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Classroom Q&A

With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

Strategies for Teaching Students Online and Face to Face at the Same Time

By Larry Ferlazzo — February 28, 2021 17 min read
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(This is the third post in a multipart series. You can see Part One here and Part Two here.)

The question-of-the-week is:

What are the do’s and don’ts of hybrid teaching?

Many districts, including the one where I work, are making plans to begin teaching in the physical classroom after being fully online since last March. Teacher vaccinations and decreasing COVID-19 infection rates in the community are now making that move a possibility.

Many schools are considering an option that has several names—concurrent, hybrid, hyflex—and most include teaching students who are in our physical classroom at the same time we are teaching some who are online.

What better way to learn how to do this kind of teaching than from those who have been at it for months?

The first two posts in this series appeared in October. With the imminent return of so many of us to the physical classroom, I felt like we could use all the advice we could get, so decided to “restart” the series now and invited many more experienced educators to contribute their lessons. Look for several more posts in the coming week.

In Part One, Amber Chandler, Tara C. Dale, and Holly Spinelli offer their hard-won experiences..

In Part Two, Deborah Gatrell, Amy Roediger, and Carina Whiteside provide their suggestions. I also include comments from readers.

Today, Christina Diaz, Christina E. Cox, Erin R. Scholes, and Matt Carlstrom share their recommendations.

You might also be interested in A Beginning List Of The Best Resources To Support Concurrent/Hybrid Teaching.

Student Interaction

Christina Diaz has been teaching EL and bilingual students for 12 years. She is currently a 4th and 5th grade dual-language teacher in Downers Grove, Ill. You can follow her on Twitter at @BilingualLions:

If you have found yourself being asked to teach virtual and in-person students concurrently, you are not alone. This instructional model is sometimes called hybrid learning, and while some teachers have been teaching it since the beginning of the year, many are making the transition from remote to a form of hybrid teaching over the next portion of the school year. This may sound daunting (and it is), but the following are some practices that may help with your transition.

Do:

  • Make your remote students feel like they’re still part of your class even though they’re still learning from home. Your remote students should still be able to participate in the same activities and lessons that your hybrid students are. This may require you to plan ahead if you want to send home or have families pick up crafts or activities. You can also have the students submit an activity electronically and you can print it out afterward so they are included.
  • Have your in-person and remote learners interact with each other often, via breakout rooms or on apps like Jamboard, Kahoot, or FlipGrid to maintain your classroom community. Community is EVERYTHING!
  • Set learning expectations for in-person and remote learners. While they may be different for both groups, students should know what materials they need to have for class daily, when and how to submit work and expectations while on Zoom, such as cameras, participation, and safety.
  • Give your remote learners a variety of ways to demonstrate that they’re engaged during your lessons. Just because their screens may be off, doesn’t mean they’re not there. You can encourage them to unmute themselves, use the chat box, use reactions or hand signals to share.
  • Create routines. Give your students a sense of routine and stability by starting your days the same way. You can begin with a question for the students to answer while you take attendance; begin with a fun greeting or class meeting; review the schedule for the day; and assign class jobs (greeter, attendance taker, chat monitor, co-host for the day, etc.).
  • Reach out to your school/district technology department for support. You’ll want to make sure that your in-person and remote students can see the same things while you are teaching. I accomplish this by projecting my computer on the board for my in-person students and then sharing my screen on Zoom for my remote students. My projector has built-in speakers that allow my in-person students to hear what the remote students are saying. Because every school/district is different, it is important to reach out to see what devices and tools you have at your disposal.
  • Use a second device to give your remote students a glimpse into your classroom. While this is optional, it allows your remote students to see what’s going on in your classroom and to see their classmates. Your in-person students can also see their remote classmates through that second screen.
  • Find ways to celebrate your students. This has been such a tough year, so celebrate the little things, such as birthdays, student accomplishments, spirit days, and class rewards.
  • Do find opportunities for experiences like virtual field trips. Take advantage of experiences that websites, museums, and children’s organizations are offering.

Don’t:

  • Don’t expect to follow the same pacing as you did last year. Everything takes longer, and that’s OK.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself or your students. Give yourself and your students grace. It’s easy to get discouraged when something goes wrong. When something does go wrong, don’t take it personally. This is all new for you and your students.
  • Don’t forget to unmute (or mute) yourself! This happens to me WAY too many times!
  • Don’t overextend yourself trying to keep up with other teachers. Find 2-3 resources/apps you and your students are familiar with and stick to them.
  • Don’t forget to practice self-care. Teaching concurrently is no easy feat, so make sure you take care of yourself! Meditate, stay active, spend time with your family, and leave schoolwork at work every so often. Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.

