Are you about to begin your adventure in online teaching?
You will be wondering why so many Professional Development days were used to discuss inspirational posters for the teachers’ lounge instead of exploring new technology. Living in China, I am at almost at the end of this cyber abyss known as online teaching, wishing I would have known then what I am sharing with you now.
Here is what I wish I knew five weeks ago about a Quarantine Classroom.
Pick one platform for every teacher to use. You might be asking, what is the best platform for online teaching? The answer? Unity. There are a lot of good platforms out there. Some might work in your country better than others. Some might be easier for younger kids and stressed out parents. Your IT guy might have a suggestion that works best with your server. Whatever you choose, online classrooms will be nightmare if each teacher has their own platform. Parents and students will go crazy. For instance, if one teacher uses SeeSaw and another uses TEAMs, and a third, WeChatWork, a student or parent will have three platforms to master even before they touch your lesson on iambic pentameter. Pick one path then use it school wide. Spend a week teaching it to all of your students and staff. Move on to number two.
Establish a routine early. Many students will confuse online learning with independent study, causing the best students to mismanage time and stay up all night watching Korean dramas and playing games. For instance, you can give a daily participation quiz that outlines the activities for the day. EX: Did you know that you have a worksheet due today? Or, Are you ready for your Vocabulary Quiz on Monday? This will help build a habit with students to check for assignments instead of blowing them off.
Set Rules for Social Apps Use interactive platforms such as weChat groups to build community. However, be sure to set guidelines for language. Use your best language, not stickers or mems.
Make sure your group is closed. Parents may want to invite tutors or helpers. Keep in control of who is in your group. Explain to parents that tutors can get assignments from you.
Recommend a time limit for assignments. Many Chinese parents are into perfection. Instead of spending twenty minutes with a glue stick and glitter, a small assignment can turn into a piece of artwork worthy for the Louvre. Parents end up exhausted and students cranky. So with each assignment, like a recipe, let students and parents know how much time it should take.
Teach your students how to use the MUTE function. Second graders in a weChat group will often be upside-down or running while in class. The noise of them running in the wind can be deafening. Have a day where you practice turning on and off the MUTE function.
Have fun with interactive activities. A daily spelling quiz show with the first graders was fun for all involved. For instance, a daily spelling B. This is fun for lonely kids and a break for mom.
Finally? Thank parents for their hard work. Many parents will be exhausted with online learning, working even harder than you during this time. They might have more than one child, a full time job and laundry and, a not a family data plan with Verizon. So, remember their praise, forget their gripes when their words of frustration flood your in box. Here is a thank you from a grandmother.
So remember, just like that first week in September, classroom management is everything, especially online. Spend time establishing rules up front to save yourself from sleepless nights later. Now, to think of a craft for all of that toilet paper students’ families have hoarded…