? What did you like about ___?  What’s something positive happening in your life?” or other “getting-to-know-you” questions.
  • Run a quick Show and Tell.
  • Do a daily “temperature check” via a Zoom or Nearpod poll (e.g., “How are you feeling? A) Excited, B) Sleepy, C) OK, D) Ehhh, E) Don’t ask.”) and use that data immediately. For example, if students mostly respond “Sleepy,” get them up to do an energizer—maybe a Dance Minute or a quick “Shake It Out” activity.

During class:

  • Show students’ faces as much as possible. When you share your screen, students can only see 4-5 faces at a time.
  • Encourage supportive hand signals like “brain-matching.”
  • Give students voice in the classroom through Chat or by unmuting themselves. Remind students that this is “our” classroom, not a podcast.
  • Put students in breakout rooms for discussions; make sure your directions are clear so that students can jump right in.
  • Make learning “a collaborative thing” as much as possible.
  • Constantly praise students by name for positive behaviors/academic success and encourage them to do the same with one another. Model praise in the Chat.
  • Encourage students to “@Chat”: to respond to one another’s academic remarks (“@Javon, I agree with you!” or “@Amaya, nice explanation!”)
  • Invite students to co-host and share their screens.
  • Establish various roles for students. Here’s what one teacher introduced in the first week:
·      Time Keeper – Give me a 10-minute warning when class is going to end. I want to respect your time and your breaks!

·      Class DJ – You have to be able to get to class early and play the pump-up tunes before class begins.

·      Mini Me– You will be in charge of leading the class discussion from whatever the topic of the Do Now is; you get to be the teacher.

·      I Got This – During class discussions if we reach a point where the conversation gets stale, you will keep the conversation going.

·      Joy Factor – You will encourage us in the chat and motivate your classmates to speak up and shout them out.

  • Be transparent and show respect for their feelings and ideas that they share.
  • Be honest and straightforward: We are human and we aren’t perfect.
  • Telling a random joke or making a connection to real life can break the monotony of a lesson and also help students to engage.
  • Play games that tie into the lesson.

At the end of class, stay on for students who have questions or just want to be social for a few minutes.

FOR ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: Since the quarantine began, Princeton-Blairstown Center has been offering resources for educators and families to help them build community and develop students’ social-emotional learning skills. Archives of the resources are hosted on PBC’s COVID-19 and SEL Resources page.

I hope these ideas will help others.  We are all in this together!

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NEW VIDEO TRAINING MODULE: Unpacking the ELA Common Core Standards!

I am pleased to share another video training module!

Unpacking the ELA Common Core Standards MODULE

This SELF-PACED 17-min video (ideal for viewing with a colleague so you can discuss questions that arise) addresses the following four questions:

  1. What should we do with Common Core Standards (CCS) proficiency data?
  2. How and why should we unpack the CCS?
  3. Once we’ve unpacked the CCS, what should we do?
  4. What will this process probably cause us to do?

For more information (including the accompanying handouts), check out the following links: TLC “Video Training” page and the TLC “Standards” page.

Please subscribe to TheLiteracyCookbook YouTube Channel to receive updates when I add more modules.  PS–I have more modules in the works!

PPS, along with these free video modules, you may become inspired to use The Literacy Cookbook Website, which offers 2,000-plus teacher-friendly tools.  As a bonus for TLC Blog followers, here is the 50%-off discount code for yearlong access to The Literacy Cookbook Website: TLCBOOK50 (Note: ALL CAPS). 

Posted in Analyzing the Common Core Standards, ELA Common Core Standards, Literacy and the Common Core BOOK, Professional Development, Questioning, Reading Informational Text, Resources, RPM Objectives, Summarizing, TLC Website Resources, Trajectory Analysis, Unpacking the ELA Common Core Standards, Video Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NEW VIDEO TRAINING MODULE: Argument vs. Evidence!

I am pleased to share another video training module!

