By Wyman Khuu and Jane Chavez
Here are some of the top ways teachers can infuse real-world experiences into the hybrid educational environment for the 2020-21 school year (and beyond).
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and precautions, many schools across the country have hit a roadblock when it comes to hybrid learning. Although most used remote learning from March-June 2020, some districts still haven’t developed an action plan for the 2020-2021 school year.
With all of the unknowns that lie ahead, we have to be ready for anything, including the need for a flexible hybrid experience that accommodates both at-home and in-person options. As part of this effort, students need STEAM and 21st Century skills. That means teachers need to come up with new and innovative ways to teach these interactive and vital subjects, like coding and computer science.
Here are six strategies that teachers can use to tackle this challenge in the modern learning environment:
- Don’t think about what can’t work; think about what can work. Although school closures and unclear plans for the 2020-21 school year have thrown a kink in our teaching style, we can still use our past experiences and take stock of what we can control to create an ideal learning environment for our students.
- Make remote learning feel like a community.Don’t be afraid to try new things that may engage your students. For example, we’ve had students act or perform out some of the concepts we’re learning about. This is a good alternative to basic quizzes or questions that students just choose a simple answer to.Another student recorded an interpretative dance representing the three phases of matter to share with her classmates.
- Continue project-based learning outside of the classroom.Some of our students worked on a project that outlined their steps for doing laundry, and then recorded themselves going through the process. This project facilitated computational thinking without the students even realizing it. There are tons of projects out there that can be used to teach core concepts, which students can just apply naturally.
- Develop a virtual classroom. There are some things that don’t have to change between in-person and virtual meetings. For example, our students meet to set goals for the future and discuss their CoderZ online robotics club projects, which students love because they are both fun and educational. It gives them something to look forward to, and something to interact with outside of traditional instruction.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Think about what you can do better with the experiences you’ve already had as a teacher. We all have things that worked for us in our classrooms and we now have the opportunity to “virtualize” these experiences. For example, just as you would reward students in the classroom for achievements, you can do the same by starting your virtual lesson with student “shout outs.”
- Bring the real world into it.Try phenomenon-based content, and challenge students to research real-world connections. Now especially, they have the opportunity to connect everything to our current situation. Talk about the pandemic with your students. We want to empower them to be innovators of change and to do that they need to be informed about what is happening in the world.
There are so many resources out there to help you plan your hybrid model. We are all learners, and we can learn from each other. You can also use your families and students as resources. Learn best practices from colleagues and people outside of your network to create the best experience possible. You are not alone!
Wyman Khuu is a science teacher at KIPP Infinity Elementary and Jane Chavez is a science teacher at KIPP NJ Seek Academy.