Only second to the medical community that is on the front lines during this COVID-19 pandemic, admins, teachers, parents, and students are today’s heroes. In less than a week’s notice, teachers, parents, and students have moved to homeschooling and online learning. While many companies are generously offering online tools, this might be putting the cart before the horse. If students are only working on schoolwork and digital software, they will quickly tire of it and revolt.
An important point to consider as we adapt to what could be our collective new normal is that people, especially children, seek structure.
As much as we like to think lack of structure is relaxing, long term lack of structure is actually more stressful.
According to AhaParenting.com ,
Structure and routines teach kids how to constructively manage themselves and their environments.
According to UpWorthy.com,
Children need routine and predictability in order to feel safe. This is especially important during a time of crisis.
Try to create a schedule, so everyone in the house has some expectation of normalcy. During this time, your children of all ages will want to know something is predictable. A schedule can create the element of predictability no matter how small.
Below are some sample schedules for you to read through. You can try them as-is or create your own based on the elements here. Please, make sure you have movement, fun, socializing, choice, reflection, and learning.
Sample Elementary Student Homeschooling Schedule:
- 8-8:30 am wake, dress, brush teeth
- 8:30 – 9 Breakfast
- 9 – 9:30 Plan for the day. Discuss the schedule for the day, so kids know what to expect. Let them know you are going to try it out and ask for their feedback at the end of each block or at the end of the day, so they should be thinking about what they liked and what they would like to change.
- 9:30 – 10:30 Exercise: play outside, ride bikes with parents, walk dog, play wii dance or wii sports, download an exercise app if it is raining or too cold to go outside
- 10:30 – 11:30 Thinking Time: Do some school work if there is any. This can be paper and pencil work or online work. If there is not any structured work, download brain or memory games apps such as concentration, puzzles, memorize the 50 states and their capitals, word finds, crossword puzzles, etc.
- 11:30 – 12:30 Lunch: Help make and eat lunch. No electronics during this time. No iPads or phones or TV.
- 12:30 – 1:30 Playtime of choice: play inside or outside. Board games, card games, coloring, manipulatives, crafts, swing set, running around, etc. Remember, only to play with family in the house and not anyone outside the house. If parents are the only other people in the house, be your child’s playmate. You won’t regret it.
- 1:30 – 2 Personal connection: Feeling a sense of belonging and friendship is very important. Kids want to know their friends and family are safe. They worry. If you have Internet or phone access, call or have an online video call with friends and or family. If you do not have electronic access, write cards or letters to friends, and have them do the same for you. Then mail them and wait for yours to arrive. Pen pals are till just as exciting as they were 20 years ago.
- 2 – 3 School Time: electronics are okay now. This can be elearning software, iPad apps, or educational TV or YouTube videos. Just make sure you are monitoring the topics. If you are not sure where to go, check out Common Sense Media for approved apps and sites for learning.
- 3-4:30 Personal Choice: It is important for children to have some autonomy in their day. Let them choose how they want to spend the last block of their day.
- 4:30 – 5 Reflection and Feedback – check in with your child and discuss how the day went. What went well? What did you like? Where did you feel successful? Where did you feel pride in accomplishment? Discuss whether the schedule worked and how it might be improved.
Sample Middle and High School Homeschooling Schedule:
Because middle and high school students are older, they seek autonomy and deserve the opportunity to start trying out their organizational and decision-making skills. Being a real adult is not age-based; being an adult is based on decision-making skills. Our children and students deserve to make choices in a safe zone. This is the perfect opportunity to let them make choices, live them out, and reflect on whether they would make the same choice again. I’ll be blogging more about that in the future.
- Prior to 9 am – Pre-Learning Time: let them know waking, showering, dressing, working out, and eating need to be fully completed beforehand just as if they were at school. Let them decide what they will do before 9 am.
- 9 – 9:15 am – Reflect: think about pre-school choices and how things went. Ask students to plan out tomorrow’s pre-school activities now.
- 9:15 – 9:30 Get organized: Spend the first 15 minutes discussing tasks to complete that day, order they want to complete them in, and expected completion time. Share the overall schedule for the day now, so they can fill in blocks with subjects or activities.
- 9:30 – 9:45 Set Goals with built-in, self-created rewards if they meet their goals. It is important they they set the celebration to make it intrinsic. If they are not ready for this, consider offering an extrinsic reward like 15 extra minutes of self-choice time during the day.