Argument vs. Evidence MODULE

This 33-min SELF-PACED video explains the six key steps regarding argument vs. evidence (from “What’s the difference between argument and evidence?” to “How can I write a research paper from scratch?”).For more information to support your work around argument and evidence, please check out the following:

Please subscribe to TheLiteracyCookbook YouTube Channel to receive updates when I add more modules.  PS–I have more modules in the works!

PPS, along with these free video modules, you may become inspired to use The Literacy Cookbook Website, which offers 2,000-plus teacher-friendly tools.  As a bonus for TLC Blog followers, here is the 50%-off discount code for yearlong access to The Literacy Cookbook Website: TLCBOOK50 (Note: ALL CAPS).

Posted in Argument, Evidence, Persuasion, Professional Development, Resources, TLC Website Resources, Video Training, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NEW VIDEO TRAINING MODULE: Using Grammar to Improve Writing!

I am pleased to share another FREE video training module!

This SELF-PACED 32-minute video training module addresses the following topics:

  1. How we teach writing at Great Oaks Legacy Charter Schools
  2. What to STOP doing
  3. Seven principles for effective grammar/writing instruction
  4. How to help students who are not on grade level
  5. Other factors that affect how well we write
  6. How to meet the Common Core Standards for Language and Writing SYSTEMATICALLY.

For more information, check out the following links:

Last but not least, my book USING GRAMMAR TO IMPROVE WRITING: RECIPES FOR ACTION, is available online wherever books are sold.

Please subscribe to TheLiteracyCookbook YouTube Channel to receive updates when I add more modules.  I have more modules in the works!

PS, along with these free video modules, you may become inspired to use The Literacy Cookbook Website, which offers 2,000-plus teacher-friendly tools.  As a bonus for TLC Blog followers, here is the 50%-off discount code for yearlong access to The Literacy Cookbook Website: TLCBOOK50 (Note: ALL CAPS). 

Posted in Grammar, Language Standards, Professional Development, RPM Objectives, TLC Website Resources, Using Grammar to Improve Writing BOOK, Video Training, Writing, Writing Feedback | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NEW RESOURCES: Video Training Modules!!!

I am super-excited to report that I’ve been designing video training modules to support literacy instruction!!!  These brief but informative modules cover key topics that I’ve been presenting on and writing about for the past decade, and they are now available for FREE via TheLiteracyCookbook YouTube Channel and on the TLC “VIDEO TRAINING” page.  If you are a teacher or an administrator, I hope you will quickly see how these modules can help strengthen literacy instruction in your school, district, or network.

The first three modules address reading topics:

  1. The Comprehension Process MODULE: This 23-min SELF-PACED video explains The Comprehension Process Staircase and how to use the Quadrant Analysis Approach to images (reinforcing the comprehension process with visual analysis).
  2. 4 Key Critical Reading Skills MODULE: This 20-min SELF-PACED video explains the four key critical reading skills (paraphrasing, inference, vocabulary in context, and summarizing/inferring main idea) and how to teach them. NOTE: Watch The Comprehension Process MODULE before this one.
  3. How We Teach Vocabulary MODULE: This 12-min SELF-PACED video explains how we teach vocabulary at the MS level and demonstrates the tools we use. NOTE: Watch The Comprehension Process MODULE before this one.

Please check out the TLC “VIDEO TRAINING” page and subscribe to TheLiteracyCookbook YouTube Channel to receive updates when I add more modules.  PS–I have several writing-related modules in the works!

PPS, along with these free video modules, you may become inspired to use The Literacy Cookbook Website, which offers 2,000-plus teacher-friendly tools.  As a bonus for TLC Blog followers, here is the 50%-off discount code for yearlong access to The Literacy Cookbook Website: TLCBOOK50 (Note: ALL CAPS).

Posted in Comprehension, Inference, Main Idea, Paraphrasing, Presentations, Professional Development, Quadrant Analysis, Reading, Resources, Summarizing, The Literacy Cookbook BOOK, TLC Website Resources, Video Training, Vocabulary, Vocabulary in Context | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ONLINE LEARNING: FREE Independent Reading Access for ALL!

