Happy Sunday, all! If you’re a member of my newsletter, you know my weekend has been spent in drywall dust, paint fumes. and the sound of my husband cutting tile as he gives our laundry room a facelift. While I’m SUPER thankful that he has the desire and ability to work on home improvement projects, I’m not a fan of renovation projects and all of the dusty mess that comes with it! (Not a subscriber? Sign up here!) Since we’re past the 4th of July in America, my teacher-brain is officially in “back-to-school” mode, not that it ever really shut down for the summer 😉 While I’m reflecting on the year that was (wowzers!) and the year to come, I’m feeling all the feels – excited to see my students in my classroom, high-fives or fist bumps as my students enter our classroom or walk down the hall, hilarious conversations about random thoughts, surprise Petty Wap Bops from our local coffee shop and a huge amount of angst and uncertainty about what our learning environment will look like, how I can encourage collaboration among my students, and of course, how will we do our best to protect the health and safety EVERYONE, including teachers, custodians, cafeteria staff, administrative staff, administrators, and our families that we return home to at the end of the day. Instead of allowing myself to jump into a full-blown panic attack (I’m sure that’s on the horizon, anyway!), I’m thinking about my concerns and how I can address them a little bit at a time. Here’s my plan for encouraging collaboration in our classroom, whether that be face-to-face, virtual, or some funky hybrid, this fall.
BOARD Time with Jamboard
Early last school year, I introduced a new activity to my students that was designed to encourage reflection and collaboration. I felt that my classroom was too quiet after my students had worked their way through instruction – man, if you would have told me 13 years ago that I would be looking for an activity because my classroom was too quiet, I would have called you crazy! Through BOARD time (more about that here) I’m able to encourage collaboration, reflection, and utilize a few lovely strategies outlined by Dr. Marzano, specifically showing similarities and differences, and non-linguistic representations, all while having fun. Have you ever asked your students to create a non-linguistic representation of the Great Compromise or the Electoral College? The creations students produce during BOARD time are just fantastic. In case we’re not able to collaborate this year using a community dry erase board and dry erase markers (I really don’t see that happening) Jamboard is a great collaborative alternative that will allow my students to use all of the great features of BOARD time in a more hygienic environment. More about Jamboard in a later post!
Padlet Shelf (Column) Collaboration
If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I just love Padlet. I do. Yes, people, myself included, freaked out a few years ago when Padlet started charging for just a few “padlets,” but it’s just a fantastic tool. Yes, I use the free version and the premium version (I have an account for my work as a high school teacher, one for my work as a college professor, and one for my blogging, speaking, presenting, and consulting work), and if I run out of space, I simply archive or delete a padlet I haven’t used in a bit, and free up some space! If you’ve explored Padlet, you know that they offer users many different options for how teachers display their “wall,” but our classroom favorite is the “shelf” or column option. This allows … ding, ding, ding … you guessed it! Easy collaboration! I set up the column titles, send the link to my students, and they collaborate with their classmates digitally on the same topic. Check out the image below for a visual 🙂
Google Meet — Updates, coming soon!
Last week, Google announced some ah-mazing updates coming this fall to Meet. One of the great things about Google is that they really do listen to teacher feedback! Sometimes, it just takes a bit 😉 If, let’s be honest, when we have to shift from in-person to online, the new updates to Meet will be pretty great. According to this post from Google, we can expect background images (this may seem trivial, but think of our students who may not feel comfortable of sharing their homelife in front of their classmates!), the ability to turn off chat during Meets, a hand-raising option, a whiteboard, AND the ability to form breakout groups. WOOOHOOO! Yes, I know Zoom already has many of these options, but some schools may have Zoom blocked for students and/or teachers. These new additions, specifically the whiteboard (through Jamboard integration) and breakout groups will definitely help increase collaboration during virtual learning!
How do you plan to encourage collaboration in the virtual classroom? Or, in a socially-distanced, face-to-face classroom, for that matter? I’d love to hear your thoughts!