Sunday, August 9, 2020

Assessment in the Online Classroom


  • Best practice is to design high-quality explicit instruction and then monitor the lesson. Teacher should use checks for understanding throughout the lesson, and perhaps exit tickets to inform the next lesson.
  • In asynchronous classes, teachers can require the LMS to issue learning components in sequence, assigning first a video and then a short quiz to as a use check for understanding.
  • In online classes, teachers can use several asynchronous, ongoing assessments to monitor whole-class understanding. Most experienced online teachers are going to use the online, written discussion questions as ongoing assessments of student knowledge.
  • Computer-adaptive software for problem sets is one of my favorite ways to monitor student progress and it provides each student with a unique daily problem set.
  • In classes without significant daily problem sets, teachers can use weekly quizzes to provide a snapshot of student learning.
  • Do not assess on what was not taught.

Common Assessment Types:

  • Discussion Questions
  • Quizzes
  • Journals
  • Homework
  • Tests
  • Final Exams
  • Timeline
Consider: feedback types, formative use, summative use, and grading standards. All of these need to be clear in your mind (preferably written down in a chart for your later reference). 


Teachers need to help students figure out how to make their work better. I recall taking a creative writing class in undergraduate school and on my essays the professor simply wrote, “Develop.” If I knew how to develop something, I would have done it! Tell students what they did wrong (“You didn’t add enough supporting details to make a convincing scene.”). Then, tell them what they need to do next (“You’ll need to go back and add more supporting details.”). Finally, help them make a plan for getting it done (“Re-write this with three more supporting details and get it back to me next week by Friday at 5p.m.”). Their prefrontal cortexes aren’t fully myelinated, so help with that impulse control issue by giving students firm instructions about what to do—these instructions make students more likely to get the work done.


In my experience, students are laughably less likely to cheat than you think they are. Research supports this. There are some actions you can take to set class conditions to make it less likely for students to cheat. Don't hesitate to hand out a parent coaching guide

Direct Instruction in the Online Class

Activate Prior Knowledge

Experienced teachers know that they will often need to review background knowledge before introducing a new learning objective, and this is my favorite way to begin a lesson. Review can take several different forms, all leading into the new topic of the day’s lesson.

  • A teacher could free-hand sketch a concept map of previous lessons on a blank slide, prompting students for the appropriate key words as the diagram is completed. “What are the two classes of bony fish?” At the end, an obvious blank spot could prompt, “See this? This is what we’re going to discuss today.” Explicitly mapping how knowledge is related is valuable, especially for younger students.
  • A teacher could start with a brief story with supporting images on a slide. Even my high school students enjoy a story time about something they already know that leads naturally into the day’s topic. For example, I often begin discussion of the Cartesian plane (coordinate system) with a brief biographical sketch of René Descartes, beginning with his life as a precocious, sickly college student, his original career as a mercenary, and then his decision to opt for a life of the mind, writing La Géométrie and creating the idea of analytical geometry. “… which is why this is called a Cartesian plane!”
  • A teacher could begin with a posted problem, “Remember this?” and take a whole-class poll on multiple-choice answers shown underneath the problem. The problem should be easier, because students should have mastered it earlier. In addition, the problem should be essential to the day’s topic—it’s not so much retrieval practice as it is prior knowledge. Ideally, each wrong answer will be just slightly wrong. Teachers can move down the list of answers and require students to identify why the wrong answers are incorrect. This style of opener has the advantage of settling down an unruly class to focus on the content. In addition, when teachers have quite a bit to cover and limited time to do it in, the straightforward approach saves time. “Now, we’re going to take this and add a little twist.”

Present Learning Objective

When students are on-topic and have had their background knowledge refreshed, the teacher is in a good place to trot out the learning objective on a separate slide. “Today, we are going to verb noun.” The verb should be explicit, specific, and measurable. For example:

  • “Today, we are going to add like fractions.
  • “Today, we are going to list and describe the stages of meiosis.”
  • “Today, we are going to compose a thesis sentence.”
  • “Today, we are going to identify and describe steps in the development of written language.”
  • “Today, we are going to read a story and use supporting evidence to identify a theme.”

Notice how often the nouns lend themselves to key vocabulary for adding to the memory work. Because students will ask, teachers need to have a clear definition for each of the verbs. What does compose mean? How does one identify something? The specificity lends itself to clear expectations. Either the fraction was added correctly, or it was not. Either all the stages of meiosis were listed, or they were not. Each objective should be measurable. According to Barak Rosenshine, “the optimal success rate for fostering student achievement appears to be about 80 percent.” A student should be able to successfully read a short story and identify a theme at least 8 out of 10 times.

Direct Instruction

Now that students are all clear on the topic of the day, teachers can begin with the presentation of new material. Different class goals lend themselves to different ways of presenting new materials. Having clarity on the type of class affects how teachers approach most lesson presentations. 

survey course - skims over major content areas; requires intense vocabulary study

  • Western History from 1500 to Present; 5th grade biology

Survey courses require that teachers identify major themes in the area under study so students have a framework with which to understand the learning objective. For example, in middle school biology courses, often a quarter of the school year is given over to human body systems. Within that theme, teachers can trace components of the knowledge (traditionally, 11 major organ systems), and then subdivide each of those into their constituent parts. The integumentary system can be further divided into the skin, hair, nails, and sometimes glands.

In a survey course, a teacher might begin by reviewing the theme in a concept map, noting the missing pieces, and then listing and defining each new piece. Online, each defined term should have its own slide, with a short, clear definition in a high-contrast color scheme, preferably with a visual example. Teachers should not just read the slides, but they should read the slides for students with visual impairments, dyslexia, and other special education needs.

When teaching these lessons, teachers should be prepared with extensive research about the terms and concepts, centering ideas within a wide, scripted set of background knowledge. Another way to think of this is practicing zooming deep into a body of knowledge and then zooming out of the body of the knowledge to the larger picture. This is where lesson flexibility comes into play.

If students have more knowledge than expected, teachers can go deeper because they’ve researched the topic. If students have less knowledge than expected, teachers can spend more time breaking the concept down by inserting blank slides, freehand drawing connections between topics, and re-defining difficult terms. In order to do this well, teachers must have prepared more notes than they’ll need for each slide.

Teachers often model how they organize the concepts, and check for understanding by providing students with blank organizers, asking students where each piece fits, and then requiring students to justify their decision. Teachers can freehand these on a blank slide, or put the diagram they’d asked students to label in their skeleton notes on a slide. Now is a good time to review guided notes, as well.

Asking several students to create mnemonics on a blank slide can help reveal any misunderstandings in student understanding. A common mnemonic for the order of the planets is “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles.” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) But, if a student created a mnemonic with a different order, a teacher would know the student doesn’t fully have the organization required, and needs help with their memory work.

methods course - mastery of facts, concepts, and procedures; requires rigorous practice

  • Algebra I; Elements of Art and Composition; Expository Writing

Methods courses have a heavy emphasis on procedures and concepts. Students traditionally demonstrate mastery by using procedures to solve problem sets. My algebra I students learn seven procedures for solving quadratic equations and must be able to complete all seven, as well as be able to explicitly describe when each procedure is the most appropriate (have conceptual understanding). Students spend a great deal of time practicing procedures, and ideally, honing discrimination between appropriate uses of procedures through interleaved, interval spaced, varied problem sets.

Before demonstrating the procedure, do not forget to clearly define the concept underlying each procedure in words. Define terms from the ground up, and have the definitions already written on the slide. Teachers might be amazed how often students say, "I never knew that!" when they start with the basic, underlying terms.

It’s a running joke in my math classes that many people think they prefer math class to reading class because there are fewer vocabulary words, and yet here they are, scrabbling to learn all the vocabulary that I explicitly list and define in each lesson. Good definitions help students internalize the procedures into a schema of understanding. For example, my algebra I students learn three methods to solve systems of equations with two variables, and the definition for each includes “solve a system of equation with two variables by …”

When presenting information for a methods course, teachers should be prepared with worked examples, particularly for complex problems. Often, I present worked examples of underlying skills and then show students how the underlying skill builds to the current skill. However, if the problem is lengthy or complex, I find that it is often better not to scare students by showing them a board full of complex text, but instead to insert a blank slide and narrate as I work a problem. To help compensate for less than stellar writing, the next slide will have the same problem neatly typed up for students to review later.

For example, in the “I Do” stage, I walk algebra students through adding 1/2 and 3/4 on a blank slide, gradually replacing each numeral with a variable, but keeping the procedure the same. Students can trace the similarities and differences as the examples are shown. Each problem is a different slide. At the end, I type up all five problems on the same slide so students can compare the procedures. (MathType is my preferred software for typing in MS PowerPoint.)

Key to this style of presentation is teacher talk, or thinking aloud as I make choices to solve problems on the whiteboard. I script this in advance and reuse the script throughout the year. My goal is to have students internalize the script so that when they go to work independently, they hear my voice in their head prompting the next step. If this sounds odd, rest assured that I can still hear my ballet teacher from 30 years ago prompting me to “Make a diamond in your back.” Many of us might still remember hearing a coach shout, “Keep your eye on the ball!” We want that same level of internal support when students perform procedures in methods classes. Common teacher talk questions include:

  • What should I do first?
  • Next? And then?
  • How do I know what kind of problem this is?
  • How did we get …?
  • Why did I do that?
  • Because ____ I did ….?
  • What would happen if I didn’t ….?
  • How do you know?
  • What’s missing from this?
  • Almost! What should we have done instead?
  • How do we always finish these types of problems?

Checking for understanding can occur in the “We Do” stage when I pretend to forget a step, and have a student tell me what to do next. “We Do” is also useful for having two, three, or more students solve prepared problems on a single slide, so students can see that multiple paths lead to correct answers. In my opinion, the best lessons are when several students work together to solve a single problem, such as assigning each student a coordinate point and having them graph it on a slide prepared with a Cartesian plane, so the class works together to graph a single line. This type of problem has a built-in check for understanding, because if a student’s point is not on the line, the student doesn’t understand the concept.

As students gain familiarity with the procedures, include non-examples. In my experience, this works best when teachers tuck them on an ordinary slide. Don’t distinguish them in any way. Then, when students are puzzled as to why the procedure doesn’t work, the teacher can point out the way that this problem doesn’t conform to the procedure. This way, students are more likely to remember the difference. Have students refer back to the definition of the underlying concept to distinguish why this problem didn’t work.

Another way to include non-examples is to let students tell teachers the wrong way to solve a problem, and then when it doesn’t work, locate the error and circle the mistake or misunderstanding. Do not call out the student who made the error. Instead, point out that all students need to be aware of this common error. By the end of the lesson, students should be able to list when the procedure doesn’t apply, and common errors of which they should beware. Ideally, at the end of the lesson the teacher would have these prepared on a slide that students may want to take a screenshot of for future reference.

Teachers should include enough examples so that students gain fluency before the end of the lesson. When possible, I like to emphasize that there are many ways to solve a problem and that what I’m teaching them is the quickest route. I routinely allow a volunteer to solve a problem on a slide, or part of a problem, and then have the whole class examine the correctly worked problem. “How many of you would have done this? Mmhmm. Can you do it this way? Mmhmm. But, how can we do this faster?” This is not about embarrassing students, but about showing students ways to make their life easier. I’m externalizing the most efficient route to solving the problem.

Finally, faded, worked examples are excellent. In this case, teachers have partially solved problems on the board, and let students work their way through increasingly large chunks of the problem type. Often, this may take a half-dozen slides to go from fully worked problems to blank slides with only the initial problem. Then teachers should have another three or four slides prepared with only the initial problem, so students can practice together before they separate out for independent practice in the course module assignments.

Always have more problems prepared than students will need, just in case. All students should answer every problem at the end of the “We Do” portion even if that means that the teacher prepares several slides of multiple-choice questions for use with the polling feature in the LMS. Alternatives include having students write their answer on the prepared slide in set slots, or drawing lines for matching problems and answers. Teachers can require all students prepare typed answers in the chat box, but not hit enter until the teacher gives the cue, to prevent copying. Remember, teachers should aim for 80% of the class to earn an 80% on these problems. That’s four out of five questions answered correctly.

remediation course – must begin at first principles and work forward; designed to fill gaps

·         Preparation for Pre-Algebra; conceptual physics

Remedial courses often have fewer, precise goals and begin at first principles. Students in a remedial reading course might find themselves reviewing phonics from the first letter sounds. Often, students are in remedial courses because they have gaps in their underlying background knowledge. Their courses should be designed to fill the gaps. These courses will have less complicated themes but still require an outlay of student time on assignments.

These classes are often difficult to teach because teachers must have a deep underlying knowledge of the structure of the content area in order to identify common underlying gaps in knowledge. Then, teachers must be able to clearly and directly trace the development of a given piece of knowledge, skill, or ability across several grade levels in order to lead students through the material without skipping any necessary steps.

In other words, teachers must prepare the content as if for a survey course, but teach using the tools and techniques of a procedural course. However, the teaching has to be different from the average classroom, because if the average tools and techniques worked for these students, they wouldn’t be in the class. In addition, teachers must establish good working relationships with students who are typically unhappy and unsuccessful at traditional academics. This is a difficult undertaking.

Since students with working memory issues frequently show up in remedial classes, teachers should attend to their needs. One thing these students need is consistent assignments, so they don’t lose track of what they’re doing while they figure out what the question means. In a synchronous session, teachers can and should walk them through a sample assignment using the screen sharing function with the student view in the assignment itself. Teach students what the words of the question mean and how to input the answers.

Often, students in remedial courses need more practice than the average student for changes in long-term memory to occur, i.e., it takes them longer to learn new material. Therefore, teachers should be prepared to repeat instruction on a regular basis. In my Preparation for Pre-Algebra class, I repeat instruction every three to five weeks for the 32 weeks of the school year—i.e., I conduct a week of synchronous sessions on decimals at least six times, going a little bit deeper each time.

Furthermore, students with working memory issues are not able to easily re-derive procedures, and often don’t have good executive functioning to focus through lengthy procedures. They need to be able to just do the work by combining memorized chunks of processes in limited working memory. Teachers need to build in explicit memorization expectations and routines. My Preparation for Pre-Algebra students spend months on independent practice of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables in the computer-adaptive software.

In my experience, successful online teaching of remedial courses involves offline supplemental texts and manipulatives for students who have difficulty with abstract concepts. For example, in my Preparation for Pre-Algebra course, students have a paper workbook, a work-text (a consumable textbook, meant for students to write in), a multiplication card deck, a fraction card deck, and an account on computer-adaptive software. Students work in both books and online every week, as well as play carefully designed math games to reinforce fraction skills.

Teachers in remedial courses should include explicit teaching and practice for parts-to-whole instruction of complicated concepts. For example, during a synchronous session studying the digestive system, ask students to define and label each part individually, from beginning to end, on prepared slides. When students are confident with the vocabulary, use screensharing to show a cued-up animation of the digestive system process. The “pre-training principle” reduces strain on a student’s working memory when understanding a complex topic.

Another way to think of this is to start with a concrete example, with something the student can touch. If this is not possible, use a visual display. Then move to a general rule, such as “all triangles have 3 sides” or “a noun is a person, place, or thing.” Apply the abstract rule with multiple examples: “Pencil is a noun because it is a thing.” “Fairmont is a noun because it is a place.” “Tommy is a noun because he is a person.” Do not forget to include non-examples when checking for understanding. “Is ‘warmth’ a noun?” “Is ‘running’ a noun?” “Is ‘the’ a noun?” Then assign independent practice—and keep assigning it. These are never once-and-done activities. A general rule of 80% old material and 20% new material helps etch information into long-term memory.

  • teachers must lead students through years of material
  • if the average tools and techniques worked for these students, they wouldn’t be in the class
  • walk students through sample assignments using the screen sharing function
  • use offline supplemental texts and manipulatives
  • spend months on independent practice for memorization
  • regularly repeat synchronous instruction
  • include explicit teaching and practice for parts-to-whole instruction of complicated concepts
  • use the concrete-visual-abstract sequence with examples and non-examples
  • assign varied, interleaved, interval-spaced independent practice

Wrapping Up the Lesson

Often this step is overlooked in favor of sending students directly to independent practice, but online teachers should carefully prepare slide decks that include clear summaries of the lesson. If the day’s lesson was on a procedure, then teachers should make an easy-to-read flow-chart of the procedure that students can use as a reference when they work on the independent practice. If the day’s lesson was on a concept or declarative knowledge, then the teacher should provide students with a completed graphic organizer.

No, this is not “giving students the answer.” This is telling students precisely what the teacher wants students to do and telling students exactly how the teacher wants students to do it. Remember, the teacher isn’t there when students go to do independent practice, so it is critical that the lesson wrap-up be explicit. Students need to be able to flip through the PDF of the slide deck and find the definitions of all the vocabulary, an easy to follow procedure, and a completed graphic organizer.

My favored method is to create double slides—the first slide has the flow chart or list of steps, but it’s blank. The students should be able to fill it in, and the teacher writes the students’ answers on the board during the synchronous session. The second slide is the same thing, but neatly typed up for later reference. This double slide set works well with faded, worked examples, too.

At the end of the class, end the recording and then take individual student questions that are not necessarily about the academic content. Offering formal before and after question times limits off-topic question times during the lesson. If students ask an off-topic question, say, “Good question, Austin! Save it ‘til after class, thanks.” The recording is automatically made available to the students in the LMS. Many students review the recording later, while completing problem sets.

Want to read more about direct instruction? Pick up a copy of Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI): The Power of the Well-Crafted, Well-Taught Lesson

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Setting an Opening Routine

Good online teaching provides opportunities for students to bond as a class. One easy way to do this online is to show up to class ten to fifteen minutes early to allow students to chat before a synchronous class starts. Always keep a weather eye on the chat to head off any problems before they develop, but don’t interfere unless it’s necessary. This is a good time to check email in another window, prepare any last-minute announcements, or quickly review the content for the synchronous session.

Now is the time to load the slide deck. The first slide should always have the class title, teacher name, the scheduled class (WK ___, Day 1), and the subject of today's synchronous session. It doesn't hurt to put the school’s logo. The recordings might be passed around, and teachers want to be clear what's happening on the video.

If teachers want students to take showing up to class on time seriously, teachers must take it seriously. My classes always begin on the top of the hour, so at the 59 minute mark, I un-mute myself and turn on my webcam and the recording. I smile and wave, and then turn off my video to save bandwidth. In my morning classes, I often sing “good morning” Singing in the Rain style instead of waving. To wake them up in the afternoon, I have fun imitating Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam. “Good afternoon, Algebra I!”

Then, I follow up my greeting by taking attendance. This might seem odd when most LMSs offer an automated attendance checker, but in my experience, the automated attendance checking is not very reliable. In addition, this gives students 30 seconds or so to get themselves together, and forces them to attend to my voice from the beginning of the session. By the second or third class, they know better than to trickle in after the recording has started. Teachers can't expect all the students to always show up, given the difficulty of getting online, and that’s OK. 80%-90% attendance is a good goal.

Synchronous class sessions do not need students to turn on their cameras—and for privacy concerns and bandwidth concerns, I do not require it. Remember, synchronous sessions do not always equal videoconferencing. Telephones exist, and students can dial into online synchronous sessions. This is a frequent hack for my students with poor connections: they log into the synchronous session, mute themselves, watch the live video, and listen via telephone.

When teachers create an emphasis on attendance, students know that their presence is expected. I deliberately list all the students who are not present—no one is overlooked—and wish them well. Usually students let me know ahead of time, so I might say something like, “Everybody wish John good luck at his hockey game!” Asynchronous students get a shout-out as well, because they are vital members of the class community.

Because I teach two sections of most classes—the first section meets on Monday/Wednesday and the second section meets on Tuesday/Thursday—I repeat Monday’s lessons on Tuesday and Wednesday’s lessons on Thursday. At the Well-Trained Mind Academy, students are assigned to a section, or they are “delayed,” meaning that they participate in the class but don’t attend the synchronous sessions. As part of my goal to make life easier for families, I do not care which section students attend. If students want to attend on Monday and Thursday, or Tuesday and Wednesday, that schedule is fine by me. Similarly, if my delayed Australian students want to wake up in the middle of the night and attend a synchronous session, they are welcome. Life is too short to be cranky about students swapping back and forth.

Finally, I wrap up the introductory ritual with an acknowledgement of the late students, sleepy students, travelling students, and delayed students who are watching the recording. This helps remind students that they can go back and watch the recording as they need. Students who missed class are implicitly expected to watch the recording and see their greeting.

Note that this routine is relentlessly upbeat and positive. No one is shamed for missing class. The default assumption is that students would be there if they could have managed it. If my attendance sheet shows that a student is regularly missing class, I might circle the date to remind myself to drop a note to the parent after class.

Next, I take questions. Up until this point, students have been mostly quiet, perhaps greeting each other in the text chat while I take roll. By the second month of class, most students know to save questions for this moment, and have typed them out so that they can just hit enter and post them in the text chat. Typically, these questions are either administrative or content related. Administrative questions might be about difficulties uploading an assignment or confusion about the directions for an upcoming assignment. Content questions are great, because they segue into the next part of the class.

Usually I will spend 5-10 minutes reviewing questions that students had about the assignment from the previous day or week. Because the LMS offers question analysis, I frequently review the most-missed questions on Friday’s assessment. Students are encouraged to email me directly, send me an anonymous question from the computer-adaptive software, or take screenshots that they can upload in the synchronous class session. Even if students answered the question correctly but are still confused about the concept, I’m happy to explain it. I encourage this by labeling the questions as gifts. “Did anyone bring me any presents today?!”

Never discourage students from asking questions. One way I push students is to tell them an old saw I heard about a car sales clerk. While probably apocryphal, the idea that only one customer buys a car for every twenty that walks away translates into the notion that if one person in a twenty-student class has a question, the other nineteen probably also have that question. I make it clear that by asking an on-topic question, a student is helping others and being a good classmate. This is strong incentive for most students.

Tips and Tricks for Teaching Synchronous Sessions

·         Don’t let students distract the synchronous class. Off-topic chatting (either text or voice) is the most disliked part of a synchronous class session.

·         Don’t ask students to do anything other than listen and participate. Focusing is hard enough for them without distracting them with other tasks.

·         Expect students to answer frequent (every three minutes, on average) questions, disrupting their web surfing.

·         Don’t back up and re-teach for late students. It’s recorded—they can go back and watch it. Late students should slip quietly in.

·         Don’t insist that all students use their microphone and/or webcam every class. Don’t insist that all students use their microphone and/or webcam every class. Many students are not comfortable speaking aloud online, or have a poor quality connection. Some will only call in with a landline and follow along on the PDF of the posted slides.

·         Use scripted teacher talk as a transcript for students who need textual reinforcement of the audio-visual presentation.

·         Teach English Language Learners (ELLs) and English as an Additional Language (EAL) students to translate scripted teacher talk into their native language using Google Translate or similar. For students with poor literacy skills, team them to use the read aloud function for their native language. This also works for OCR-capable PDF files.

·         Expect students of middle school age and up to attend to a synchronous class for a maximum of 50 minutes once or twice a week.

·         Do not split student attention from instruction. Teachers should not expect students to turn on their cameras and interact—this is not a fun social engagement.

·         Do not allow students to interrupt the class for permission to step away—use a nonverbal signal for that, an ‘away’ message.

·         If the lesson is interrupted—the videoconferencing software went down, your power went out, etc—then make sure to record the lesson by yourself and send students the link for later viewing.

·         Do not interrupt students when they are solving a problem and selecting the answer in a poll, or marking their selection on the whiteboard. Keep silent and wait.

·         Expect 100% of students to answer questions. To signal the end of the wait period, count down the number of people who have not answered. “Three people have not answered. Two people. Alright, everyone’s answered, let’s talk about these choices.”

·         Limit text on slides to five words per line, and no more than five lines per slide. Keep all slides high-contrast, black and white if possible. Make sure illustrations are easy to read and understand.

