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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

‘There Is No Playbook’ for How to Do Hybrid Teaching

By Larry Ferlazzo — March 09, 2021 17 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."

(This is the final post in a nine-part series. You can see Part One here, Part Two here, Part Three here, Part Four here, Part Five here, Part Six here, Part Seven here, and Part Eight here.)

The question-of-the-week is:

What are the do’s and don’ts of hybrid (also called concurrent) teaching?

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.

In Part Three, Christina Diaz, Christina E. Cox, Erin R. Scholes, and Matt Carlstrom share their recommendations

In Part Four, Xiomara Nygren, Virginia Lowe, Traci Vermilion, M.Ed., and Shelly Cihak, Ed.D., contribute their thoughts.

In Part Five, Elisabetta Landoni, Matt Blaser, Kyle Lawrence, and Caroline Shearer provide their ideas.

In Part Six, Naomi Bailey, Mary Harriet Talbut, and Illiana Gonzales write their responses.

In Part Seven, it was the turn of Jane Russell Valezy, Ann Radefeld, Theresa Gaetjens, and Donna Martinez to discuss what they have learned over the past several months.

In Part Eight, Meredith White, Sara Sparks, Kyla King, and Stephen Capone continue this series with their observations.

Today’s column finishes up the series with commentaries from Jeremy White, Dottie Daniello, Michael P. Mazenko, and Gery Moreno. Jeremy, like all previous contributors to this series, teaches concurrently. Dottie, Michael, and Gery work in different versions of the hybrid model.

‘Give Yourself Grace’

Jeremy White first taught English in Japan for five years and now has taught kindergarten for six years. He was named Charter School Teacher of the Year for 2021 for the state of North Carolina:

Do: Give yourself grace

Don’t: Be so hard on yourself

If you don’t read anything else in this entire piece, I need you to read this do and don’t again. Too often, as educators we are told to meet children where they are, to grow children, to have high expectations, to differentiate our learning, to try new ways of innovative thinking, keep the rigor high, move through Blooms, develop Depth’s of Knowledge, create academic conversations, reflect on data, and so, so much more.

But we are not in normal times. You have got to take a step back and first and foremost give yourself grace and trust that you will make mistakes. If you are hard on yourself, you will not give yourself room to grow. I do not care if it is your first year teaching or if you are in your last year before retirement, there is no playbook for how to do this. No matter who you are or how long you’ve been teaching, this year feels like your first year of teaching because so much focus may seem to be on survival because it is new to all of us. It is important to remember that, above anything, relationships and letting kids feel safe is the ultimate goal. #MaslowBeforeBloom

Do: Be familiar with the technology you are using

Don’t: Try to introduce too much new technology just for the sake of something new

Because you will be teaching asynchronous and synchronous at the same time, there is a temptation to need to use all the latest and greatest tools such as Zoom and Nearpod and HyperDocs and EdPuzzle and SeeSaw, and so on and so forth. No, stop, take a step back, take a breath. In this day and age of hybrid teaching, it is much better to be a master of one than a jack of all trades. The reason for this is because the ultimate goal is to continue to educate children; if you do not know the ins and outs of one of your pieces of technology, then you aren’t going to be giving kids what they need—consistency.

Depending on your grade level, you may have to learn more than one piece of technology, but instead of thinking of technology as a way to get them engaged, think of technology as an extension of what you would already be doing in the classroom if they were all in person. When you think of the technology as an extension of yourself, then it becomes easier to find ways to keep the kids in the classroom engaged as well as the students at home. If I can do it on a kindergarten level, you can do it in your grade level as well. #StickToOneGreatThing

Do: Include both the at-home kids and the kids in the classroom

Don’t: Forget about either

This may seem simple, but in my experience, what happens is that sometimes I’m so worried about giving my six or seven kids on Zoom a chance to answer a question that I forget to get my students in the classroom engaged on that same question, or vice versa. Again, this is new for everyone, and we have to roll with the fact that we will be making mistakes. You may not see the children at home in the classroom, but the more you involve them, the easier it will be to make the technology you are using a simple extension of yourself than a barrier toward fluid learning. #AllStudents

Do: Know that technology will not always work

Don’t: Give up and call it a day if it doesn’t work the first time

As humans, we have a tendency in anxiety-driven situations to find a way out, especially with those of us who aren’t as comfortable with technology. There have been so many days this year when my at-home learners were late to Zoom, or early on Zoom, or Zoom didn’t work on my end, or they couldn’t see my screen, or countless other things went wrong. This goes back to giving yourself grace.

Create routines with your in-person learners about what they will do when things like this happen and you need to take a minute to troubleshoot a problem. One example of something I do is that if I am waiting for my home learners to come on Zoom, instead of just sitting there, I have my students read from their book boxes or do extra work from their folder of work that they didn’t finish the day before. Always think of creative ways to keep all your students engaged even in the down time or unexpected hiccups throughout the day. #PowerThrough

dontbesohardjeremy

‘Reflect on Your Standards’

Dottie Daniello is a middle school science teacher in the Clinton Township school district in New York:

Within one year, almost all aspects of “normal” day-to-day life have been altered or completely changed. We have added new vocabulary terms to our conversations: “social distancing,” “PPE,” “self-isolating,” etc. (see Oxford English Dictionary Quarterly updates). While we pivoted quickly to change the locations in which we meet our students, the coronavirus also revealed the differences in equitable access to resources across our nation. With this in mind, please read further with the understanding that just like our students, I know each of you is in a different place with district return-to-school plans, parent/guardian support of the model implemented, availability of resources, and student motivation. Take what works for you; revise or disregard the rest.

Our school district implemented a hybrid learning model in September. We have been fortunate in that we have had 1:1 Chromebook access for our middle schoolers. Our tech department also sent out surveys to collect better data on home internet connectivity, number of devices in use, etc. Parents/guardians were provided with enrollment options to attend in Cohort A (Tues & Thurs), Cohort B (Wed & Fri), or Cohort C (Virtual only). All students to attend class on Monday virtually—this is about to change to an in-person rotation for A and B students.

To maintain the cohort integrity, the students remain in their assigned homeroom classroom/seats. Educators for each class period rotate to the classes according to the schedule, bringing their materials on their own cart from room to room. Our students are in person for the morning only. They may pick up lunches as they return home. After lunch, we have open office hours for extra help, unified arts, and enrichment sessions.

In the spirit of transparency, I cannot provide the full perspective of a single in-person educator. One more component to our model: In a normal year, we would have two teams per grade level with one set of subject-area educators each. For this to work, the teams have been combined, and teachers partnered. You have the skeleton set in your mind for our model. As a high-risk health patient with a vocal disability due to an infection, I am teaching remotely using a cardioid microphone and camera, but in synchronization with my very talented co-teacher. We are both grateful for the collaboration and ability to provide professional and emotional support through this.

Homeroom begins at 7:55 a.m. We have planning during our first period and then we are live with our students and special education support staff. For our virtual students, I am visible in the Meet. For our in-person group, the Meet (myself & the virtual students) are projected on the board and connected to sound. We don’t require cameras on in our class, but some may. At noon, my partner commutes home, and we are both online for office hours.

As we have experimented with options, surveyed the students, reflected, and moved forward throughout this year, there is no one easy, single method of preparation to recommend. I can tell you the fundamentals still prove true:

Expect to work with LESS time: preplan, preteach, review, revise. Instructional time is eaten away by even more now than before. Plans don’t always go as expected. You will not be able to have shared physical materials. Technology will still have “off days,” for in-school students and virtual. Have asynchronous options up your sleeve.

Automate as many routine tasks as you can. It’s almost like cloning yourself… I have set my Chrome start pages to open with a sheet of our attendance (by class), a Meet Chat record doc for each day (in copy mode), Google Classroom (HR), GoGuardian, our schedule, Gmail, & Tasks. In Tasks, I have curated a list of Common Announcements—ready to copy & paste into Meet chats or GoGuardian.

Reflect on your standards. Which are key to focus on in-depth for each unit? Have you been covering material that is better as enrichment? We have implemented a Google Classroom for all students to access as our science-enrichment “room.” Deeper learning on topics, educational gaming, online field trips, STEM, and student-provided links are available.

Most importantly: Connect and build a classroom culture. Even if you have been with these students through the year so far. You may see some students moving schedules to arrange in-person cohorts. The act of entering the school space with others may prove to trigger anxiety in others. Some may not be used to wearing masks for the length of time that this will require. The hygiene protocols will need reviewing and reinforcing. School drills will be done differently. Virtual students will be wondering about bits of conversation they hear parts of in the room. Tell them what is going on. Keep them connected, too. We have Google Meet as our “public space.” Students can speak or text together in chat there. Science class discussions, questions and teachable moments welcomed.

GoGuardian has been invaluable for one-to-one connections with virtual students. We have been able to answer individual questions they are too shy to ask openly, resolve tech problems, or just check in. This year, access to the videochat became a life saver. Once students understood a call request was not a sign of getting in trouble, they were happy to answer. Some days, the video chat is for questions, other days they just want to check in.

“Mrs. D, can u call pls?”

Take the time in the beginning to reset.

Be kind and gentle with them and yourself.

haveasyndottie

‘Our Kids Miss Each Other’

Michael P. Mazenko is a writer, educator, & school administrator in suburban Colorado. He blogs at A Teacher’s View and can be found on Twitter @mmazenko. You can email him at mmazenko@gmail.com:

If we’ve learned anything during the past year of remote learning, it’s this: You cannot replicate the physical classroom in an online setting. Don’t even try.

A quick bell starter in an actual classroom might be a statement or question followed by a whip-around with a few students commenting or responding. The teacher can assess a great deal through the comments, responses, facial expressions, nods, and even by walking the classroom to peer over shoulders at who wrote down what. Last spring, many of us mistakenly tried to recreate that experience online with discussion boards on Schoology or Canvas. Big mistake. What takes a couple minutes in class with natural, fluid responses could easily become hours of forced work online.