- 9:45-10 Set up your space: choose the best learning space for you. Bedrooms are not recommended unless your child has proven in the past that they can get work done and not goof off. I have three teens at home. One chose the dining room table. Another chose the kitchen island. The third chose the living room sofa.
- 10-11:30 Quiet time to work on assigned school work in the order they chose in the “Get Organized” slot earlier. This is a super-focus time when everyone needs to work quietly.
- 11:30 – 11:45 Reflect and Celebrate: Have kids report out on what their goal was and whether they met their goal. Celebrate with high fives, happy dance, or whatever else is fun and spontaneous. Ask kids how they feel when they meet their goal.
- 11:45 – 1 Lunch and Socializing: Lunch equals friends and socializing for most kids. Encourage yours to FaceTime or call his/her friends. iPhones can make group calls and group FaceTimes. Android phones can do Google hangouts with one or many people. Encourage your child to socialize during this time. It is incredibly important that they stay connected with their friends and social network.
- 1-1:30 Movement: A full stomach can make anyone sleepy. Encourage your child to get outside and move. Kick a soccer ball around, shoot some hoops, go for a bike ride or a jog. Anything to get the blood pumping to their brain. This increases their attention span and mental capacity.
- 1:30 – 3 Quiet time and work. This can be electronic software, Kahn Academy, school-assigned computer work, reading, etc.
- 3:00 – 4:00 Personal Choice: Allow students to relax how they choose. This could be video games, reading, biking, playing an instrument, listening to music, drawing, etc. This is more of a creation time than consumption. Encourage your child to make something as much as possible. Don’t force them to do anything, though. Let them choose.
- 4:00 – 4:30 Reflection: check in with your child and discuss how the day went. What went well? What did you like? Where did you feel successful? Where did you feel pride in accomplishment? Discuss whether the schedule worked and how it might be improved. Listen to their feedback, and try to incorporate it into future days’ schedules. Each time you make a change, be sure to ask how you will measure its success. Reflect on whether to keep the change.
These are merely samples of items to include in your homeschooling schedule during this unpredictable time. Make it work for you and your children. Remember, learning is supposed to be enjoyable, exciting, and social. Do you best to include all of those things. Some structure is needed to provide a sense of normalcy and allow students some predictability in their day. Consider using shorter learning times in the beginning and increasing them as you all settle in and build your endurance. Attack it the way a triathlon athlete would. Plan, practice, and increase your activity as you go.
Please, leave some comments to share what is working and not working for you. If this plan can be improved, leave some feedback.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ~Maya Anjelou
If you are trying to encourage collaboration in your classroom and are having trouble, read on. You will see 7 steps that will help you build stronger student collaborators in collaboration activities.
What’s All the Hubbub?
Why is collaboration such a big deal all of a sudden? Everybody wants to collaborate: songwriters, businesses, school districts, teachers, and now students. What is it, and what, if anything, is its importance?
Well, as it turns out, collaboration boosts creativity and thinking. Teamwork works for big jobs and also for small jobs.
According to P21.org,
“The ability to work in teams is one of the most sought-after skills among new hires, yet research suggests that students may not be graduating with the level of skills needed to succeed on the job.”
That’s reason enough for me to start incorporating collaboration into my classes to allow my students the opportunity to practice and attain those collaboration skills.
For two years, I encouraged collaboration in all of the classes with which I worked. After awhile, I started to wonder whether all the work to set up collaboration was really that important. Then I was present for a presentation by Anthony Kim of Ed Elements. In that presentation, Kim shared some data with us from John Hattie’s Visible Learning. What caught my attention and subsequent dedication to collaboration is the graphic below.
Taken with permission from Anthony Kim’s presentation. @anthonx
In it, Hattie shows that 0.40 is the effect size for one year’s growth. The highest growth effect comes as a result of … you guessed it, peer collaboration and discussion coming in at a whopping 0.82!
That means that, according to Hattie, peer collaboration and discussion result in students learning more than twice what they would learn in a traditional classroom with a traditional teacher. Even more than differentiation and immediate feedback.
That’s worth restating. Peer collaboration and discussion result in students learning twice what they would learn in a normal year’s growth.
Whoa! That’s amazing! With growth like that, we should all be collaborating and discussing all day long, right?
Were We Successful?
Well, my teachers and I worked on collaboration in our classrooms. We learned about, planned out, tried out, and reflected on blended learning station rotation that required a collaboration station. The results were very telling.
At our end-of-the-year meeting we reported out our findings. Of our group, 95% said that the collaboration station was the least successful. Upon reflection, here’s what we surmised: students don’t need just the opportunity to collaborate; they need to be taught how to collaborate well.
