COVID-19 Distance Learning

||COVID-19 Distance Learning

Connecting With Students

In the classroom, in the hall, on the playground: these are all opportunities for teachers to pick up on students’ emotional well-being—opportunities that are now missing while in-person learning is cancelled. Our students’ emotions are still very important—even more-so now— as their emotional state impacts how motivated they are to participate in remote learning activities. As educators, what can we do to attend to our students’ emotional needs? How can we reach out?

It’s not always possible to reach out digitally to each student as not all homes have access to technology, or sometimes the child simply is not motivated to log on. Go old school. Mailing a personal note or simply calling on the phone are always options. And if they don’t answer, try to phone them again. We’ve also seen teachers posting times when they drive through the neighborhoods and share the love!  Be creative, but be kind to yourself, too. Your well-being matters to us!   

Check-in forms are another easy way to gather information. Google Forms and Desmos are straightforward ways to do this. Google Forms is an easy way to gather information from students and organize that information in a spreadsheet if applicable. Teachers can find out who has a device at home, what times are good for students to meet, or simply what everyone had for breakfast (any news will do). Desmos has been adding activities and features in response to distance learning. Here is an example of a check-in activity on Desmos that can be edited to include questions specific to your students.

Pushing out videos to students creates a visual connection to them. With a platform such as SeeSaw, you can record a weekly or daily greeting for your entire class or post video or audio messages to individual students. Flipgrid is another great streamlined platform to post, respond to, and view videos. Students who have the technology and support at home can record and post responses to your prompts or videos, and they can watch their classmates’ videos. Think of it as an opportunity for you and students to connect through a journal entry prompt, but as a video journal (“What’s your favorite meal?”, “ Would you rather become 5 years older or 2 years younger?”, etc.).  

Are you able to hold a virtual classroom with your students? If so, think about using some of this time as a class meeting or circle time session. Play a round of would you rather, show and tell, scavenger hunt, or simply break them into groups (Zoom is a platform that allows breakouts) and let them chat about a prompt you give. Google Meet is another popular option for hosting virtual classes.

Our students are feeling the stress of our current situation. They might be missing friends and school trips, or they might be taking care of siblings in addition to attending to their own school work. Reaching out to your students through these simple interactions might be exactly what they need to feel that they are not alone and what encourages them to engage with you and with school.

Written by Jenesis Byrne, MCMI Coach

2020-04-27T12:13:22-05:00 April 23rd, 2020|COVID-19 Distance Learning|

“Building an Airplane While it’s Flying”: Managing Expectations

Jennifer Leimberer, MCMI instructional coach

April 10, 2020

These past few weeks have been frustrating, inspirational, challenging, sad, humbling, intense, weird, isolating, unnerving, amazing, and ___________. (I will let you fill in any other descriptors that reflect your experience.) Social media has been filled with inspirational messages and comments that might set instruction back a few steps and some that will help the general population better appreciate the talents and dispositions of teachers.

There have been a few that have guided and inspired our team during these past few weeks of crisis.

  1. In his March 24th blog, “We’re Only Getting Out of This Together”  Dan Meyer described two hopes: 
  2. Give students something interesting to think about. Hopefully mathematical, but maybe not. Hopefully towards grade-level objectives, but let’s be realistic about the stresses faced by students, teachers, and parents here. (Remembering also how many people cross more than one of those categories.)
  3. Make connections. I encouraged the group to make connections from teacher to student, from student to student, and from student ideas to other interesting ideas.
  4. Edutopia featured experienced distance learning teacher, Kareen Farah in the article, 4 Tips for Teachers Shifting to Teaching Online:
  5. Simplicity is Key
  6. Establish a Digital Home Base
  7. Prioritize Longer, Student-Driven Assignments
  8. Individual Touch Points Are Game-Changers
  • On March 31st, Larry Ferlazzo shared a video: 7 Tips for Remote Teaching:
  • Give lots of feedback, as loving as possible rather than giving grades.
  • Lead with love, not with lessons.
  • Minimize synchronized learning.
  • This is not a one-size fits all situation.
  • Spend time in individual interactions as often as is humanly possible.
  • Keep things simple. “Think about what you want to accomplish and cut it in half.”
  • Offer grace. “Assume everyone is trying their best.”

What has inspired you? What has guided you? What has sustained you?

2020-04-13T14:06:21-05:00 April 13th, 2020|COVID-19 Distance Learning|

MCMI — Discussion of Platforms and Tools for Distance Learning

MCMI hosted a series of grade band meetings to discuss the challenges and explore some solutions to distance learning. The conversation focused on creating a digital home base and two-way communication with students. Below is a list of some of the platforms and tools being used by teachers. Many of the platforms have a free version or are currently offering a free version during the COVID-19 period. Check the terms and conditions as the situation is evolving.

**Ensure that your district or school has approved the platform that you are using.

Platform or ToolAdvantagesChallenges
Class DojoCan be used for quick individual and whole-class communication. Allows users to upload videos, pictures, links, etc. There is a class story that everyone (including parents) in the class can see (like Facebook feed) Parents can set up their own account and upload videos and pictures, as well as communicate directly with the teacher.  They can see students’ progress over time. Videos on perseverance, mindsets, and PBIS. Has a reminder feature to link to different sites/share our learning for the day. Can access through phone Free version.Some see tracking points as negative reinforcement   Teacher directed   Parents need to be educated — need training sessions
ClasskickFree version — limited assignments Allows teacher to create assignments Can pop in whatever you want and push out to students Teacher can see all of the students’ work and write on their slides Can use synchronous or asynchronous instruction Can add in links and provide feedback to students on their work Free version 
Desmos                  Desmos provides 3 main resources for teachers, Calculators, Classroom activities  and Learn Desmos video resources.  Demos is accessible on computers, tablets, and some phones. Teachers can search on Desmos for a classroom activity by creating a free teacher account.   
Starting a Desmos ActivityGo to Starting a Desmos Activity for how to use and create  classroom activities. You select an activity, create a class code, where students go to and enter the code or you can broadcast the link in a different platform. The code remains active until the teacher archives it.   During a Classroom activity, teachers can pause an activity for everyoneanonymize and pace screen access view student work   Visit the Desmos blog, Facebook page or #desmos Here are some of the newest features for teachers: provide written feedback to studentsshare a teacher login to a co-teacheruse Desmos created starter screens when making your own activities. Free 
EdPuzzleTeachers can see all of their videos and monitor who watches the video Can upload premade videos or create your own Ed Puzzle – can upload up to 15 videos Video has to be no more than 10 minutes Free version 
EmailSimple, probably already have access Can access from a phone Students can easily respond to studentsNeed an email address and it needs to be checked. Challenging to organize email responses from students.
FlipgridCan upload videos Has a whiteboard feature Students can respond with their own videos and post comments to each other It’s simple for primary kids to use (1st grade) Free version 
Google Drive   How to use Google Drive…Anyone can sign up for and use. Great for sharing.Individuals can delete if not careful (need to limit access).
Google Classroom     Google Forms   Google MeetPowerful platform. Don’t need to be in the classroom to be in hangouts.  Can create assignments in and assign work, and all students don’t have to get the same assignment. Can post a Problem of the Month and give students a week to complete it.  Can make copies of the same document for each student to work on individually. Can use Google Forms for assessment. Here is a sample form made for G6–12 teachers Can use Google Meets with teachers for meetings. All documents and student work posted/created save automatically to teacher’s Google Drive -Can link to outside resources -The teacher can share different modes of presentation for reviewing skills (i.e., post a question, video, and pdf) so the learner can have a choice of how to learn/review the skill. Can access from phone.   Components are free.Already need to be proficient; high learning curve   Students would need to be taught how to use it ahead of time   Need a school Gmail account to use G-Suites
SchoologyCollaborative learning platform   
ScreencastifyCreate quick video lessons by recording your voice and screen, using webcam, can send a weekly greeting Free Code for unlimited recording CAST_COVID 
SeeSawCan use SeeSaw to communicate with students, often at K–5. A number of activities are premade. There are tutorials on the SeeSaw web site.   Free version available. 
SocrativeCan be used to implement assessments including checks for understanding and quizzes 
ZoomCan be used for synchronous sessions and create whole group and breakout rooms for small groups to discuss/work together within a larger zoom call   Presenters and participants can share their screens. All participants can see each other at the same time with different views, such as gallery view (see all participants at once) and speaker view (zoom in on the speaker).   Can share links to documents/slides for students to work on in small groups as well as links to outside resources   How To Videos   NCTM Zoom Webinar   Free versionSome districts are not allowing teachers to use Zoom
Collaborative White boards   Bitpaper   Miro   Stormboard        Top 11 whiteboards article   Free versions   

