Getting the Best Start with Students and Families in Class and From a Distance

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Schools are in session within a classroom, completely online, or a hybrid of both. How do you keep up with the paradigm shift? What will it take to get ahead? Three teachers who joined our August webinar 'Getting the Best Start With Students and Families In Class and From a Distance' give their response.

This Fall, schools across the United States are operating in one of three modes: 1. Within the traditional classroom. 2. Completely online (remote, distance-learning). 3. A hybrid of both. 

On top of these new learning environments, the situation is in flux; what is happening one week may change the next and as a result, it may feel that we, as teachers, as students, as people are constantly trying to keep up. So how does the paradigm shift? What will it take to get ahead of the invisible curve? 

Three teachers who are currently facing this very dilemma joined our August webinar on Getting the Best Start With Students and Families In Class and From a Distance to explain what’s happening in their schools and how they are using ASSISTments to ensure they’re getting off to a strong start. 

Read on to see what it’s like for three educators teaching in Fall 2020 and getting a strong start to the school year with ASSISTments. Then check out their top 5 tips for getting started!

Ms. Scriven keeps parents involved and informed.

Barbara Scriven assigns her class homework with ASSISTments using Google Classroom. The next day, she goes over her results with the whole class. In a traditional classroom setting, she stands in front of the Smartboard engaging her students and focusing on what the majority of her class needs help with. 

This all changed once Barbara’s class moved online. With face-to-face instruction no longer possible it becomes difficult to give everyone individualized instruction. To top it off, parents now want more frequent updates. Using the data she receives from ASSISTments to highlight students who need extra help, Barbara schedules tutoring sessions with her students during school mandated meeting times. 

As a way to include parents, Barbara messages them using Dojo/Google chat; this allows parents to be both involved and informed, something that is crucial during this time of uncertainty. She schedules one-on-one discussions to go over their child’s progress, where she reviews the data from ASSISTments. This allows the teacher and parent to team up and devise a strategy that assures optimal learning for the student.

Ms. Hudson emphasizes student accountability.

In Holli. Hudsons’ school, teachers teach from their classrooms to their remote students. Holli creates and posts to Youtube an introductory video on how school will look for students that year. She explains how ASSISTments works and demonstrates what both students and the teacher will see. 

Holli places particular emphasis on accountability. She lets her students know that she is able to see when they view the answer in ASSISTments and drives the point that although students may not be in the classroom, they are still responsible for doing their own work and making a concerted effort to learn. 

Upon beginning instruction, Holli assigns a pretest to her class via ASSISTments. She uses the data to group students who require similar types of assistance and schedules Zoom meetings with each differentiated group so that she can give targeted instruction. As assignments continue on, in order to assure that each student is getting the instruction they need, Holli will adjust the groups as needed. At the end of each lesson and as an exit ticket, students complete a Skill Builder; this cements that day’s instruction, provides valuable feedback on how both the lesson went and how the next lesson should go.

Mr. Pina fosters a growth mindset.

Joaquine Pina’s school has adopted a hybrid instructional environment; teachers and students have the option to either come into school or stay at home. If a student chooses to come to school and their teacher is working remotely, they sit in the cafeteria 6 feet apart and work on computers. If their teacher is in the school, students are allowed to be in the classroom while their teacher gives the lesson, which is also streamed to students who are at home. This hybrid model has led Joaquine to create a lesson plan that integrates ASSISTments completely; it does not solely supplement the lesson, it IS the lesson. 

Joaquine emphasizes to students that in his class, their work is not based on a ‘right or wrong’ answer, but rather on how they organize their thoughts. Students are tasked to submit pictures of their work in order to show how they got to their answer. Joaquine goes over the ASSISTments data by showing the class their collective average. He then reviews what wasn’t understood in a way that addresses least to most understood content; this ensures that all the students' needs are met. 

Joaquine emphasizes the mantra, “If one struggles, we all struggle” in order to foster a sense of community and growth mindset, and make it so that students don’t feel singled out if they don’t yet fully understand the topic. 

Joaquine also relies on the platform when it comes to submitting report cards. He has devised his own unique scoring system grading system: If a student tries the assignment and gets it right, they get 100%. If a student tries the assignment and gets it wrong they get 80%. If a student does not try the assignment, they get a 60%. There are times when Joaquine will reset the assignment and give students another chance to try again or mark some assignments as a participation grade only.

Each teacher has adopted ASSISTments in a unique way that works for their classroom. 

To figure out what works for your classroom, start with these 5 tips for getting started (or download the PDF): 

1. Make sure parents are involved. Tell them the data from ASSISTments does not constitute their children’s grade but is aimed at figuring out where growth is needed. ASSISTments has a parent letter, in both English and Spanish, that you can use for this purpose. 

2. Ensure that students are showing their work. Having students take pictures of their handwritten work provides you with valuable information that cannot be ascertained from seeing an answer selection. This is also beneficial to the student’s critical thinking. Try out ASSISTments Student Reflection Form

3. Make the first few assignments low stakes. ASSISTments is for students and new can be scary. A low stakes assignment will ease them into this new process and allow them to be more comfortable with the platform.

4. Model what you want students to do. Create a video, or use one from the ASSISTments webinar library so students can see how they will use the platform. This will also help you structure your class the way that you want it to be. 

5. Review assignment data from day 1. When students see that what they do has tangible results, they will take the work more seriously. They will know that if and when they struggle there will be help. These can be isolating times and by setting a precedent from day one, teachers can foster an environment that says we - as a class and as individuals - are stronger than any obstacle and we will NOT let any situation get in the way of learning. Check out this demo on reviewing data remotely.

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