Back
The Classroom

Taking on Remote Teaching: Reflection

Alice Montgomery
May 26, 2020

How do we close an unconventional school year and plan for the uncertainty ahead? 

One answer: Reflection 

Recently, “Congratulations 6th Grade Grad!” signs popped up on balconies and lawns in my neighborhood, signaling the approaching end of the school year. For me, the end of the school year is a sentimental season, sending students off with mementos and memories from our time together, letting them know how much they matter to our shared time and space, and how they’ll be missed. 

This school year is coming to a close. It’s been a unique one, that’s for certain. A challenging one, too. Classmates aren’t able to commemorate their time together in the same way, and they aren’t sure of what’s to come in the year ahead. 

COVID-19 school closures required fast action and quick decisions. Knowing our schools and classrooms will exist differently during the next school year presents challenges, but at the same time offers us the opportunity to approach our new learning realities thoughtfully and creatively. As we ready ourselves again for change and transition, let’s focus our planning on the factors we can control and reflect on that which helped us make it through this year. 

1. Start with strengthening relationships

Our students have experienced significant disruption in life and learning. As we have had to adjust to new realities rapidly, so have they, processing change and stress and isolation. During our recent webinar, Dr. Pamela Cantor spoke about the harmful effects of stress on the brain and the importance of relationships in helping students cope, build resilience, and reengage in learning. An initial emphasis on establishing strong relationships and supporting students' social and emotional needs is especially important at the start of the next school year. The urgency we feel to support students’ academic development can only be successful if they trust and feel connected to caring adults in their school community. 

Reflect

  • What spaces or schedules were most conducive to connecting with your students and families during your current distance learning experience?

  • How might you launch that start of the school year with a focus on relationships? 

Classroom interaction and teacher support are critical factors for fostering connection for students, but learning materials can contribute to a sense of belonging. Share a bit of yourself, your interests and identities with your students at the start to build trust and understanding. As students become comfortable, invite them to search for and share aspects of their experiences, values, and culture through texts and topics for learning. Create a Text Set on Newsela to collect your class' content and provide students an artifact to revisit that represents themselves and their classmates. Check out how Kristen Rafferty, a Newsela Fellow, supports her students in engaging with readings recommended by their peers with a co-created class Text Set.

2. Take stock of platforms and approaches 

This pandemic year required schools and classrooms to transition to distance learning as quickly as possible. Teachers and students were learning new platforms and leveraging old ones in new ways. Take stock and consider the tools you turned to support your short-term distance learning needs. Prioritize the platforms and approaches that might continue to meet the needs of the next school year. Reflect on the resources that made it easy to engage students, and those that helped save you time that was better spent in planning and connecting with students. 

Reflect

  • Which resources and approaches served you and your students well? 

  • Which might you remove or reintroduce to students to better support their success? 

With an eye toward next year, think about how these tools and approaches can support varied instructional settings, and how you might integrate them to provide a fully interactive experience for students. When planning for Newsela learning tasks, you might leverage content and features to support students during synchronous learning and independent assignment tasks. Prepare students for a reading or introduce a topic by previewing content during a class check-in. Have students complete assignments independently, at home, to engage with concepts at their own pace and individual level. Engage groups in discussions and collaborative tasks when the whole class is connected, whether virtually or in person. Jim Bentley, a Newsela Certified Educator, shares a planning resource he created to model designing virtual reading assignments that promote student discussion by intentionally pairing platforms. 

3. Forward learning with feedback

Our instructional practices have adapted quickly to meet students' needs and adjust to remote learning structures. Meeting students where they are will continue to be of critical importance as we account for learning disruption in the next school year.

Feedback can help us stay connected with students and guide their learning, even while learning virtually. We know that feedback is most effective when it's specific and offered immediately to help students gauge their efforts against the target and move toward it. Responding to student work in a remote setting can be time-consuming, making it hard to provide timely and meaningful comments. But targeted feedback is time well spent, so rely on resources that are easy to implement and offer you actionable insights into student learning. 

Feedback can be a powerful tool to move students forward as we consider how to support growth and account for missed learning.

Reflect

  • How did feedback function into your immediate remote learning routines?

  • Which in-person feedback processes might you translate to suit a hybrid or virtual instructional setting? 

On Newsela, you can help students feel supported and stay on track with learning by reviewing and replying to student work. To support implementation, focus your feedback on one action or element, or consider rotating detailed review for a selection of students per assignment. Respond to student annotations to recognize their interaction with the text, extend their thinking by posing questions, or direct rereading to specific selections of text. Leverage the Write rubric and comments feature to validate the evidence of learning demonstrated in students’ responses and provide targeted revision points. 