Although most schools are now closed for the summer, it is not too late to reach out to your students and tell them about Libby.  If you’ve never heard of it, Libby is a FREE app that enables people to access FREE public library resources with a library card.  Once students have a library card and the Libby app, they can check out e-books and audiobooks ANY TIME.  The world opens up!

At Great Oaks Legacy Charter Schools, the network where I work, we pushed the Libby app out to students’ Chromebooks and taught them how to secure a Newark Public Library card and how to use Libby before the school year ended.  PS–The Libby app can also be downloaded on ANY device (phone, tablet, etc.).  Just to be sure everyone—including parents/guardians—was fully aware of these resources, we sent a follow-up Email, which I am sharing here in hopes that it will be useful to you.

***

Greetings, students and parents!

GOLCS is excited to share with you a whole new world: FREE ONLINE independent reading!

Here are the steps:

  1. Get a library card (if you don’t already have one).  Click HERE to get/renew a FREE Newark Public Library card online (PS, Students should use their school Email address).  NOTE: It might take some time before you receive an Email with your card number and PIN because the librarians enter your information manually.  Make sure you save this information!
  2. On your Chromebook, click on the Libby app, which will enable you to check out FREE e-books and audio books. Note: We have added the Libby app to all Chromebooks.  You can also download the Libby app on any other digital devices you may have (cell phone, tablet, laptop).
  3. On the Libby app, sign up by adding your library card number and selecting the correct library (Newark Public Library). Here’s a video that explains how to use the Libby app to check out e-books and audiobooks from any library.
  4. Check out your first book, and start reading!

The Libby app includes reading recommendations.  Here are a few other resources to help you find good books:

***

***PS: As a bonus for TLC Blog followers, here is the 50%-off discount code for yearlong access to the 2,000-plus teacher-friendly tools found on The Literacy Cookbook Website: TLCBOOK50 (Note: ALL CAPS).  Check out the TLC “Online Learning” page for more tips!

***PPS: If you’re looking for a book recommendations, please check out my other blog, Only Good Books!

Posted in Audio Books, Independent Reading, Libby app, ONLINE LEARNING, Reading, Recommended Reading, Resources, Summer Reading, TLC Website Resources | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ONLINE LEARNING: Open-source Resources

As we near the finish line of this unusual school year, we are already looking ahead to the next one.

For anyone trying to figure out how to run a hybrid instructional model—partly in person, partly online—here are just a few key FREE resources that may help:

Achievement First/Ednovate:

Doug Lemov’s Field Notes, in which the author of Teach Like a Champion (among many other books) describes his latest learnings in the field.

Match Fishtank  This Website provides the standards-based K-12 Curriculum used at Match Charter Public School in Boston, MA.

Success Academy Ed Institute  This Website provides information about the literacy and history curriculum used by the high-performing Success Academy Charter Schools network.

Uncommon Schools  This link takes you to Uncommon’s remote curriculum.

***PS: As a bonus for TLC Blog followers, here is the 50%-off discount code for yearlong access to the 2,000-plus teacher-friendly tools found on The Literacy Cookbook Website: TLCBOOK50 (Note: ALL CAPS).  Check out the TLC “Online Learning” page for more tips!

***PPS: If you’re looking for a good book, please check out my other blog, Only Good Books!

Posted in Curriculum, ONLINE LEARNING, Resources, TLC Website Resources | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

ONLINE LEARNING: Three Zoom Tips to Increase Engagement

As we continue to learn about how various online tools work, here are three Zoom tips that can increase student engagement:

  1. Show students how to create a virtual background. Some students might be uncomfortable with their real-life setting; showing them how to change that setting might make them feel more comfortable showing their faces.  Make sure you have the “virtual background” setting enabled for students to access it.
  2. Encourage students to wear headphones. I observed several classes where students unmuted themselves to speak up in class, and their background noise was cacophonous (some combination of “The Price Is Right” and two other children listening to online instructors in the same room).  Imagine hearing all of that racket constantly while trying to focus on class!  Headphones could help them block out that noise, and focus.
  3. Use your Chat space frequently. Since unmuting all 25-30 students in your class could lead to chaos (or awkward silence), you need a way to let students speak up without a sound, and Chat is the solution.  Just make sure you have the proper settings enabled.  I observed a demo lesson the other day in which the candidate never used Chat, and when we asked her why in the lesson debrief, she said that her current school didn’t let teachers use it because they “had too many problems with it.”  While there absolutely can be problems if the Chat settings are not set up properly or if teacher expectations are not clearly articulated, you NEED to use Chat to check for understanding.

