Whether it is math facts or letter sounds, engaging students to learn rote skills is difficult in the classroom, which means it ten times harder when teaching online. As I teach phonics to a young reader through a screen, his eyes wander. Then he begins to tap his pencil and squirm in his seat – all indicators that my teaching is not sticking. It was time to try something different.
I decided to ask this student for help. “Hey, some kids need help learning how to write the sounds they hear and they don’t know how to do it. You’ve been practicing so hard and I think you could help other kids. Do you think you would be my co-teacher and videotape a lesson with me?”
Immediately, the students’ stance changed. He sat up a bit straighter and looked directly in the camera. Let’s practice a bit before we tape so you know exactly what to do. The quality of the practice changed too. Instead of “I’m not sure how to spell that? Or, “I’ll just write I love my dad instead of My dad and I went fishing.” All of a sudden, he didn’t simplify the sentence to words he knew how to spell. Having a greater purpose changed everything.
This teaching moment has stayed with over the last few weeks. What if kids created lessons as a part of learning? Could there be a station in the classroom, where kids record a lesson on the IPAD? Could we find a way to make these accessible? Could these videos give us another authentic way to understand our students?
I think about how these videos might change small group instruction. Instead of small groups beginning with some modeling from me, kids huddle around the IPad, watch the lesson, discuss it, and start trying before I even join the group. Then my teaching would become more interactive as a coach from the side as students work.
I hope we all return to school in the fall and that COVID-19 and social distancing become a thing of the past. I also hope that we carry the lessons we learned from teaching online with us. A silver lining during these sad and scary times.
I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic.