Teachers are working hard to create engaging online curriculum that students will consume. Trust me, it’s harder than you think. The first thing for teachers above all, is to create relationships with the students. It’s easy in a classroom because you are able to create an atmosphere of trust. In a virtual environment, not so easy.
To make these first few weeks easier, I say skip the curriculum. It will still be there when you are ready. Play games instead.
When I taught 6th grade ELA, we were online about 80%. I was teaching skills that students could use for a lifetime! A few months into the year, I began to hear complaining. Can I do this with paper and pencil? I don’t want to open my Chromebook. I forgot my Chromebook. The list grew. I had lost my students because of Chromebooks. I needed a new plan.
My goal was to make learning fun. I set out to find data that related to the students and their Chromebooks. I observed. I took notes. I asked questions. Finally, I came up with a plan. Play time. I would teach a short lesson, have them practice with me, then assign their task. After they completed the task, they had a few minutes to play a game online. Eventually I found they were playing together on a car racing game that was teaching ELA/typing skills. The faster you type, the faster your car moves. Winning races helped you build better cars or buy them. A new, maybe somewhat devious, idea was forming in my head.
Before I became a teacher, I was a medical transcriptionist, typing over 110 wpm. I was fast! One day when they were playing, I opened the game, created a nickname, “Urworstday”, and uploaded my equipment. I requested friends, from the classroom of course. Then lay in wait. Seconds later, 1 request accepted, then 2, 3 and when I had all the kids on there I invited them to race me. Remember, they have no idea I’m on the game.
The race began. I let them move ahead but then I busted out. Typing faster to move around them like Dale Sr at Bristol Motor Speedway! That’s when I heard it. The uncontrolled laughter and shouts of, “Hey, who is that? I can’t catch him!” Seconds later I had won. Then I was invited to a race. I won again. Every time they invited me, I accepted and won. That was my downfall.
Michael was smart, funny and curious. While I was engrossed in racing, he was determined to find out who that new kid racer was in the classroom. I came back to reality when he was beside me yelling, “Hey, it’s Mrs. Anderson! She is the new racer!” They all ran to my desk, laughing and vowing to get me. I trash-talked back. We all were laughing and having fun. That’s how I buillt the relationships with my kids. I didn’t forget to play.