Additional Links

Illinois State Board of Education

Remote Learning Recommendations, March 27, 2020


ISBE Continuing Education Resources

Helpful Articles

We’re Only Getting Out of This Together by Dan Meyer, March 24, 2020

4 Tips for Teachers Shifting to Teaching Online: An educator with experience in distance learning shares what he’s learned: Keep it simple, and build in as much contact as possible by Kareem Farah, March, 2020

2020-04-13T13:58:41-05:00 April 13th, 2020|COVID-19 Distance Learning|

MCMI Team Recommended Instructional Resources for Distance Learning

Are you overwhelmed by all the choices? The MCMI team has pulled together a list of free instructional resources that are focused on supporting students and families during distance learning. Some things we considered:

  • Open-ended and engaging
  • Longer, student-driven lessons
  • Interesting mathematics that focuses on core ideas
  • Opportunities for feedback and/or support through the resource, family or peer interaction.

Bridges: Home Learning Resources (K–5) 

An evolving collection of K–5 activities students can do independently or with the support of families or educators. Includes activity of the day, shorter and longer tasks, a collection of on-line games, and the virtual manipulatives from the Math Learning Center.

Connected Mathematics: CMP at Home (6–8)

An evolving set of resources for teachers and families to support students that are continuing their learning at home. You will find games, videos, and lessons that are easy to implement at home with families.

Counting Collections Routine (K–5)

This is an excellent routine to do at home. Count a collection of ______? Or How many ______ are there? This routine supports students’ development of quantity, number, magnitude, and measurement. Older students might develop ways to efficiently count large quantities (e.g., grains of rice in a bag) or show a quantity. What does _______ look like?

Desmos (3–12)

This is an evolving collection of digital activities and interactives that help students learn math and learn to love math. These activities can be done asynchronously or synchronously, can connect students to the reasoning of others, and provide an opportunity for feedback. Digital activities can be accessed via a phone as well as a computer.

Estimation 180 (K–12)

This is a collection of short videos that challenge students to reason about quantity and measurements. Different ages will access and engage in different ways but always stimulate highly engaging mathematics conversations.

Inside Mathematics: Problems of the Month (K–12)

This is a collection of leveled open-ended problem sets that could be used to engage students in some rich problem solving. Students start with level A and work through as many levels as they can. Ask students to share their solution to one of the levels.

Investigations: Math at Home (K–5)

An evolving collection of K–5 activities families can do at home and access to games that can be done on-line and off-line. Resources in English and Spanish.

Khan Academy (K–12)

Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom.

Math Trailblazers: Longer, Student-Driven Assignments (K–5)

The authors are in the process of curating a collection of longer, student-driven assignments and games that could be done independently or as a family. For example: How many steps does____walk in an hour? Which paper towel holds more water?

NCTM: Problems of the Week (3–12)

This collection of engaging and interesting open-ended problems is an awesome resource for those longer student-driven thought-provoking tasks. Students at different levels can solve the same problem in different ways.

Open Middle (K–12)

Open Middle problems have a “closed beginning” meaning that they all start with the same initial problem, a “closed end” meaning that they all end with the same answer, and an “open middle” meaning that there are multiple ways to approach and ultimately solve the problem.

Three Act Task (K–12)

There are several educators creating and organizing three-act tasks. Graham Fletcher has pulled together links to many of these K–12 educators. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page. Students get to know the problem through an image or video. After students determine and gather the information needed to mathematize the situation, students work to respond. The closure is a video of the situation or problem resolving, so students can check their response. Here is an NCTM article about Three-Act Tasks as well. One educator used a google form to deliver and collect student ideas.

YouCubed at Home Newsletter (K–12)

A weekly newsletter of YouCubed resources modified or highlighted to continue math exploration at home. There are some fun videos, games, and interesting open-ended tasks.

2020-04-13T14:16:51-05:00 April 13th, 2020|COVID-19 Distance Learning|