As teachers, we are pretty used to coming up with creative systems and keeping tons of moving pieces organized and running smoothly, but hybrid teaching is probably something most of us have not tackled yet. To decrease COVID-19 exposure risk, some schools have opted for a hybrid of distance learning and in-person learning at school. In these situations classes are divided into groups that alternate between attending class in person and learning online. While this solution could help keep everyone safer, many teachers are wondering how to keep it all organized. Here are 5 tips to help you start planning for hybrid teaching
1. Keep it Simple
There is going to be so much going on it’s important to focus on the basics. The more you can streamline things the better. Decide on the systems and tools you are most comfortable with, especially when it comes to technology. It will be easy to become overwhelmed with so many plates spinning. Try to find areas where you can keep things consistent and easy. Maybe that means having a daily schedule that’s mostly the same on school and home days or simplifying your incentive systems with a program like Class Dojo or a basic marble jar. Give yourself a break on having a Pinterest worthy classroom on day one this year, and focus on what is most valuable to student learning.
2. Teach Routines and Procedures
Just as you normally would, spend the first six weeks (or more) focusing on setting students up for success. Train them thoroughly on all the things they will need to do at school and at home. Everything from how to wash their hands, wear a mask, stand 6 feet apart, and use zoom and google classroom. You might even come up with procedures for at-home days and practice them together at school. Then you can share these with families to help reinforce. The more structure you create around your kids the more successful they will be with all these new systems.
3. Social-Emotional Learning
We are all going through this crisis and it’s taken a toll on everyone’s mental health. It is super important this year to create a strong classroom culture where kids feel safe and supported. All the stress that has been building up over the last several months will inevitably result in some behavior issues, but the more connected and supported kids feel in your class, the easier it will be to manage for both you and the students. Make social-emotional learning a core subject this year (and every year). Check out our distance learning SEL activities that students can do in the classroom or at home.
Small Groups & Data-Driven Instruction
Small group work will be key for hybrid learning. Especially considering that students will likely have learning gaps as a result of school closures last year. It’s important to take some time during the first month of school to do lots of assessments and really figure out what those gaps are. Prioritizing data-driven instruction will help you diagnose learning challenges for your students. Then address them head-on so that you can give students the content and skills they need. Programs like Lalilo will be super helpful with this because students will be able to work independently at home, and you will be able to gather all the data on their performance to help you plan small groups.
Project-based learning is a great tool for hybrid teaching because there is a large independent aspect to it. On days kids are at school, you’ll do the traditional “I do” and “we do”. Then they’ll work on the “you do” independently at home. Think about ways that students can create their own resources during the direct teaching so that they will have the materials needed to work independently at home. You can create personal anchor charts with students that they can take home and reference while working independently. This could even be a great time to provide a menu of ways that students can show their learning that way there is some built-in differentiation for your students to highlight their individual skills.
Parent Communication Systems and Boundaries
Parents will inevitably have a hard time keeping all the details of hybrid learning straight. While you’ll want to be in contact with them as much as possible, you also don’t want to be answering calls, texts, and emails at 11pm. Before school starts, come up with a communication system and guidelines. Provide communication hours and methods that you prefer and make that clear to families. You could try creating a Facebook group or Instagram page for your class so that you can post updates, photos, newsletters, or even do a weekly live stream to answer parent questions or review the schedule for the week.
Focus on Growth
Last year was pretty crazy and it will be no surprise when kids show up in your classroom underprepared for your grade level. However, just like you normally would treat students that have some catching up to do, just focus on their growth. Plan to start the year off by picking up where they left on in their previous grade level before schools closed. Plan to do a lot of diagnostic assessment in the first months of school and then track all that data across the weeks and months. Take time to really celebrate growth, rather than focus on the fact that many of your students are below grade level. When kids know that you recognize their hard work and think they are doing well, they are more likely to make accelerated growth and feel confident and successful.
How are you preparing for hybrid teaching? Comment below with your best tips and advice.