Last week was my first week of school and I thought it was going to end up much like the picture below.
I had heard the stories, seen the posts, read the vents along with the parade of retirement announcements. To quote Gloria Gaynor, at first I was afraid, I was petrified to put it mildly. This year, it was obvious that could not rely solely on my bubbly personality to make the class fun and dynamic; so I had to march to the drawing board…
A week before school (we found out we were going to be remote: surprise! ), I spent every waking hour planning, tweaking, creating , modifying resources, and going on shopping sprees on TPT! I spent time thinking and strategizing, which is how I landed on the plan below. It is still a work in progress, but my goal is to provide a high quality curriculum, without burning myself down to a crisp.
Hacking The Organizational Monster
Last spring, when we went remote, I felt like I was always looking for something. I had a binder with all the schedules and information. And although it was organized, it still added additional steps, which made it woefully frustrating. However, this year, I stood in the center of my office and got to work! I started dismounting the pictures over my desk (except Frida). I decided to redesign that space and make it purposeful and functional. It’s slowly becoming my dashboard, and every day I am spending less time on hair-pulling scavenger hunts, and more time on crafting creative lesson plans, and adjusting my curriculum. I’ve ordered a cork board from Amazon, and have started pinning critical communication bulletins in the interior of my desk.
I have pinned:
- The school calendar and schedules: timetables help with planning school and endeavors. Since we have an A/B day schedule, I can more readily schedule doctor appts, exercise time, writing, and resource- creation for my TPT store!
- The calendars also prove useful when we have virtual IEP meetings as all the information right in front of me.
- Speaking of IEPs, I perused through all of mine, made a table with the students’ name, accommodations/modifications and WL considerations. Again, I don’t have to hunt down the document while lesson planning
- Front and center is a color-coded copy of Bloom’s Taxonomy for writing lesson objectives. This resource (linked below) is a game changer! As I planned my lessons last week, I was able to reframe activities, making them more intellectually gratifying. It also made me rethink the purpose of some activities.
- Important announcements (are also pinned)
- Rubrics for quick grading ( I have these in folders now)
- The cork board will serve as my dashboard for daily reminders and planning needs. I will also post some of my favorite affirmations on there! I talk about these of these tricks in the videos below.
- I also bought a mesh bin to organize my activities. I print out all activities so I can have them handy when teaching. This way, everything has a place.
Organizing my virtual class
This year the district decided to revert back to 90-minute classes on the virtual platform versus 45 minute classes last year in the Spring. That can seem like a lot of time online. However, I could not ignore the great opportunity to delve deeper into content, offer more comprehensible input and of course, more support.
Hence, I decided to create a predictable routine every day around five segments in class. The sections are below as well as the tasks to be accomplished during each time.
Each segment last anywhere from 15-20 minutes. I use “SlideMania.com” templates for my lessons.
¿Qué tal? – SEL Mood Meter activities.
¿Cómo estás? – students can respond to a Peardeck poll, or write in the chat room. I also have the nod extension with Google Meets, so they can respond with that as well. Differentiation is well into effect.
Furthermore, I have a few engaging pictures that I have gotten from colleagues and people on Facebook. For example, one idea was to show a picture of a Cat and a Dog (Juxtaposed) and ask students which picture made them more happy. It’s an instante mood changer. The inspiration for this ideas came from Grey’s Anatomy! Dr. Shepherd was performing some type of brain stimulation activity on Dr. Torres. on Grey’s Anatomy. That teacher brain never turns off!
Repaso – Review of the previous lesson
Lección – Mini- lesson
Aplicación – independent time to work
Recapitulación – discuss the next day’s menu
Having a Variety of Class Structures
*Student stay within these groups for the duration of the unit
Additionally, I have developed four core participation structures for class: Mini-class, Small group, Split Class & Dyads. Each one serve a different purpose.
- Mini-class – groups of 10. We did this the second day, and it was amazing. I assign students to one of three groups. While they are meeting the other students are completing a task and taking their 10 minute break. Adding the break made it easier to manage so when they are not in a group, they can just remember one assignment to do. We have short discussion in this group. This could be a response to a writing prompt and/or a check-in.
2. Small group structure– this comprises 4-5 students. I plan to use this structure for deeper conversations, conversation circles, book discussions and feedback on speaking tasks prior to summative assessments.
3. Dyads– I will use this structure to provide feedback to students on writing activities.
4. Split Class– this structure will be used for games (we will play as a whole class as well). It will be used to teach concepts as well. This will allow students to feel safe in asking questions and requesting help from their peers.
- I am endeavoring to use no more than 2 tech platforms a day. Ideally, I’d want to use one.
- Google Classroom and Pear Deck
- Google Classroom & Socrative
Keep it simple!
The Ultimate Hack: Keeping a positive attitude
It is so easy to get overwhelmed and start verbally abusing ourselves. Don’t do it! If you are still teaching during a pandemic, regardless of having your stuff together, you’ve already earned your stars. This year is like no other and we really have to believe this. It’s hard, I know. There are teachers who were born for this. I wasn’t and I am just amassing some of my hacks making it work for me. Very early in the process, I decided to take a very minimalist intentionalist approach, and it has work for me.
We are wired to focus on the negative, even in the midst of overwhelming positive odds; this is call the Negative confirmation bias. I learned about this from the book “The Originals” by Adam Grant. We get that one email from an irate parent (who is probably going through their own mess), and we are ready to give up on ourselves. Don’t do it! We must remember that teaching is hard, and teaching in a pandemic is like swimming upstream, or maybe going into battle without the proper armor!
If you prefer to listen to some of these hacks, check out my stories below!
Who am I?
I am currently a Spanish Teacher in Chicago, IL. I have 16 years of cumulative experience as an International Baccalaureate middle school teacher, high school teacher, and adjunct instructor. I hold a Master’s in Latin American Literature and Cultures coupled with a Master’s in Educational Leadership. These dual degrees have afforded me a vantage point from both ends of the educational spectrum: instruction and evaluation. I have been sharing my unique perspective on pedagogy and language acquisition for over ten years at national, regional and state conferences. I am also an accomplished author! I have authored several compelling comprehensible novels that allow students to solidify their language skills while experiencing a wide range of different cultures. Check out my resources below. Thanks for stopping by!
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