Here are the Zoom Chat settings you should use:

Chat

Allow meeting participants to send a message visible to all participants. YES

Private chat

Allow meeting participants to send a private 1:1 message to another participant. NO  (Just as we would not want students whispering to one another during class, we do not want students carrying on sidebar conversations or bullying other students privately via Chat.)

Auto saving chats

Automatically save all in-meeting chats so that hosts do not need to manually save the text of the chat after the meeting starts.  YES (This way if anyone types inappropriate messages in Chat, they are preserved for their parents to see later.  #Consequences)

Note: No matter what Chat settings you use, participants can ALWAYS privately Chat with the host.

Additional thoughts:

  • Writing in the public Chat space (to “Everyone”) can offer an opportunity to reinforce grammar skills. “Make sure you write complete sentences and capitalize and punctuate those sentences properly!”
  • If you don’t want students to copy one another’s responses, tell them to Chat privately to you (the host); then you can warm-call on students who have exemplary responses to share. “Javon, I love what you wrote! Can you please unmute yourself and read it out loud?”
  • Whether you use the public or private Chat, quickly reading aloud strong responses provides students with positive reinforcement.

***PS: As a bonus for TLC Blog followers, here is the 50%-off discount code for yearlong access to the 2,000-plus teacher-friendly tools found on The Literacy Cookbook Website: TLCBOOK50 (Note: ALL CAPS).  Check out the TLC “Online Learning” page for more tips!

***PPS: If you’re looking for a good book, please check out my other blog, Only Good Books!

Posted in Class discussions, ONLINE LEARNING, Questioning, TLC Website Resources, Zoom | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

ONLINE LEARNING: SEL Resources from Princeton-Blairstown Center

As we all wrestle with how to support students dealing with trauma during this pandemic, one of the challenges is how to do so virtually.  Following is a guest post by Meredith Murray, Director of Development & Communications at Princeton-Blairstown Center (where I am currently Board Chair).  At the bottom of this post, you will find additional resources to support SEL.

Teaching Respect and Self-Respect in a Virtual Classroom

As we all adjust to connecting with our students virtually, the need to provide meaningful and engaging academic content in a new format can overshadow the personal connections we strive to have with our students when we are all in the same classroom. The social and emotional learning skills of self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness are crucial for everyone, but especially for young people learning how to navigate this new world. And just because we are teaching from behind a screen doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to incorporate lessons to teach these skills.

Along with other nonprofit organizations, the Princeton-Blairstown Center (PBC) has cancelled all in-person programming in our effort to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 virus. For an organization whose mission is to empower young people, primarily from under-resourced communities, to strengthen their social-emotional skills through experiential, environmental, and adventure-based programming, we have had to quickly readjust how we deliver content.

With that in mind, we are pleased to share with you a sampling of items you can use during a Zoom or Google Hangout class during the weeks ahead.  These activities revolve around the concepts of Respect and Self-Respect. You can mix and match activities to suit your time needs or deliver the entire lesson which will take about an hour.

Materials:

  • Set up several Padlet.com sites for brainstorming (or the brainstorming site of your choice)
  • A recording of Aretha Franklin’s song, “Respect” (available on YouTube)

Activity 1: What’s the Definition of “Respect”?

(Skills: Self-Awareness/Social Awareness)

Suggested for: Advisory Group Leaders

Time allotted: 5-10 minutes

“Today we’re going to start by considering the meaning of the word ‘respect.’  People often say they want respect or they deserve respect, but what do they really mean?  Let’s see what ‘respect’ means to different people.”  Ask your students to share their definition of the word “respect” through Padlet (or another brainstorming site) or set up a Google Sheets document to organize each student’s answer (see this blog post for more information about how to set this up).

