Teaching in a Hybrid Model: How to Navigate Double the Work

Going back to school in a hybrid model for Fall 2020? Veteran teacher Heather has some advice for how to avoid getting swamped in a sea of extra work.

Updated on: August 31, 2020

The hybrid learning model and how to optimize the workload

A hybrid model of teaching is designed to provide an appropriate education to everyone while keeping physical, in-school numbers down in order to keep everyone socially distanced and safe. If your district has decided to implement this strategy, you’ve quickly learned that you will be teaching in person and online. While it may seem like you’re doing “double” the work, this model can actually be very manageable and practical if you approach it properly. Before you begin to dive into lesson planning, consider some of these tips to ease you into this method and make this strategy work for you!

Use a Weekly Schedule

Many schools run on a six day cycle. This approach may not work well in a hybrid setting. If you are able to, design your lessons so that they run on a weekly schedule. If setting up your Google Classroom, always issue assignments on a Monday and allow them to be due on a Friday. This way, students can work freely on their days home, set up a schedule that is manageable for them, and always have a sense of consistency; knowing that all work is due by the end of the week. This also helps out working parents, who are unable to meet daily deadlines if they are working with their children in the evening after they get home from their job. Simply set up a topic in your Google Classroom (or other online platform) labeled by dates for the week (ex: Monday, Sept. 14-Friday, Sept. 18,). This way, your students and parents will know exactly where to look and everything is organized!

Focus on Hands-on Learning While in the Classroom

Because you will be working with a smaller group of students in physical school, focus on the positives! You can get so much more done and can really amp up those hands on activities that not only emphasize a skill but enhances creativity as well. Our students need this! 

For example, if you’re learning about synonyms one week in your online classroom, have a wide array of paint strip samples available from your local paint store. Your small group of students can write a word on the top and come up with synonyms for it, jotting down one on each color slot.

Teaching writing and running a writer’s workshop is very difficult online, but is extremely doable in physical school, especially during the editing process. Working on reading fluency and decoding skills in a small guided group is also a wonderful way to spend your time in class together.

When lesson planning, keep your activities fun, but also take advantage of this in-person time to really hone in on a skill or strategy that would be nearly impossible to teach well online!

Keep it Simple Online

Now is not the time to post tons of activities and links to view. Parents and students are already overwhelmed with the entire situation, so when it comes to working independently online, less is certainly more. You will have students who may need enrichment or more material to remain active and engaged, and that’s wonderful. Consider setting up an enrichment group in Google Classroom or directly email these students and parents some additional materials and resources to take advantage of. 

How do you know if you’re assigning the right amount of work online? A general rule of thumb is to keep the classwork consistent with the grade level. For example, if a student is in third grade, their work, per subject area shouldn't exceed 30 minutes. If you teach sixth grade, work shouldn’t exceed an hour per subject, and so on. 

If your district didn’t provide you with a set scope and sequence to follow during a hybrid model, dissect each unit and really pull out what’s most important to introduce. As the year goes on, you can spiral review many topics and skills as you move on. It may be helpful to meet with a group of subject area teachers to come up with essential skills taught in order to ensure consistency and to encourage discussions about content. 

Use Automatic Grading Systems Whenever Possible

The Google suite is awesome for many reasons. One in particular is that it instantly grades work if you use Google Forms, and Google Docs also can have a rubric embedded for you to quickly grade material. Because you’ll be extra busy, this feature is extremely important!

Create Contact Groups

It may take some time at first, but it is a good idea to put your parents into an email group, as well as your students, so you can quickly communicate with them. Sending mass messages is ideal when working on a hybrid schedule, and you can even customize your email groups by student in school days. For example,  you may have a different message to send your Monday-Thursday group, than your Tuesday-Friday group. It just saves time and helps to keep track of parent and student communication. 

Make Videos of Your Lessons When Possible

If your district will permit you to video yourself in the classroom, you can post your lessons in your Google Classroom. This way, absent students can instantly view what they missed and remain in the loop. It also provides instant reinforcement and reminders so that when students return home from physical school, they have a visual they can go to that will help them complete their work for the week, which they can watch over and over again. This is extremely helpful if teaching math because students can attempt to help themselves if their parents are unavailable or don't understand how to teach a certain math strategy. 

Set Aside a Certain Time in the Day to Answer Emails

Establish office hours, if you will; in order to always make yourself available for troubleshooting, grading assignments, emailing, and calling parents. If you consistently sit down each day from 3:00-3:30, or on Wednesday from noon to 1:30, you can ensure that this routine will help you be more productive and an effective communicator, which is key when working in person and online. Parents will also know what to expect and when it’s the best time to reach you, so that you are not interrupted with the precious time you’re spending in person with students. 

In conclusion, a hybrid model is a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to necessarily mean double the work. There are some tips and tricks that can help you maximize your instruction, take advantage of your in person instructional time, and keep things calm and under control in your online classroom.

Heather Aulisio is a third grade teacher in Pennsylvania. She has been a teacher for nearly 15 years and holds multiple degrees and certifications. A freelancer for The Mailbox and other education-related clients and publications, she enjoys writing in order to help and entertain fellow teachers. She currently resides with her husband, Bryan; son, Matthew; and two pugs, Lily and Leo.

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