Stressed about back to school AND social distancing? Wherever you are in beginning the school year, you must be thinking “There has been no start of school like this before!”. That statement is true no matter how you are going back to school!
I admit to thinking that every year of my teaching career, but this year in particular, this is specially true with back to school and social distancing. One thing about teaching is that there is always something new…a new way of teaching reading or math, a new administrator, new colleagues, new children… new programs thrown at you! 😂 This year we have the challenge of a new delivery system layered on top of the “regular” list of news!
Nothing feels quite as overwhelming if you can connect it to something you already know how to do. So back to school AND social distancing together, may not be that hard after all. For example, when I am teaching new letters or words to children, I will often say things like “You know how to make the n in your name so you can make h. It just needs a taller stick” or “You know the word fly; cry works the same way. Let me show you.”
So, I started thinking about how linking can work to help me as I plan for what will make the back to school and social distancing start a bit more smoothly. What are some of the things I always do to teach my students what school will be like in my classroom? I started making a list of the things I know I need to teach to get the year off to a good start:
These are just a sample of the things you might have on your list for Management Mini Lessons.
These mini lessons typically occur at the beginning of the school year when I am establishing routines and procedures for how reading works in my classroom. Some processes will be the same in almost every classroom in my grade, and I can collaborate with teammates in the planning for these. Others will speak to the way I want things done in my classroom. I might teach how to choose books for independent reading, or what other children are to do when I am doing guided reading. These lessons are all about helping students to operate in the classroom during the reading block. (Students will need reminder mini lessons through the year for processes that you want to reestablish if things are going awry for some reason, or because the delivery system changes.) Once you start to look at your list of “knowns”, i.e. what I always teach about to function in my classroom, you will begin to think about how this will need to be taught differently in your new environment. This is the link from the known to the new!
The answers to the questions will be different depending on your learning environment but this has always been true! No matter how cohesively your school team works together, every teacher is unique and has different ways of doing the same thing but adaptation will be needed.
Hybrid or Blended Teaching
I will be honest with you… I don’t have an exact definition for either of the two. Are they the same? Are they different? I see people using the two terms interchangeably, I don’t even know! 🤷🏼♀️🤷🏼♂️ What I do know is that if you are teaching in a hybrid setting, some children will need to be reminded about social distancing during morning meeting or how, or if to do “turn and talk”. If morning meeting is happening online, children will need to learn about sitting in the chair at home to be comfortable but able to see the screen and how to get the teacher’s attention to ask or answer a question. If children are in school some days and home others, how will morning meeting be different depending on where you are?
Classroom Management and Social Distancing
As you start to think through the Management Mini Lessons you always teach, perhaps by looking at previous lesson plans, you will start to develop your list of “knowns” and consider how you will need to adapt them into “news” for this year. One area that I have already identified for myself that will be different in my classroom is the use of centers or stations. Since we cannot share materials, you are going to need to think about the “learning kit” that children can use while you are doing small group instruction. What supplies will you provide the children, what do you want them to supply for themselves (or the school will provide in the learning kit), and what apps do you want them to use to practice the skills and strategies you are teaching during whole and small group instruction? Just as I must teach the children how to work in centers or stations in your classroom, I will have to do mini lessons to teach children how and when to use the materials in the learning kit and the use of the apps available through the school. Since independent reading is always important in my classroom, how will I manage and organize books in my classroom? In many schools, books need to be quarantined for 72 hours before someone else can use them. This changes the way books can circulate in the classroom. Maybe each child will need a mini library box of independent reading books that you selected for him based on an interest inventory and their reading level.
Management Mini Lessons are key to a successful school year! In order to be able to teach in any environment, establishing how we will work together is the key to success. Remember this statement from Albert Einstein, “I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” Management mini lessons provide a way to establish conditions for working and learning together at school or online. The support you offer is one key to a successful school year.