At the same time, select a student volunteer to look up and share the definition of “respect” using Dictionary.com. Challenge the students to consider the dictionary definition in light of their own definition and make adjustments as they see fit. Discuss with your group.

Activity 2: Who is Worthy of Respect?

(Skills: Self-Awareness/Social Awareness)

Suggested for: Advisory Group Leaders

Time allotted: 20 minutes

“Aretha Franklin wrote a famous song about respect.  Let’s listen to it, and think about these questions.” Play the song “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Have R-E-S-P-E-C-T written on Padlet and share it on the screen so that it is visible to all of the students. Under the word RESPECT write the following questions:

  • Who is worthy of respect?
  • Why are they worthy of it?
  • List people you think are worthy of your respect. (These can be people they know such as friends, family members, and community members or people they don’t know personally such as people in the news, etc.)

After playing the song, give students 5-10 minutes to answer the questions; they can write them privately or on Google Classroom where you will be able to see them. Ask students to share their answers if they feel comfortable. After students have shared their lists, engage the group in a brief discussion of why the people on their list might warrant their respect.

Activity Three: What’s Best About Me?

(Skills: Self-Awareness/Social Awareness)

Suggested for: Advisory Group Leaders

Time allotted: 20 minutes.

“The weird thing about respect is that sometimes people respect OTHER people but don’t respect THEMSELVES.  So, let’s think about this: Would you put YOURSELF on the list of people you respect?  Why or why not?”  Students may suggest that this would be bragging, or some might make jokes.  Explain to the students that they deserve a chance to earn respect from everyone, especially themselves. Point out that each student has special qualities, just like the people they listed.

Write Self-Respect on a separate Padlet.

Ask your students to consider the respect-worthy qualities of other people they discussed earlier and list those qualities on Padlet.  Then ask them to list a few of those qualities that apply to themselves on a sheet of paper. Then, ask them to think about an instance in which they demonstrated one of those qualities.

Have students break into pairs in breakout rooms and share that instance with their partner. How did these actions make the student feel? If necessary, prompt students with the following examples:

  • Standing up for a friend or family member
  • Winning an audition
  • Getting a job
  • Studying hard to pass a difficult exam

As each student speaks, ask his or her partner to take notes, describing the tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language of the speaker. Have partners switch roles so each student can share their experience.

Next, ask students to briefly share with their partner a moment that they would be happy to forget. Again, ask the partners to take notes on the tone of voice, facial expressions and body language of the speakers.

Once all of the students have had the opportunity to share and record both positive and negative experiences with their partner, ask the group to come back together. Have students report on what they noticed about their partner’s behavior.

Processing Questions

  1. “Did you notice a difference in your partner’s tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language when he or she described a positive event as opposed to a negative one?” (Most students are likely to report that the partner’s tone of voice, facial expressions and body language were far more confident when describing a pride-filled moment rather than one of embarrassment that included things like:
  • a lively tone of voice
  • good eye contact
  • laughter
  • upright posture
  • positive facial expressions
  1. “When a person displays confidence are you more or less likely to want to interact with and/or be a friend to them?” (Self-confidence – the outward sign of self-respect – empowers us to function effectively in the world because it draws others to focus on our best qualities.)

Writing Prompts

(Skills: Self-Awareness/Social Awareness)

Suggested for: Advisory Group Leaders

Time allotted: 10 minutes

Describe a time that someone blatantly disrespected you.

  • How did you handle it?
  • What would you do differently?
  • What would you do the same?
  • Did it affect your self-confidence?

For more information on Princeton-Blairstown Center and resources like this one, check out our website where you can see our middle school curriculum. We have curated online resources at the following two links:

You can also follow PBC on Facebook, where we post video and live lessons for students.

Posted in ONLINE LEARNING, Princeton-Blairstown Center, Resources, SEL | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

ONLINE LEARNING: How to Teach Writing with Zoom and Jamboard

Let’s say you’re teaching online with Zoom and you want to help students improve their writing.

