Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Remote Learning - Organization is Key!

Week 2 of Remote Learning has started and my new co-workers are some of the laziest colleagues I've ever had!  Either they are laying down on the job, napping, or trying to steal my office supplies.  Actually, it's the office supplies that are most annoying - those are MY pens! :)

This has been a HUGE adjustment for me.  Not being able to see my students to see if they get it, to watch them work on whiteboards, to check in with them about their lives, to give High Fives... this is hard.

I don't mean that it's hard in the sense of being at home - that part doesn't bother me.  I'm a huge introvert by nature and can do just fine with just a good book, a blanket, and my patio. My office is a comfortable place to work and I have a very walk-able neighborhood to get out for fresh air.

No - the hardest part is just the paperwork.  I've actually really enjoyed having the time to learn more about Desmos, provide individual feedback on our activities, and exploring some tech tools that I can use moving forward.  But the hardest part has been just the daily organization of teaching this way... keeping track of the daily communication with students and parents, monitoring who has done the assignments, contacting students and parents you haven't heard from.  It's a full time job just to keep up with the emails!

Keeping my Sanity through Organization

Organization Tip #1 - Color Code Everything!
I am always up for colored pens, but earlier this year, I got a set of erasable pens from Amazon and I love them.  I have had the Frixion pens before as well, but I kind of prefer the off brand ones :)  I keep track of when I've contacted a student, parent, counselor, when a student has contacted me, who has done what assignment, etc.  The best part of the eraseable set is when I'm doing my lesson plans, I can erase and fix errors! :)  Yay!

Organization Tip #2 - Tracking Student Work
I keep a paper attendance book that shows a whole 9 week period in my classroom normally, so I just printed those out and checkmark each day.  I also keep track by colored dots when I have contacted students / parents, sent out whole class emails, etc.  Mainly, I need to be able to see at a glance when I haven't heard from a student in several days so a "welfare check" can be done, either via email or phone call. 

I also struggled with keeping track of what I actually assigned each day, comments of changes that I wanted to make for future use, and how many students had done each assignment, so I made a mini-calendar at the left to help me keep track.  Right now, each day tends to just melt into the next one, so having a way to keep track of day-to-day lessons, which ones I had given feedback on, and a place to make myself notes was a must.

Organization Tip #3 - Tracking Parent Communication
While I'm trying my best to have engaging lesson plans, I know that I will not have 100% engagement.  However, I was quickly getting overwhelmed by the emails I was sending and tracking who had contacted me.  We are supposed to contact parents (or send names to the counselor) when we have not heard from a student in several days.  Plus, there are some students who are starting to trickle in with "Yeah, I'm good with my grade.. stop nagging me already." and in those cases, I really need to make sure I have the documentation from their parents that the parent is okay with the student's decision.  In general, I'm just drowning in emails and I needed a way to keep track of it all :)

Organization Tip #4 - Lesson Plan Binder
In my AP class, we are still working toward our AP Exam, now scheduled for late May, plus I still have one more chapter to teach.  Because I want my students to continue with their AP Stat notebook, I created a Digital Learning Notebook for them that has the daily lesson plan, notes sheets, problem sets, and AP Free Response problems.  I also try to give them feedback daily so they know how they are doing and what they can do to improve.  I was quickly gathering a stack of answer keys, AP Rubrics, etc, so I grabbed a spare binder to make my own Digital Learning notebook / Lesson Plan Binder.  Each week, I have a general guide of what we are doing, then the weekly file that I share with the students with my answer keys to keep them all in the same place.  This has proven invaluable to me as we are asyncronous, so the responses may trickle in over the course of a few days.

Organization Tip #5 - Rocketbook still Rocks!
I've shared before about my love of Rocketbook in my classroom, but with the shift to Digital Learning, the structure of my lessons have changed a bit.  In my regular classroom, I use a composition book and half-sheets of paper, so it fits perfectly into an 8.5x11 Rocketbook Frame. Then I just snap a photo and it goes straight to Google Drive for students to check their work.

But with my Digital Learning, my notes / problem sets are on normal sized paper, so my Rocketbook Frame was too small!  EEKK!  I talked hubby into helping as I was busy working on other stuff and he was able to enlarge it to an 11x17 page.  Then I just laminated the frame and now it works perfectly with 8.5x11 notes.  Yay! :)

Organization Tip #6 - The Bookmarks Bar is your Friend!
One of the best organization tips that I have, that I use MULTIPLE times a day is a folder on my Bookmarks Bar.  This allows me quick access to the tools that I use every day.  For example, you'll notice links to resources that I've found useful, including links to the amazing webinars that have been going on right now to support teachers.  But the bottom set of bookmarks are the true workhorses of this tip.  I have easy access to my Google Meet, my Desmos lesson collections, and my Google Folders that organize other lesson plans and the district files.  I don't even want to think about how many times a day I click this link on my screen :)

My Biggest Take-Away:
There is no "right" way to do this Distance Learning thing.  Even as an organized person, I'm still struggling with keeping track of everything, but the tips above have definitely helped me keep my sanity and helped to tame the paper monster a bit.

What things have helped you keep organized during your shift to Distance Learning?

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