Innovative Instruction

[Ask a Teacher] Taking on Remote Teaching: Routines

Emily Lepkowski
Apr 8, 2020

How do we balance learning new technologies to support remote learning while staying sane in these uncertain times? 

One answer: routines 

Last week, I read through a thread on Twitter written by a teacher and a caregiver. She was compassionately explaining how her profession had changed overnight because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the pressures she felt to remotely educate her sheltering-in-place students while also supporting her own children’s education.

How was she managing all of this? Her message was clear: routines help. 

In these uncertain times, finding what works for you, your students, and your family is #winning. My team at Newsela has been reflecting and connecting with thousands of educators to learn what is working for them. 

1. Create a flexible schedule and keep editing it. 

Just because we are no longer commuting to school does not mean you can’t set a structure to your day. This can be as simple as sticking to when you wake up in the morning and what time you go to bed to differentiate the weekends from the work days. For educators, we are reflecting on what will work for us and our families and then, what will work for our students. 

When school closures were first announced, Danielle Mastrogiovanni, a supervisor for humanities in New Brunswick, N.J., shared her daily schedule on Twitter. What I loved about this is that she edited it every day and kept posting about how it had evolved. She even labeled the places in the house where specific things would happen. My takeaway here is to: 

  1. Use your whole space

  2. Take all family members into account 

  3. Make changes over time

  4. We will get better at this

2. Consider a predictable structure for lessons and learning. 

Teachers are also thinking about schedules for our students. In my mind, these thoughts range from how I will structure my schedule for lessons and how long it will take for my students to complete their work for my class. Newsela Fellow Sarah Bayer, who teaches in Georgia, shared that she and her colleagues are creating lessons that give students four days worth of work that takes about 20-30 minutes to complete per class. This predictable routine is keeping students engaged with learning during this time. 

To that end, teachers also have to consider how to structure virtual lessons. Kristin Ziemke, who wrote Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6, has shared a wealth of resources for educators to support distance learning. She recommends that virtual mini-lessons follow this predictable structure: greet, teach, show, do, keep thinking. How can these examples help you as you create a structure for your lessons? 

3. Have conversations about routines with your students. 

On our Expert Distance Learning Panel webinar last week, Andrew Marcineck shared how he creates Google hangout time slots on his calendar for students to sign up for drop-in office hours. This is one way to connect with students and have conversations about routines, not just lessons that you are sharing virtually. Newsela recently published articles on establishing routines and taking breaks throughout the day. The article on taking breaks reminded me that when my virtual meetings end early, I don’t have to answer emails, but rather I can stop to move around, tidy up, or simply breathe. How are you talking to your students about intentional breaks? 

4. Reflect on how routines affect your curriculum. 

More and more teachers are using Newsela for remote learning during this time so that also means more and more teachers are becoming Newsela Certified Educators. That community is sharing how they are sticking to their curriculum for remote learning. Sarah Enger, a 5th grade teacher in South Berwyn, Ill., shared her Text Set titled The Path to Freedom that she will use for instruction in Quarter 3. Her Text Set provides a strong example of how to leverage many tools, Newsela content, and a clear virtual learning schedule to meet the needs of students. In our Office Hours, we’ve also heard that some teachers are still teaching their novels and following their U.S. history scope and sequence.  Turning to Newsela as the content source and pairing it with a routine way to read an article or to share thinking like Sarah does in her Text Set will provide clarity for your students and their families.  

We’d love to know what routines are working for you. Tweet us @newsela and use the hashtag #remotelearning to share far and wide. 

Stay tuned every week for additional tips based on questions, challenges and successes that teachers share during their remote teaching experience.

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