Take care and best of luck, teacher friends!

communityisdiaz

‘Don’t Panic’

Christina E. Cox is the chair of the history department at York Preparatory School in New York City:

Here’s what I’ve learned since I first started teaching online and in person concurrently in September:

  • Get creative about class discussions. The biggest challenge has been facilitating classroom discussion. Even in the best circumstances, students participating from home aren’t always able to hear their masked and distanced classmates as well as they could when everyone is logged in from home. I do my best to repeat student questions and observations so that the Zoomers can hear, but I’ve moved some of these conversations to our LMS, Canvas. On Canvas, I can set up electronic discussion boards that allow students to interact with each other in real time. PearDeck is another great option for facilitating interaction between students in different locations.
  • Use breakout rooms to set up partners. Buddy in-person students with classmates at home and have everyone log on to Zoom. One caveat: Avoid having more than one in-person student in the same breakout room, especially if students don’t all have headphones handy, as this can create feedback issues. (Ask my 10th graders—I tried this, and it was a bit of a disaster.)
  • Try a 2021 version of a “Fishbowl Debate.” In an archaeology elective I teach, students were given “case studies” of different ethical dilemmas that an archaeologist might face in the course of her career. Teams in the classroom worked together from their seats via shared Google Docs and teams made up of students at home worked together in breakout rooms, each proposing their own solution to their assigned dilemma. Then spokespeople for each team took turns presenting and arguing their cases over Zoom. It was great to see students at home and in the classroom engage with each other so passionately—and it was a lot of fun!
  • Project-based learning has been a great fit for the hybrid model. This year, I’ve assigned all of my classes medium- to long-term projects. My 9th graders, for example, were each required to research an overlooked historical event and argue for its inclusion in history curricula in a short paper. Whether students are in the classroom or at home, I ask them to share their Google Docs with me and I talk through their work with them as I leave feedback in their documents as I go. It’s been an excellent way to build and maintain student relationships despite having a physically divided class. Breakout rooms have worked wonderfully for peer review, and students can share their projects with the class over Zoom when they are done.
  • Don’t forget anyone! (But if you do, don’t panic.) Dividing my attention equitably between students at home and students in the classroom has been a major challenge. It’s easy to get drawn in by what’s happening in the classroom and forget to check to see if a Zoomer has a question (and vice versa!). I’m still working on mastering the art of hybrid teaching, but I’ve gotten better with practice. And don’t forget that a teacher’s best assets are her students. Be upfront with your class about the challenges of switching “modes” as you teach and ask them to point out if you’ve missed a student who needs help. In my experience, high school students have been incredibly patient and kind—and they know that you’re only one person. Indeed, one of the silver linings of this very difficult year has been seeing how hard students have been willing to work to make lessons go smoothly and how gracious they’ve been when they haven’t. It gives me hope for the future.
projectcox

‘Roomies’ and ‘Zoomies’

Erin R. Scholes is a 7th grade math teacher in northeastern Connecticut. She is an ISTE certified teacher, on the board of trustees for the Association for Middle Level Education, and the co-creator of the website Tech4Teachers.info:

Those first steps into a school building that you haven’t seen for a year are full of emotions; excitement, uncertainty, and a fear of the continued unknown. The truth is, you have so many of the skills you need to be successful in the hybrid model because you have been teaching remotely all year. It really will be the cross between in person and remote in more ways than one. Stick to what you and the kids know; remember that you are an exceptional teacher who has learned a lot over the last year.

Classroom Setup

Realize that by following all of the protocol and safety guidelines, your room will look different, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still make it your own. Add your own personality to the plastic dividers or to the tape marks on the floor, Washi Tape or colorful painters tape can go a long way to add your own personality to your classroom.

Teacher Technology Setup

Hybrid learning gives your students in the room a little break from being on the screen all day; create a teacher technology setup that allows the in-the-room kids, or “roomies,” to see what you are presenting on the front board.

To make your life simpler, I would suggest one of two options. If your district has access to dual monitors, I would suggest using them; this allows you to have two screens, and that way, you can see your remote kids, or “zoomies,” on one screen and share the other screen both in the classroom and with your “zoomies.”

The second option is logging into your digital classroom with two devices. Use your main device to see your zoomies’ faces and the chat. With your second device, log in without connecting to audio (trust me the feedback will be awful!) Use this device to present your lesson or whatever else you need all your students to see. This should also be the device connected to your projector in the classroom.

Classroom Management

One of the great things about hybrid teaching is not having to wait for kids to unmute. The open conversation that happens as the kids enter and leave is one part of teaching I really missed during remote teaching. Continue using the same routines and expectations that you did during remote. Keep using the same learning-management system to distribute and collect assignments; the consistency will be helpful to you and the kids.

For lessons and student practice, use interactive technology that lets you see all students’ work at the same time. You may already be using some of these, but I would suggest technology like Pear Deck or NearPod that both let you make your lessons interactive. You could also use something like ClassKick, Whiteboard.chat, or Whiteboard.fi. These all let you see a grid of all of your students’ work at the same time and let you jump in and assist as the students need.

Finally, find ways to continue to engage all of your students, roomies and zoomies. A few things that have worked in my room: Let zoomies use the chat to participate and/or plug in the computer sound to speakers, so the full class can participate and hear each other. Play games “Roomies vs. Zoomies.” This can work great when kids use whiteboards to communicate with their team. Encourage participation from your zoomies. Recently, I have been saying, “The last one to turn on their camera will answer the next question.” (Sometimes I am left answering the question, because they were all so fast I couldn’t tell who was last.) Have your roomies log into Zoom and create breakout rooms so that every breakout room is connected to the classroom through a roomie. This really encourages participation, because the roomie needs to communicate with the group what is happening in the room. This is an awesome way to finally get to do some group work where you can still monitor part of the conversation.