The pandemic has given educators many unexpected lessons about kids and content, pedagogy and learning. Online learning was conceived, intended, and designed for self-directed, intrinsically motivated, independent learners. It was never meant to be a pandemic response or health-crisis safety valve. Yet, out of necessity, we’ve developed tools and techniques we’ll hold on to even in more normal times.

Now, as many schools that have been on remote learning for most of the year head back to the classroom in various forms of hybrid learning, it’s important to think about what works and what doesn’t. Most importantly, remember that we physically go to school for human connection and to be a part of a learning community. We miss each other. Our kids miss each other. This will be their only class time to directly interact with classmates, so let students connect with us and each other. Encourage it. Plan for it. Expect it.

Let them talk, chat, collaborate, engage, share, and use their peers for learning and support. Preplan how you will group kids and stick with standard groups so time is not lost daily pairing up. Collaboration can be very tough online, and let’s face it, kids don’t like breakout rooms and don’t talk when we’re not checking in. Since time together is limited in person, plan and use discussion protocols to keep kids on track and maximize class time. However, don’t micromanage the time you give them. Plan for interaction but also let the connections be organic and natural.

A colleague summed up the in-person approach well for me: “I’m a teacher, so when the kids are actually in front of me, I’m going to teach.” Don’t waste any precious class time with tasks or materials that can be handled online. Thus, don’t spend time on announcements or review, and it should go without saying, but don’t show videos in class. Any tech or media use should have little-to-no setup time. Make sure students know the lesson plan and objectives before they arrive, but POST IT ANYWAY everyday.

Direct instruction is fine, but remember the lessons of books like No More Teaching as Telling by Cris Tovani and Elizabeth Birr Moje, and don’t use the time to be a simple presenter of information. For many teachers doing hybrid all year, it’s now a natural instinct to front load and frame the week’s lessons with an intro video and resources. In any part of instruction, allow time for questions. Present then query, question, reframe, and follow up. Call on kids but rethink how you question. It’s subtle but effective to shift from asking whether they have questions to querying, “What questions do you have?” And set realistic goals and timelines for classroom instruction because depending on the hybrid schedule, you likely can’t just plan to go over or pick it up the next day. In checking for understanding, another teacher told me, “All my assessments are online and virtual.” We can’t afford to use class time watching kids take tests.

As always, listen to the kids and be responsive to their needs. My 15-year-old daughter candidly said, “I actually kinda like the hybrid schedule.” While she expressed uncertainty about learning enough and being prepared for next year, she’s actually grown comfortable with two days in person and a couple others to do the work, study, review, and get help during office hours. Her most important advice for teachers was to plan carefully so it didn’t feel like two separate classes, one online and another in person. “Don’t have due dates for online work the night of the synchronous class,” she urged me.

Finally, when kids are in your physical presence, don’t sacrifice the social-emotional elements and the classroom culture. Take advantage of the simple but easily overlooked detail of eye contact. Ultimately, we need to be honest and candid in identifying and planning for our non-negotiables, our learning targets, and our exit standards.

wecantaffordmichael

Adopting a ‘Fluid Approach’

Gery Moreno teaches a dual-language 4th grade class in Texas:

Your students know you are human and will show compassion toward you. It will sometimes feel like you are expected to do a million things in one day; that is true. Just do the best you can and take the next day as it comes. You will learn to balance and will continuously impress yourself.

I have been a 4th grade hybrid teacher in Texas since October. There certainly will be adjustments to your routine. Teaching in a hybrid model will max out the amount of mental power you put out. When going from all virtual to hybrid, you must adopt a fluid approach to doing things. There will be times your in-person lesson rocked and your online lesson flopped, all in the same day. In turn, there will also be times when you rock both in-person and virtual classes. My do’s and don’ts for hybrid teaching will hopefully give you more days to feel successful than days that make you want to have a redo.

Do’s

  • Always greet your virtual students by name. It makes them feel noticed.
  • Checking for understanding will look different. Plan your classroom discussions according to their limitations. You can facilitate the in-person class in real time vs. the delay of virtual mediums with limited visibility of your student.
  • Give plenty of work time during your virtual class time. Students benefit when they have a designated time to work while they have you as an immediate resource on top of office hours. This extra time helps you catch misconceptions the same day instead of the next day.

Don’ts

  • When teaching virtually, DO NOT assume students hear you in real time when you speak. There is a communication delay. You should expect a four-second wait time by the time they reply and have listened to everything you said.
  • Do not assume that the delivery method that worked in person will work virtually. You might not realize that you adjust your teaching pace much more efficiently when in person because you can read the room better. You have to consciously stop and check for understanding much more when you teach virtually.
  • Do not be hard on yourself for being in different places in your unit. Often we want to be at the same pace and teach the same thing to both classes. This is optimistic but very hard to do due to teaching pace, technology issues, student participation, interruptions, and unexpected real-life occurrences.

There will always be an immense amount of factors that will influence your day to day. Get used to the interruptions and flopping of lessons due to the infinite amount of unexpected things that always happen.

yourstudentsmoreno

Thanks to Jeremy, Dottie, Michael, and Gery 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.

I am also creating a Twitter list including all contributors to this column.

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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