Zooming, Flipping, and other Roads to Success
July 20, 2020
July 20, 2020
By Melva Grant, Anne Keo, Sueanne McKinney, Mercedes Rivera, and Val Schwarz
COVID-19 has tested us all, forcing many teachers into online instruction and turning many more parents into teachers. We’ll all be affected for years to come, and it appears that distance learning will still be in place, in some form, when next school year arrives. Nonetheless, we’re committed to keeping on with the best educational opportunities we can provide our students.
While teaching this way is daunting for many educators and parents, we got some teaching specialists together to share a few strategies for making it less intimidating and frustrating, and more collaborative and student-centered.
Zoom is a video collaboration tool with real-time conferencing, and it’s become a hugely popular way to connect teachers and students. In fact, for many “Zooming” has become synonymous with online learning and interactions, and is an effective way for teachers and students to check assignments, clarify misunderstandings, and socialize.
Other technology options are available to help with free resources in this new learning environment. Educreations is another easy-to-use platform to create video lessons on a whiteboard, which you can then easily use a link to share.
The barrage of resources educators are, in many cases, becoming suddenly aware of can be overwhelming. Trial-and-error and certainly random clicking and exploration will help you navigate new resources. It’s a challenging transition, as many teachers are discovering that even their years of classroom experience and materials don’t necessarily translate easily to online instruction. The mission is to find the technology that best meets your teaching needs and the learning styles of your students.
Flipgrid is a free platform that facilitates group discussion and allows a teacher to see and hear each student. You set up an account and password, which allows you to give protected access to students and incorporate a program you may already be using, such as Google Classroom, Schoology, or others.
A feature of Flipgrid is the Grid, where educators create a topic and student respond with their own creative videos. To help you when you sign up, Microsoft provides an Introduction Topic that you can customize or use as is. Students access the Grid and respond using either a computer or mobile device with wi-fi and the Flipgrid app. You set parameters for student videos, such as focus and length, and students can record in segments, include whiteboard sketches, and apply filters. When students are satisfied with their videos, they are prompted to take a selfie that is then displayed to identify their video response. Students can watch video responses from their peers and leave reply videos. Flipgrid can become a video-based discussion board, or from a social media perspective, an educational SnapChat.
Teacher-created topics can be presented in very simplistic or complex manners, including an original video of your own; a video taken from YouTube or Vimeo; images (e.g., picture, Giphy, Emoji); files (e.g., static Microsoft files or dynamic Google files); platforms (e.g., Kahoot or Nearpod); and more. You’re limited only by your imagination and expertise. A more complex topic might introduce students to something, pause the presentation for students to create responses, and then continue after students have contributed. For ideas, teachers have access to a library full of topics created by the Flipgrid community for students at just about every level and in a variety of subject areas. Those topics can be customized or used as inspiration. Flipgrid offers tutorials and professional development, where teachers can earn different levels of Flipgrid certifications, participate in professional Flipgrid communities, and add their own Flipgrid topics to the library.
There are a variety of practical ways teachers can pass along to parents and caregivers to help keep students engaged in learning while out of the classroom. Of course, educational continuity is vital in every subject and we hope these examples will spur ideas in a variety of subject areas, as well.
Cooking/baking. From young to old, many children enjoy cooking alongside parents, whether the objective is something gourmet or if you’re following instructions on a box. Following directions, measuring ingredients, calculating time and temperature, and interpreting fractional amounts are all embedded components of cooking.
Meal planning. If you’re making a grocery store run, having groceries delivered, or picking up take-out, there are plenty of ways to experience learning. Read through the grocery list or restaurant menu. Discuss amounts to buy and what the cost might be. How many bills and coins would be needed to purchase the meal? If you have a budget for food, are you staying within or going over, and by how much?
Weather forecast. With playing outside about the only extracurricular activity available these days, checking the weather is a regular routine. Use this daily (or hourly) event to record the temperature, degree of sun/clouds, precipitation. Create a graph for the week or simply use the weekly forecast to make predictions. What was/is the highest temperature, the lowest? How many days will we be able to play outside?
Building with toys. Building with blocks, bricks, sticks, rocks, or any other material handy is a great activity (and fun) for just about any age. It encourages creativity and problem-solving skills, and provides challenges. Which tower is taller? How many bricks did you use? What can you make with these 25 pieces?
Playing games. Whether it’s with cards or boards, games are a great way to encourage learning. Younger children can practice recognizing number amounts by telling the amount of shapes or dots on cards or dice. Adding, subtracting, counting, colors, shapes, reading directions and cards, strategy, and reasoning are all skills that apply to most games. Social skills can also be emphasized.
Puzzles. Puzzles are a great activity for learning—and for taking up time. Working on a puzzle requires visual-spatial reasoning as well as comparing colors, patterns, shapes, lines, etc. Critical thinking, problem-solving, and reasoning skills come into play, as well. Whether it’s a physical puzzle, number puzzle, or a puzzle app, great math learning can take place. The commitment to actually finish a puzzle requires latent talents such as perseverance and determination.
Listening to music. Recognizing patterns doesn’t just happen with shapes and numbers. We can identify the rhythm or beat in a song and the rhyming pattern to lyrics. Music these days is timed, often with a countdown as well. Encourage skills with elapsed time – how many seconds/minutes of this song has gone by? How long will this playlist last?
Coloring, drawing, painting. Being artistic and creative is a great way to practice visual-spatial skills, measurement, geometry, and knowledge of colors. Create without purpose or provide a topic or subject to work from.
Taking a walk. Time how long you walk. Calculate the distance, speed, number of steps taken. Count how many mailboxes, squirrels, worms, birds, or neighbors you see along the way. If you walked twice as long, how much distance would you have covered? Make predictions about all the things you plan to count or measure on your walk.
Cleaning/doing chores. Having your child do chores isn’t just helpful for your housework load. While chores teach responsibility, accountability, and self/home care, it is also a great way for children to learn. How much time will a chore take? Where should it fit in the daily routine? If a child earns money, how much will she/he earn in one day, one week, one month? What could you buy with the money earned?
Daily tasks and routines. Every minute of every day doesn’t have to be planned out, yet setting some structured times and routines can help everyone feel normal. Children can decide which fun activities they want to include along with the required ones, when it fits best in the day, and can calculate times for a schedule. How long did a routine or task take? What time is it now? What time will it be after lunch is over?
Hobbies. Whether you have more time to devote to a hobby or start new ones because of all the time you have, hobbies are a great way to incorporate learning. In gardening, art, sewing, building, or bird-watching, learning can always be a part of the plan. Measurement, counting, basic facts, geometry, and principals of science, art and reading and are skills required for lots of the hobbies we enjoy.
No matter what activities are part of a family’s daily or weekly routine, learning is taking place. Pointing out specific content-related components, asking questions, and allowing your child to be independent and explore are easy ways to make any activity a learning activity. Enjoy your time together.
Literature is a way to gain new experiences and adventures and escape reality, but it can also be used to effectively teach different subject concepts. A carefully chosen book for a particular concept can serve many purposes. First, it hooks children because what better way is there to tell someone you want to spend quality time with them then reading? Second, it activates prior knowledge with images and vocabulary. It also introduces new vocabulary and explains new concepts with clever stories or fun rhymes that can help ideas stick in children’s minds.
Infusing literature into different content areas offers numerous opportunities and advantages. Here are a few:
Connects learning to the real world. Children’s and young adult literature can present many complex ideas through authentic situations. It also allows a connection to many informal ideas that your students or child holds.
Stimulates discourse. When students participate in meaningful conversations, they learn how to expand or alter their understanding of different ideas. Discourse also helps students engage in meta-cognitive behavior and assists them with terminology development.
Provides an avenue for problem-solving and investigations. Many literature selections assist students in developing a deep understanding of different concepts, and some selections actually present problem-solving situations they can work out.
Introduces vocabulary. Books introduce vocabulary through the context of the story. This allows your students to have a reference and develop a conceptual base in learning new terminology.
This year will not soon be forgotten. The home-and-school dynamic has changed dramatically, but our need to teach has remained constant. Teaching is a challenge for even the most seasoned educators, even before anxiety from a global pandemic, grappling with unfamiliar technology, non-equitable access to resources, and miles of distance between teachers and students. What once seemed difficult can now seem insurmountable. Luckily teachers and parents are tenacious and resourceful. Let’s work collectively to make this a time of promise.
Grant is an associate professor of math instruction at Old Dominion University; Keo is a member of the Goochland Education Association and an instructional coach at Randolph Elementary School; McKinney is an associate professor of elementary education at Old Dominion University; Rivera is a member of the Virginia Beach Education Association and a math resource teacher at Point O’View Elementary School; Schwarz is a member of the Richmond Education Association and a fourth grade teacher at Mary Munford Elementary School.