Let’s say you have 25 students—7th graders—who are reading Frederick Douglass’s 1845 memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, and who recently wrote a paragraph in response to this prompt: “Why is this scene important? Analyze one of Douglass’s crafts in your response.”

PREWORK:

  1. Find or write two effective exemplars.
  2. Analyze student work to identify trends: What strengths do their paragraphs exhibit, and what do students need to work on?
  3. Select an anonymous paragraphs that manifests the most common weakness(es).

Now you’re ready to start the lesson.

  1. Using Jamboard, a free Google app in G-Suite (similar to Padlet, but free), post this question to activate students’ writing schema: “What makes a strong paragraph?” Ask students to post their responses on page 1 of your Jamboard.  Share your screen (via Zoom) and invite students to discuss what they have posted.
  2. Show students your effective exemplar and the decent anonymous paragraph (again, by sharing your screen), and on page 2 of your Jamboard, ask: “What do you notice about paragraphs 1 and 2?” Again, discuss students’ posted replies.
  3. Show students a weak (anonymous) paragraph, and on page 3 of your Jamboard, ask: “What do you notice about paragraph 3?” Again, discuss students’ posted replies.
  4. Divide students into groups of 3-4 (ideally, pre-determined based upon what they need to work on—e.g., providing more context or adding evidence/explanation), and send them into breakout rooms with the direction that they should revise their own paragraphs; you will pop in shortly. If you have another adult (or two) who can pitch in, that would be great.
  5. Working with 3-4 students at a time, select one student’s paragraph to screen-share and provide feedback on. See this previous TLC Blog post on how to conduct effective writing conferences.  When you run writing conferences in person, students tend to “academically eavesdrop” while you are talking about someone else’s work; the same is true online: if they can see their peer’s writing, they tend to lean forward and scrutinize it while you discuss it.  So they benefit from whatever coaching you provide to others.
  6. After running conferences for as many students as you can, bring everyone back to the main session, and ask students to answer the question on page 4 of your Jamboard: “What do you need to do in order to improve your paragraphs?” Students must respond (including their initials as proof and so you can follow-up on their needs) before leaving class.

Last week, I observed this exact class, run by my outstanding colleague Allison Paludi, and in our debrief afterward, we looked at students’ self-reflections and brainstormed on how to address their challenges around EXPLANATION.  Here are some ideas we surfaced:

  • The paragraph formula we use might be misleading them: claim, context, evidence, explanation.  They need to know that evidence and explanation should be interwoven, and not always sequenced with evidence first.
  • Debunk the misconception that quotes need to be long in order to be convincing.
  • Review how (and why) to integrate brief quotes.
  • Analyze the “desk” paragraph [see TLC “Desk” Paragraph Lesson] to highlight how evidence and explanation are interwoven (color-coded, maybe).  For example: “There is never enough room [explanatory] for all of the textbooks, workbooks, independent reading books, binders (etc.)…. [evidence]”
  • Show exemplary explanations and get students to identify what makes them strong/effective.
  • Provide some verbiage related to the particular question.  In this case:
    • “The author’s use of the phrase ‘blahblahblah’ suggests …”
    • “The word ‘X’ has a negative/positive connotation, implying that the author believes X about Y.”
    • “[Word/Phrase]” implies that…

I want to give a HUGE SHOUTOUT to Ms. Paludi for her relentless pursuit of excellence!!!

Stay tuned for more!

***PS: As a bonus for TLC Blog followers, here is the 50%-off discount code for yearlong access to the 2,000-plus teacher-friendly tools found on The Literacy Cookbook Website: TLCBOOK50 (Note: ALL CAPS).  Check out the TLC “Online Learning” page for more tips!

***PPS: If you’re looking for a good book, please check out my other blog, Only Good Books!

Posted in Demo Lesson, Evidence, Explanation, Instruction, Jamboard, ONLINE LEARNING, Paragraph writing, Resources, TLC Website Resources, Using Grammar to Improve Writing BOOK, Writing, Writing Feedback, Zoom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment