Preparing for a Fantastic Beginning of the Year

Many schools are trying to decide how learning will take place this fall. No matter what, it will definitely be different. There are schools that are going with the hybrid model or blended model and some are beginning the year with online only, So, let's Prepare for a Fantastic Beginning of the Year so the transition is easy for you and your students.

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As we rethink our planning for the hybrid or blended model, we want to have a mixture of face-to-face with your students, learning on campus (maybe!), hands-on activities, online assignments, and paper and pencil. Students need to be engaged in their learning through interactive activities. Every district will come up with a different model, but your academic goals and student expectations will basically be the same. We want the best for all of our students no matter how and where they learn. We also want to be sensitive to diversity, accessibility, so the educational experience is positive for everyone. (parents included)

Lessons Learned

What lessons did you learn from the spring when schools were forced to shut down? Did you feel comfortable in using technology with your students? Did you have a balance of online and independent study? Were your students engaged? What did other teachers do that worked? There are so many questions to ask yourself. 
  • Keep it simple so you aren't overwhelmed. Find what works for you and your students. 
  • Visit with co-workers so they can offer suggestions. 
  • Be prepared. Don't waste precious time trying to figure out what you are going to teach and how you're going to teach it. 
  • Plus, take assessments so you know where your students are in their learning. 

Personal Development

There are amazing conferences and workshops that you can sign up for that can help prepare you for the new year. I live in Texas and TCEA provides "Lunch and Learn" mini-workshops that are so beneficial. Plus, I signed up for the Teach With Tech online conference. These presenters take you step-by-step in learning how to implement technology into the classroom. You can even download their notes from the presentation. I recommend checking with your district, state organizations, and other educational organizations for online training.

Connect With Students and Parents

You can use a simple Google Form or other online services like Survey Monkey to stay connected with and survey families. Many schools have their own built into their LMS (learning management system). Check in with your students and parents frequently to get updates on the social and emotional needs. Some schools are using Fridays as catchup days, a day to conference with parents or for extra tutoring with students who fall behind.

giving parents tools to help their students

Encourage Parents To:

  • Get their children involved in following directions with recipes for meals.
  • Write letters to family members or letters to political figures.
  • Take nature walks and research their findings
  • Shop for groceries online. Give their children a budget and items needed.
  • Plant a vegetable garden 
  • Read a book as a family. Or, join audible to listen to great books.
  • Measure rooms or decorate your personal space.
  • Play board or card games that require strategy
  • Do crafts or STEM activities

Show Your Personality

Let your students know that you are going through this uncertain time, too. Talk about your family, your mistakes, things that have helped you cope, and the funny side of you. This will help you and your students relax during distance learning. I know of teachers dressing up for themes and sharing their pets.

Beginning of the Year Activities

Digital escape - snapshots of a new year      digital escape room - the missing principal

back to school project based learning

Be Sensitive to the Needs of Students and Parents

Support your parents as part of the team that helps their children succeed. They are struggling to manage their jobs plus help their children. Empower your parents with lots of resources so they can stay on top of the game. Common Sense Media is a favorite. It's a nonprofit site dedicated to help in media and technology.

More resources:
  • Compiled Digital Resources for teachers, students and parents by tech teachers; excellent tutorials
  • The Math Learning Center  is filled with resources and math manipulatives
  • If you're teaching a new concept, link to resources that may give additional information.
  • Use Screencastify (now a Chrome Extension) for parents so they can help their children. It's so easy to record your screen and voice.
  • Provide frequent breaks for their children. For younger students, try Go Noodle. It's a great way to get your students moving and practice mindfulness.

Use Variety in Your Lessons

  • Virtual speakers - There are so many experts who would be willing to speak to your class. They can connect through Zoom or other types of video conferencing apps. I use experts all the time with project based learning.
  • Virtual field trips - Discovery Education has great resources for your classroom.
  • Add activity so your students aren't sitting in front of a computer screen the whole time. You can still have hands-on activities when students are learning from home.
  • Implement Project Based Learning - This is the perfect time for your students to solve real-world problems. Click HERE to learn more about pbl.
  • Use Templates - Even though the presentation of the lesson may vary, develop a routine so your students are familiar with expectations. I use templates all the time. They save so much time!
editable morning messagesback to school digital bundle

Prepare students and parents for the beginning of a very different new year. You can support parents and teachers with resources listed in this blog post.

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