Synchronous Session Checklist

Conduct a lesson with these steps:

·         activate prior knowledge

·         present learning objective

·         present lessons

o   survey class

§  trace components of knowledge

§  subdivide into constituent parts

§  define terms

·         extend term definitions beyond slide

·         use heavily researched background knowledge

§  organize concepts

·         freehand or use diagram for organization

·         use scripted teacher talk to model organization

§  mnemonics

·         issue mnemonics for tricky concepts

·         check for understanding by having students create their own mnemonics

o   methods class

§  define underlying concept

·         very short definition

·         present in words and with a visual aid

§  prepare worked examples for "I Do"

·         use high-contrast color coding

·         script teacher talk

§  prepare faded examples for "We Do"

·         include non-examples

·         provide enough examples for fluency

·         script teacher talk

·         summarize content

o   flow-chart for procedures

o   graphic organizer for conceptual/declarative knowledge

·         independent practice

My Weekly Checklist

□ create and title a blank content module with the Week number, Date, and Subject

□ create and post a PDF or Word doc of the guided notes in the content module

□ create and post a slide deck in the content module

□ research and write a teacher script for slide deck

□ create and post written discussion questions in the content module

□ find and post links to outside supplemental videos in the content module

□ create and post a PDF or Word doc of the sketch/diagram in the content module

□ double-check that the sketch/diagram is covered in the textbook and/or slide deck

□ create and post a PDF or Word doc hands-on assignment in the content module

□ double-check that the expected result of the hands-on assignment is covered in the slide deck

□ create and post auto-graded daily problem sets in the content module

□ create and post a weekly assessment in the content module

□ create and post any non-graded assignments, like readings

□ create and post a weekly calendar filled in with assignments by day on the outside of the content module

□ create and post a list of content module assignments on the outside of the content module

□ attend lecture Date/Time

□ answer discussion questions

□ respond to two other students

□ add vocabulary ____, _____, ____ to your memory work

□ read the textbook chapter ____, section ______ and take notes using the notes sheet

□ read pgs. ___ from your other book 

□ label this week's sketch

□ complete problem sets

□ complete guided notes

□ complete hands-on assignment

□ complete the quiz

□ use the LMS student view to ensure that all assignments are visible inside the content module, in the order in which teachers want students to complete them

□ use the LMS student view to double-check that the assignments are posted in the correct order in the grade view

□ double-check that all assignments have posted to the central LMS calendar

□ grade this week’s work

□ use a rubric to grade this week’s written discussion questions

□ review the “just for fun” discussion boards to ensure proper behavior

□ grade this week’s problem sets

□ use data analysis from problem sets to adjust next week’s slide deck as needed

□ grade this week’s assessment

□ clear the inbox

□ email parents and students about missing assignments, or any failing grades from last week

□ email parents and students about any behavior issues

□ email parents and students about any academic issues, or large upcoming assignments

□ respond to any parent/student emails

□ post weekly announcement with policy reminders, upcoming breaks, etc

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Conducting a synch session

The first thing to remember is that synchronous class sessions are a luxury good. While they’re great, they should not be the make-or-break part of teaching online, especially for wiggly younger children. Keep them short, keep them focused, keep the students on task. My personal limit is 50 minutes of focused attention for ages 9 and up. The other thing is that attendance will be lower, but students will often go back and watch the recordings.

This is how I get ready:

  • Use guided notes I've created from the text to write an outline of the content
  • Create each slide. One slide should cover one idea, or vocabulary word, and serve as the basis for a flashcard.
  • Write extensive notes for each slide. (Pro tip: these can serve as a transcript for students who need one) Time how long you will spend on each slide. (anywhere from 30 seconds to 5-10 minutes)
  • Create slides to review any difficult material.
  • Make sure you have slides for upcoming assignments
  • Write your intro, or hook, for the lessons. You may or may not set this up with a blank slide or a pre-formatted slide.
  • Go through and ensure you have a CFU built into each slide’s notes
  • Build guided practice into the slide deck (I’m big into I Do/We Do, and save You Do for independent practice after the synchronous session)
  • Review everything you’ve covered at the end, like a table of contents.
  • Post slides in PDF format

How to conduct a synch session online:

  • Show up 10 min early and load slides, etc while they chat
  • Signal the beginning of the class
  • Start the recording
  • Acknowledge each student (I do this by taking attendance out loud)
  • Take administrative Qs and HW Qs
  • Cover content
  • End recording
  • Take Qs


·         Book recommendation: Explicit Direct Instruction by Ybarra and Hollingsworth