Teachers, soon you will be on the other side of this year. The next one will present its own obstacles, but let me close with some words of hope that Shannon McClintock, Innovation Director of Instructional Technology and Library Media at Van Meter Community School in Iowa, shared in her Distance Learning Diary

I find this time, even though challenging for a lot of reasons, as an opportunity to make education better and to open our minds to ideas, teaching practices and even more opportunities when we are through this.

The Latest from @Newsela

The right content resource keeps learning going, even through times of disruption. See how schools and teachers nationwide are using Newsela for the 2020-2021 school year. https://t.co/pFYUlO4b4o https://t.co/VSukeGa663
November 24, 2020, 3:04 PM
It is hard to imagine a more challenging year, but that doesn’t mean good things haven’t happened, too. We put together a list of our favorite things from 2020. From panda birthday cakes to llamas in tuxedos, there are fun moments to be thankful for. https://t.co/JtwGfug0fy https://t.co/Xzl9r8gsoq
November 24, 2020, 12:04 AM
Love hearing about students wanting to learn more after reading a Newsela article! 💙 https://t.co/7zDf4w9yvs
November 23, 2020, 7:33 PM
Odds are you’ll be using butter during your Thanksgiving meal, so why not make it yourself? With simple supplies and a bit of arm strength, you can use science to make homemade butter! https://t.co/B10uQt6ydx https://t.co/SN04LEsZqS
November 23, 2020, 6:12 PM
Make Social Emotional Learning a part of your distance learning classroom. The articles in this Text Set come from Newsela’s SEL Elementary School Collection and cover topics relevant to language arts 👉 https://t.co/055i7dGjwS
November 23, 2020, 4:36 PM
A safe Thanksgiving during a pandemic is possible, but health professionals know their advice is as tough to swallow as dry turkey. Make the most of your turkey dinner by following these tips from health experts: https://t.co/ZMYHSLcxgg https://t.co/MMQv0V7q4o
November 23, 2020, 2:18 PM
Kamala Harris, a Democrat, made history as America's first woman to be elected vice president. However, Republican women have their own successes in the election of 2020. A record number of them are heading to Congress, with more races still to be called: https://t.co/RyVX9HWeZX https://t.co/QjykHpKTLL
November 23, 2020, 1:19 AM
Shoutout to Mr. Macha's English class! 👏 A great project to keep students engaged in a relevant way. https://t.co/jhraxT7pxv
November 22, 2020, 9:01 PM
With high school around the corner, middle schools make math, science and English a priority — but what about learning to manage stress? Or developing healthy habits and friendships? Make them a priority with Newsela's SEL collection for Middle School: https://t.co/PHe94GZorZ https://t.co/nhw3bU6tTC
November 22, 2020, 4:31 PM
With Thanksgiving right coming up, lots of people will be thinking about turkey: Where to buy one, how to prepare the bird and how many leftovers there will be for sandwiches the week after. But how much do you really know about turkeys? Let's find out: https://t.co/JAJVKqItbl https://t.co/2KSNhsA2Zi
November 22, 2020, 1:31 PM
How and why did the foods served at Thanksgiving dinner come to be so fixed? Many falsely assume that most of the same meats and vegetables were eaten by the Pilgrims during the first Thanksgiving, but let's explore the true origin: https://t.co/KWZ4sNj3vh https://t.co/zIJfxJVWEc
November 22, 2020, 12:27 AM
This past week is the second week in a row that a major drugmaker has issued data indicating its new vaccine could be successful at fighting COVID-19. Preliminary results indicate that the vaccine by Moderna is nearly 95% effective in preventing sickness: https://t.co/FYQk4sfvbo https://t.co/KKMIeB2o1h
November 21, 2020, 9:05 PM
On November 7, former Vice President Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States. Use this collection to educate students about his inspiring journey to the oval office and controversial transition ahead: https://t.co/E3tI8wPIxz https://t.co/kFvbFk4X4n
November 21, 2020, 6:06 PM
Weave SEL into your lessons with content selected for elementary, middle, and high school learners. Take a closer look at the Newsela Social-Emotional Learning Collection: https://t.co/pOK7cSxH3z https://t.co/8Oq9RPlgoG
November 21, 2020, 4:34 PM
In search of creative new ideas and resources for your teaching? 💡 Explore the Newsela Educator Center for videos, lessons, and ready-to-go assignments for leveling up your classroom 👉 https://t.co/XkF9zQwAIz https://t.co/Oq3Jvi2P3M
November 21, 2020, 3:02 PM

The best lessons start with the best content.

Ready to bring great instructional content to your students?

Contact Sales