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Blended Classroom Best Practices

Jul 16, 2020

We are all keenly aware that no matter what decision our schools have made about starting the school year, it could change in a split second, more than once.  But, as the resilient teachers that we are, we want to be ready for anything.

Many of us are preparing for what we're calling a blended or hybrid format, where we'll have half of our students one half of the week, and the other half of our students the other half of the week, or some variation thereof.

Something I've been saying for a few months now, and that was a rude awakening for many teachers in the spring is that the basic flipping techniques that I teach about on this blog and inside of programs like my online course, Flipped Classroom Formula, are ones that not only allow you the flexibility to make. it. happen. in a blended format, but allow the work you're doing now to count after all this distance learning stuff is over.

But, here's the thing.  Will it ever be over?  Lord help us, I hope so.  The better question would be, will it ever go back to what "normal" was?  Who knows.  

I'll tell you this... all this work teachers are doing right now had better make impact on education that extends past this pandemic.  Let's make sure that we come out of this as better educators, ok?  Ok.  Glad we had that little chat.

So how do we prepare for a blended classroom, one where we'll see some of our students now, and others later?

Let's chat about a few suggestions that I hope allow you to not only build an accessible, effective, blended classroom, but a sustainable one for you as well.

Here are three practices to help you do just that.

1. One Place

One of the biggest struggles I heard from parents and students back in the Spring of Distance Learning 2020 was that students had too many places to go online in order to learn, and that fact very much was a hindrance to their learning.  The brain space it took to keep it all straight on where they went for what class and how they did it and when was too much even before they needed to focus on the content.

Choose one place, one main platform to use for your classroom.  In many cases your school has already chosen this for you, and I know many schools are choosing this one platform as we speak, scrambling to get their teachers trained in it ASAP.

This one place could be any one of many great tools like Google Classroom, Google Sites, Canvas, Schoology, Blackboard (haha, just kidding, that's not a thing anymore, is it?), TEAMS, etc.

It's also important to say that we need to be good stewards of the programs and platforms our schools have chosen.  Maybe they didn't choose the one you wanted or the one that you believe is the best.  And, honestly, that is a bummer.  However, if it means the students in your class have less overwhelm in learning and accomplishing tasks you set out for them, then that's a win in any teacher's book, so go with it for now.

This one place, or platform, needs to be one that you can easily send students assignments to and then collect when they are finished.  They need to easily be able to access (almost, let's say 90-95%) of your classroom AND be able to turn in their work in this one place.

I also have another meaning for this "one place" heading, and that is this... there's not just a benefit in your students only having one place to go.  There's also a benefit in YOU only having one place to go to look for student work.  Not going to lie.  When I first started flipping my classroom and establishing when and where my students would be doing what, where things were got a bit chaotic quickly.

If you can establish the process of where students will access work, and where they will turn in work, preferably both all in one place, you will save yourself so much headache.

Now, this doesn't mean students will ONLY use this one place for all of their learning.  No, it means this one place will be like the launch pad that takes them everywhere else.

For instance, for one assignment in, let's say Google Classroom... you tell students to do the following:

1. Watch a video and take notes in a Google Slides (that's one place, right?).  Kind of like this:

(Join me for a tutorial on how I made this bad boy here)

2.  Go to a linked website to explore or practice with the topic further.  Completing a linked handout.

3.  Then take the quiz (google form, let's say) linked all in the same spot.

Bam.  All in one post on Google Classroom.  You, nor your students, don't have to go anywhere else to see how they've done with one given topic.

2. Monotony

Wow, that's an interesting suggestion given that we're probably bleeding from the eyes due to the monotony of life right now, hashtag pandemic-life of 2020, am I right?!?

When everything, almost literally, is changing in education this year, having a consistent routine is absolutely crucial.  If your students are going through the same process for their learning on various topics over and over again, the monotony will give them a sense of normalcy.

Of course you're welcome to change things slightly once you're blended or online classroom is working like a well-oiled machine, but take any amount of change slowly.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

Make decisions about your classroom in these areas and make them the same for all topics, lessons, etc. as much as you possibly can.

  • How will your students learn new content? Will it be in a video you've made, another teacher's video, or on your weekly class Zoom, for instance?
  • Where will they take notes or otherwise prove they are engaging with the content delivery, no matter how short or small?
  • When students are finished with a quiz or test, what do they do?  Do they automatically go on to the next topic or is there something they must do, like a reflection of some sort?

And so many more.

Here's the thing... these are the same kinds of classroom procedures you decide on for your own, in-person classroom.  It's the same dang thang.  It's just digital now, so it's even more important that the procedure be clear and well-explained for your students.

3. Plan by "topic" not by "lesson"

Man that's some quotation marks.  Eye-roll.  But let me explain. 

Traditionally, teachers make their lesson plans based on one day they will see their students, or one specific time-period.  With remote learning (distance learning, whatever you want to call it) and blended learning, time with and without students kind of ebbs and flows.  It will get really overwhelming really quickly to keep track of lessons based on when you're with students and when you're not, and what you want them doing when.

My suggestion is that instead of basing your planning on a time period, base it on a topic, which I define as one set of like standards (or maybe just one standard) where you're having students doing certain tasks to master said standards.

This topic will include time both in class and out of class.  That topic can very much lead your planning, if you heed my advice in the previous suggestion of monotony, if you stick with the same old procedure with every topic (if you're able to, not all subjects or grade levels lend themselves well to that flow).

Here's what the flow of any one topic might look like:

  • Students watch a video and take notes at home before we are together in class.
  • In class, I check those notes, and students are working in proper, socially-distanced groups (is that even possible? Another eye roll, hang with me here though) or stations where they are climbing up Bloom's taxonomy working ever so deeply into applying and synthesizing their understanding.
  • Outside of class during their virtual time they are finishing up said stations, practicing their vocabulary, reading their text, and even watching the next video if we need to move at a quicker pace.

Here's a huge concept to keep in mind.  No two blended, flipped, online or in-person classrooms will look the same.  Nor should they.  So please don't think you have to take every suggestion here and apply it exactly to your situation.  Likewise, don't compare your classroom to every other Pinterest-worthy, highlight-reel classroom you see on Instagram.

When making a decision about your blended classroom and any blended strategy you implement, think of the purpose.  What is it that you're trying to accomplish with your students?  Will that strategy fulfill the purpose you have in mind?  And go with it.

If these strategies are resonating with you, and if you're a teacher looking for support in a quick and efficient form of professional development that doesn't take intensive work but will help you get the job done in preparing for this crazy year, then I want to invite you to my brand new workshop, Blended Classroom Blueprint.

This is the first time I'm offering it, it's brand-spanking new, and I'm super pumped to deliver PD LIVE. 

It's coming up quick on July 28th at 1pm EST, and will be a LIVE 2-Hour workshop with yours truly where I will walk you through super important aspects of your very own blended classroom like how to get started for the school year, how to optimize your time both virtually and in-class, and how to make sure it's all sustainable for you (o, and how to best keep kids accountable of course).

You've probably seen plenty of professional development opportunities this summer, but most of which were too time consuming for you to justify spending much of your needed time off, am I right?  Yea, I totally get it. That's why I made this quick and efficient workshop to get it done.

I've got another opportunity for you though before then... Want to know how I made that nifty "one-place" video and interactive notes thingy toward the top of this post?  Join me on Facebook LIVE Monday, July 20, at 3pm EST and I will show you how :). Don't miss it.

Until next time,


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