Many of us are teaching both virtual and in person at the same time right now. Is this okay? No, but it is what it is. This has now been my reality for five months, so I wanted to share some quick tips that I learned that has made it possible for me to function as a human and teacher while doing this impossible task! 🙂 (can you tell how I feel about people putting this on teachers? lol!)
Come to Terms with It
My first tip is to accept it. I know that sounds funny, but you can’t be bitter about it if you want it to go okay. I spent a long time bitter and angry that I was doing two jobs at once. I think we all have the right to have these emotions, but we also need to work through them, accept them, and move on. At the end of the day we are the only ones in charge of our emotions, so we can accept it and move on and enjoy 2021 or we can stay bitter and be miserable. Your choice! 🙂
Do the Same Thing as Often as Possible
I try to keep my virtual kids and my in person kids doing the exact same thing all the time. There are times when I need to just assign something to my virtual kids because we are doing something in school that just can’t transfer to home (stem projects, games, etc.) but I try my hardest to keep everything the same. This is easier for me and for them.
Anything that is not the same I don’t take as a grade and just keep it as participation work.
Have Your Virtual Kids on a Laptop for Whole Group Teaching
When I am doing a whole group lesson I put my virtual kids on my laptop and sit my laptop on my desk. I treat them like they are a student in the classroom. They know they have to stay muted and when they have a question they have to raise their hand and I will call on them when I see them.
They also know if I start walking around the room to work with kids and they need me they can unmute say my name one time and I will come when I am ready.
I had a very long conversation with the virtual kids where I explained that they were just like the other kids in the classroom and they needed to be patient and respectful. If they start yelling my name to much, or not muting, I simply tell them the rules and then ask them to get off and rejoin us next time when they are ready to follow the classroom rules.
Keep Small Group Teaching Separate
For small groups I do these separate.
I teach all of my math in small groups. Read about those here.
For these, I have one rotation where all the online kiddos are with me. All my in person kids are working on their centers during this time and I have my laptop working with the online. During the other time when I am working with in person kids I don’t have the virtual kiddos live. They are assigned their centers and work on them at home. If they have questions they email me or save them for their live time.
For reading centers (read about those here) I do the exact same thing. They meet with me one day a week and then the others they are assigned their reading centers during that time.
If at all possible, do paper packets
We do paper packets and this is a LIFESAVER! Making everything digital is a pain in the butt and honestly it just isn’t good for the kids. Kids still need paper and pencil, it is very important. Each week I prepare a paper packet with all the papers they will need for next week. Then, we put them in a box outside and the parents come and switch the new packet with all of their work from the previous week.
I know this is not an option for everything, but if you can figure out a way for this to work for your school and classroom.
Keeping A Daily or Weekly Update Area for Virtual Learners
The school day and schedule can change so often. To stay organized I have a post in Google Classroom called virtual student update. It is assigned to only the virtual kids. Their job is to check it every single morning before they start working. This is where I would type in schedule changes, what they need to do, etc. I update it every morning quickly when I come into the room. This is easy for my families and it keeps us all on the same page.
Kahoot, Escape Rooms, Oh My!
Engagement with the virtual learners is the hardest part of this whole thing. It is extremely difficult to engage kids through a screen. First and foremost you have to accept that they won’t be as engaged as the in person kids, it is just not possible. They are at their homes and on a computer, it is just not the same. So, how can you add some fun and engagement?
Kahoots are perfect because both virtual kids and in person kiddos can play together, they are competitive and fun, and you can do them for ANY subject. I try to do one or more Kahoot a week. I share my screen with my virtual kids and everyone can play. The kids in person and online LOVE it and they love that they feel apart of the classroom.
Anytime you can find an escape room that is digital GO FOR IT! We did this free one on main idea and the kids LOVE it. It is a way to really make the in person kids and the virtual kids love learning and stay on task.
We also do these reading challenges each month. I make the reward for them free time for both the in-person and virtual learners. They do it together and love it!
I try to involve the virtual learners in partner work to add engagement and socialization whenever possible. I might have them do partner work with the other virtual learners live on the meet or I may give my laptop to an in-person student to have them work with a virtual learner. These kiddos need socialization, so anyway that I can help them do that is great.
If you have them working on something digital together they can share their screen and it is like they are working side by side.
Assessments, Running Records, Interventions
One of the biggest questions I get is how do assess all learners.
If I am giving a test I have my virtual learners take it at the same time as my in person learners. I ask that their camera is on while they take the test so I can make sure they are on task. I know that is 100% possible that they change the test later before turning it in, but I choose to trust and let it go.
For running records or other assessments I would do these during their reading center time, so they wouldn’t overlap. I would pull up the running record and share the screen.
For statewide assessments, we have someone that gives these to the virtual kids (which is amazing).
Lastly, if I have a kid that is virtual on intervention I just have them come live for a 10 minute frame and do their intervention virtual each day or every other day.
It is Almost Over
Remember that teaching is not going to stay like this forever. Do we know that next school year it won’t be like this? No, but it won’t be like this forever. So hold onto the fact that this will not be your normal and it will go back to the way it was soon enough.
I am hugging you all virtual and praying for you. I know how hard this is. Do you have questions? Reach other to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below! 🙂