How Can We Improve Collaboration?
All summer I thought about why we failed and how we could succeed. I knew there had to be a way to teach students how to collaborate well, and I processed and researched and finally put together this infographic called “7 Steps to Building Student Collaborators” (see right) for teachers to follow as a scaffold for building strong collaborators. As everything else in education, this is a work in progress, so please try it out and send me some feedback to improve it for all who might happen upon it and try it out. Here is a detailed description to help you get started. As it is a progression, feel free to jump in wherever makes the most sense for your students.
Step 1: Begin with open-ended discussion questions for the students to process their thoughts. Google Classroom is a great tool for this because the answers to Classroom discussion questions are hidden until after a student submits his/her answer. No copying, folks. What you see is what you get. Set the settings to allow students to respond. (This allows them to see other’s answers). However, you must go into the Student section and change the rights to “Only teachers can post or comment.” (see graphic) You want this because in step 2 you have to teach your students how to write an appropriate response to a post.
Step 2: Teach students what makes an appropriate, well-written response to a post. To do this, share How-To videos 1 and 2 below and Accountable Talk/Moves charts like the one below that demonstrate well-written responses, and practice, practice, practice. Maybe your students could be empowered to create their own video, blog, vlog, or infographic for others to use.
Step 3: Give students the opportunity to practice using accountable talk (found here and here), and practice responding as a whole group to one another’s posts in Google Classroom. As a modeling exercise, the teacher will type the responses as the students formulate them together. You can start out whole group and move toward small groups formulating responses as one entity. There are plenty of apps to assist you. Socrative allows students to post their answers and then vote on the best one. Google Classroom allows teachers to post a discussion question for group responses with only one person per group submitting a response. A shared Google Doc with a table can be used to share out the final group responses. A shared Google Drawing can be used with post-it note style text boxes for each group to claim and fill. Please know that once is not enough. Students need the opportunity to practice, practice, practice. Once you are confident that students know how to write group responses, change the Google Classroom settings to “Students can post and comment.” This will open up discussion questions for peer response. Once you feel confident that students understand the phraseology in writing, you need to transition to verbal responses.
Step 4: Move to an on-the-spot, think-fast, response system that requires accountable talk or sentence starters. Socratic seminars are just the activity for this. If you are not familiar with Socratic seminars, they are basically student-led discussions with the requirement that everyone has to contribute something to the discussion. The teacher is responsible for formulating questions that are open-ended and draw out student interpretations that should then be supported with text or some other data. Great Book, Junior Great Book Shared Inquiry discussions, and Fishbowl discussions are similar to a Socratic seminar. It doesn’t matter what system you use as long as students have to piggyback on one another’s responses. This is where the accountable talk comes in. It gives students the phraseology to have civil agreement and disagreement. It also encourages deeper inquiry instead of superficial analysis of a topic.
Step 5: Now that students are becoming comfortable with more academic phrases and sentence starters as a whole group with teacher monitoring, it is time to set them into small groups to monitor themselves. Create simultaneous small groups each with the same task: run your own Socratic seminar or Great Books discussion for shared inquiry. Formulate starter questions as a whole group or as small groups, and then share out before beginning the activity. Formulating questions is a skill that our students could practice more. Scaffold here as needed.
After the activity, debrief and give students time to reflect upon what went well and what could be improved. Practice these small group synchronous discussions a few more times until you and they feel confident that they could monitor themselves completely during a station rotation class period. It’s now time to move toward asynchronous collaboration.
Step 6: Today is the big day! Your students should be better prepared to rotate into a collaborative station without needing your help. This is a huge accomplishment and should be celebrated by you and your students! Your job is to create 3 or more stations: Independent, Collaborative, Teacher Directed. If you are not familiar with Blended Learning Station Rotation, check out Blended Learning Universe through the Christensen Institute.
Step 7: Finally, take time to allow students to reflect on the experience. Debrief with them to get their feedback, so together you can build a better station rotation each time.
Reflection Tools: Journal, blogs, Google Classroom, Google Forms, Think-Pair-Share, ClassKick, Nearpod, Seesaw, Vocaroo, audio recorder, video recorder, Screencastify, etc.
The Power of Feedback
If you are ready to try collaboration with your students, please try out this scaffold and send me some feedback. I’d love to hear about your successes as well as your recommendations for how, together, we can make this process better. It’s all about the collaboration, right?
Here is the infographic in case you’d like to print it out.