5 Sanity Savers to Make It Through the 2020-2021 School Year

You've been chugging along, doing your best to keep up with the mountain of responsibilities and myriad of surprises that we've all encountered in 2020. With the end of the year more than a blip on our radar screen, what will be the most effective ways to tackle the remainder of the school year and keep student momentum and engagement going? Well, our TeacherVision contributor, Elisa, shares 5 ways that will help, along with a little bit of luck!

Updated on: December 16, 2020

5 tips for homeschooling parents from a veteran teacher who did it herself

Online learning, it seems, has been going on for far too long. And with all of us back in lockdown or mandated quarantines, kids are especially antsier than ever. Here’s the thing—if you can’t change it, complaining will just get you down. Remember how we’re always wanting to teach our students resilience? Whether we like it or not, now is the time to model exactly the kind of attitude we’d like for kids to develop in the future, especially during times of strife. So, let’s show the kids how we persevere during challenges, and we’ll all be better for it!

Of course, that’s easier said than done. . .But, here are 5 ways to keep student momentum going all the way through June, with a special holistic emphasis on the reality that our kids are not just distance learning, they’re surviving in a full-fledged quarantine.

Make Space and Time for Community-Building!

The value of a strong classroom community is not diminished in the virtual learning environment. In fact, it could be considered even more important to make it for the lack of face-to-face interactions. And with our kids quarantined as COVID-19 cases peak, they’re missing out on a vital part of childhood—socialization. Even with remote schooling, it’s not impossible to engage them with what they crave! Filling their bucket will help them switch gears and focus on academics more easily. The fact that kids’ learning is boosted by peer collaboration is still true online, so build on that in a creative way. Some ideas include:

  • Start the day with a morning greeting ritual, where each child says hello to another until everyone has been greeted.
  • Incorporate cooperative class challenges into the day.
  • Close the day with an exit ticket where students share appreciations or give “silent rounds of applause”, or even list favorite parts of their day.  

Post Daily Learning Objectives!

When you plan your lessons, you should be organizing them to be executed around a very specific learning goal. Re-write your objectives in kid-friendly “I Can...” statements and post them in your online classroom. Also, kids do better when they know what is expected of them so go ahead and tell them! Share the goals at the start of each lesson and post them to your daily schedule.

Keep It Organized!

Your virtual classroom is a sacred learning space and if you want to keep the momentum going strong through the end of this tumultuous school year, you might need to give it a makeover. It’s proven that your level of organization will determine your students’ levels of success. The accessibility of your classroom makes all the difference. So sit down and remove any visual clutter. Ensure that you have a single platform or hub for assignments that your kids can access easily. Rely on bulleted lists instead of lengthy directions.

Also, brainstorm a list of technological aspects that have challenged your class so far this year. Has the assignment submission process been confusing or do you have lots of kids unsure how to revisit lectures or lessons when it’s time to study? Make it a point to reteach any unclear processes or confusing concepts when school resumes after winter break.

The “how-to” aspects of online learning are no different than the homework turn-in process or recess line-up process that matter so much in the in-person classroom. Invest the time to reteach any sloppy or multi-step procedures and make new ones if you find what you had before just wasn’t as efficient once you went remote.

Use Mini-Lessons!

The ideal duration for an instructional video is about six minutes. So chunk up your learning objectives and work within this timeframe. A mini-lesson functions as a compact introduction, including a hook, clear teacher modeling, and a chance for some guided practice before you send your kids off for their own independent practice.

When lesson planning, use a T-chart to record what the teacher is doing and what the students are doing at any given moment. Be on the lookout for times where the kids aren’t doing anything—and try to eliminate as much of this as you possibly can.

Use More Formative...Finally!

While summative assessment measures how well your students have mastered a topic after you’re done teaching it, formative assessment gives you clues or “dipstick” about how they are progressing and understanding the content. When your kids are separated from you by a computer screen, you miss out on a lot of small cues that tell you how well they are understanding, but you can make up for that loss by adding more frequent formative assessments, such as mini-quizzes with one to four short prompts, 3-2-1 reflections, fist-to-five check-ins, or even student surveys which can be easily made with Google Forms.

That drag that we usually feel right around March is most likely going to be amplified times a million come this spring. But, if you plan ahead knowing that it’ll be hard, you can get ahead of it and avert unnecessary trials and tribulations. . . Because we would probably all agree that 2020 has presented enough already!