Switching from remote to hybrid is “one more thing” in this already stressful year, but you have the skills to tackle it all. You will love getting to know your students in person, and they have missed the human connection, too. Honestly, they have missed school, they have missed their friends, and they have missed their teachers, too!

switchingerin

‘It’s all about the relationships’

Matt Carlstrom is in his 29th year of teaching social studies, 23 of them in Deer River. He is the social department chair and a board member of the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies (MCSS) as well as working on the Minnesota State Social Studies Standards team:

Being in hybrid since September, I’ve learned a few things about teaching in this environment:

1) As in normal face-to-face teaching, it’s all about the relationships that you create and maintain. I decided early on that I was going to be very intentional about how I greeted kids as they entered my class, regardless of geography. I enthusiastically announce each student who arrives in my class, and for those who’ve missed a few days, I greet them and then tell them how thankful I am that they chose to come to class.

2) My interaction with the online kids doesn’t end after I’ve greeted them. Regardless of the online platform you’re using, the mechanics are the same. My student “squares” are on my laptop, and my students are in their desks. I keep my roster close by to put a check mark next to each student I call on, to make sure I’m getting as many different students as I can. My online students can virtually raise their hand or as often happens, they just start talking. I’ve got my notes or assignment up on the TV screen that I’m sharing with both online and in-person students.

When having a discussion and at the beginning of the class, I have my camera on, but if we’re taking notes or working on an assignment in class, I turn it off because many of my students online have said it’s distracting. Throughout the class, I will call on my online students just as often as I do my in-person students. And when I call on a student in class, I doubt that all my online students heard the response or the question, so I try to always repeat what was said and who said it. The in-class students can easily hear the online students through the speaker system or TV.

3) Do not force cameras to be on. … And any administrator who says you have to … they are wrong, and I’m certain they don’t have the data to support this position. I want my students to come to class regardless of what their room or house looks like or how they’re dressed or what their hair looks like. Be respectful of the different environments your students come from. Teaching in a pandemic is not a time to potentially shame students, even if unintentionally.

4) Pacing is very important to the success or lack of success of your hybrid students. We’re teaching and learning during a global pandemic during which some families have lost jobs and family members and some of my students are responsible for their siblings when they’re online. Just because you’ll see most of your students every other day or whatever system your district is choosing, fight the urge to ramp up the pacing. In my humble opinion, and fortunately that of my admin and school board, we are not sprinting to get all of our standards in and every lesson taught this year.

Be intentional about what you choose to teach; modify assignments to get the most bang for the buck. Work with your students to find the porridge that is “just right.” I have found that my students, most of them anyway, have been very honest in this conversation. I’ve asked many times this year, “How’re you/we doing? You OK with the timeline for the assignments, etc…?” And that has led to some good discussions and given my students some ownership of the class. In all honesty, even with these discussions, as the year has gone on, I’ve had to extend many of my timelines on “due dates” as the stress of the year is really starting to wear on my kids.

5)I know “due dates” are a hot-button issue in education with two very distinct sides: those that are in favor of hard due dates and those that are in favor of no due dates. Prior to this year, my “late work” policy was: “All work from the beginning of the quarter to mid-quarter was due the Friday of mid-quarter week. Then all work from that Friday on was due the last day of the quarter.” I did this for multiple reasons, but key amongst them was I wanted my kids to be “present” in the learning. If a student is rushing the last week of the quarter to do assignments from the first week of the quarter, how focused can they be on either what you did then or what you’re doing now?

This year? My “due dates” are “soft,” and while I’ll mark them “Late” in Infinite Campus, I deduct no points. Our class periods this year have been 25 minutes, with an 8th and 9th hour that are 60 minutes long for the tech-ed, band/choir, and science labs to give kids enough time to work on their projects, labs, and full choir/band with spacing. So, I was going to have to change my pacing and late-work policy regardless.

6) How to manage the students in class without losing your online kids? I’ve taught myself to stay tethered to the desk when I’ve got kids in both environments. My F2F students bring their questions and work to me. It’s not ideal, but it lets the online kids know I’m there for them as well.

For those of you moving to hybrid from online, I’m guessing that you’ve already learned much of this. Be patient with both yourself and your students. Like you, your students are worn out from this year that is unlike any you or they have lived in; be willing to acknowledge that. Approach each day asking yourself, “What is best for my students,” and you’ll be OK.

donotmatt

Thanks to Christina Diaz, Christina Cox, Erin, and Matt for their contributions!

Please feel free to leave a comment with your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at lferlazzo@epe.org. When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

Education Week has published a collection of posts from this blog, along with new material, in an e-book form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching.

Just a reminder; you can subscribe and receive updates from this blog via email (The RSS feed for this blog, and for all Ed Week articles, has been changed by the new redesign—new ones won’t be available until February). And if you missed any of the highlights from the first nine years of this blog, you can see a categorized list below.

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The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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