Utilizing Summer to Plan for an Uncertain Fall
Educators and parents across the US are bracing themselves for what fall may hold for their students. In the 2019-2020 school year, classroom cultures, relationships and teacher expectations had been established long before the students moved to remote learning. Since states have yet to announce their back-to-school plans, teachers are now left in limbo on how to best utilize their summer months to begin strategizing for the new academic year. We’ve put together some resourceful tips on how teachers can maximize their time during the summer months in preparation for an uncertain new school year.
Begin with Culture Building.
Students will need to build classroom community, friendships and learn teacher evaluation standards while potentially never having met one another in person. Teachers shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by the need to throw away what has worked prior to school closures but instead refocus on adaptation.
Students in upper-grade levels often work together to build classroom contracts that describe the best practices of the classroom. By asking students to complete a survey anonymously as a bell ringer during the first week of school and analyzing the results as a class can encourage thoughtful student conversations and connections before content has ever been taught. The pre-survey should be a collection of predetermined thought-provoking classroom norms which ask students to rate whether they agree or disagree with the statement on a scale. During the first few days of the new school year, students are unsure of how they fit within the classroom dynamic, and may not feel comfortable speaking up either against or in agreement with other students in an open discussion. This may help you to build an even more robust classroom contract than in previous years. A great resource for cultivating student culture norms are Agreement Examples created by a list of students who completed a Setting Agreements Activity with the National School Reform Faculty.
Younger students are often keen on sharing about themselves and voicing their opinions. Utilize technologies to provide a platform for them to do just that. You can host a classroom gallery walk where students each introduce themselves or their ideas through multimedia presentations. Students should be encouraged to create videos, record their voices, draw a self-portrait, write a song or share about themselves in a way that feels most natural to them. Not only will students have the opportunity to learn similarities and differences among each other, but you will get to know more about their learning styles before even having the chance to instruct. We recommend choosing a question like the ones presented by differentiated Teaching’s 50 Discussion Questions to Build Relationships with Students & Foster Classroom Community. While researching ways to design this activity, you will be reviewing methods for collecting authentic assessment data through digital forums as well.
Design Digital Student Portfolios
Utilizing technology is one of the most convenient ways a teacher can track and monitor student progress over time. Developing digital student portfolios does not need to be reserved solely for remote learning but can also be implemented in courses–regardless of physical proximity–to monitor and share student progress. By having this method in place, you will not need to alter your current practices for progress tracking should plans change over the course of the next school year,
Using rubrics with students when they are remote can help to ensure that students understand expectations for assignments and writing pieces. For teachers, rubrics are even more important for tracking progress with students on state-level standards or specific skills. By utilizing the same rubric over time, you can track student progress and create a digital narration of student progress. Identifying the key standards of your course and designing skill-based rubrics for each one is a great reflective practice to unpack state standards as well as an invaluable instructional resource for many years to come. Through digital rubric creators such as Quick Rubric and Themespark and organizing rubric feedback by date, you can effectively create a portfolio of student progress that can be shared with students and families.
Elementary teachers often implement student tracking sheets to help students take ownership of their learning and encourage growth mindset in the classroom. Through the use of a platform that provides students annotation tools with documents, like Classkick, teachers can upload PDF versions of their tracking sheets and students can color them in to track progress. These can be collected over time and used in collaboration with one-on-one meetings with students to discuss areas of strengths and weakness on unit standards.
Build on Last Years Learnings
By the end of an academic year, most teachers recognize what went well and what did not, and use the summer to focus on the areas that need improvement. Through reflection and focus you can determine the resources that will improve your practices and instructional strategies to impact student outcomes for the next year.
The summer months provide educators a dedicated time to participate in professional development workshops on professional areas of growth. By leaning on the current trends in online education you can complete PD through webinars, workshops, and school agencies like Clerisy. Be sure to look for workshops that will help you develop a new toolkit of resources for the upcoming school year so that you leave the session ready to actively implement what you just learned. Be selective with the PD courses you choose to participate in by looking for high-quality workshops designed to help you earn credits towards your continuing education requirements.
Create or Join a Community of Educators
With the explosion of video conferencing to foster personal connections, organize a virtual book club. Choose a book from a leader in education that will impact your instructional practices and gather other Educators in your network to share ideas and best practices. This can be less formal than a structured lunch-and-learn from your district but just as informative. Use this time to either create or join a community of teachers to expand on the connections you regularly share resources with and invite others to do the same. The wider the expansion of the community the more possible it is that different ideas and methods used around the country can be shared amongst friends and colleagues for the benefit of impacting children nationwide.