Tag Archives: Read&Write

This is how we do it … synchronous hybrid teaching

Who knew what the fall would bring upon our return to the classroom. Teachers are working harder than even creating content and rethinking their traditional teaching practices to meet the needs of the diverse learners in our classrooms.

Every school has a different model for learning during the pandemic – there is no one model that works for all. Whether you are fully remote, hybrid, synchronous or asynchronous, each pandemic school plan has its strengths and weaknesses. As teachers, we do not get to select the teaching model but are left to our own devices to plan, create, design, and execute active learner centered curricula that supports the diverse learners.

I am currently teaching in a hybrid synchronous school. I see my students with the last names A-L Monday and Thursday and students with the last names M-Z on Tuesday and Friday. On Wednesday all students are fully remote. Although my M-Z students are not in the classroom on Mondays and Thursdays, they are required to log in to my Google Meet during our class period to participate in the lesson. I am technically teaching to in-person learners and at home learners at the same time.

Julie Mason recently wrote in an article for We Are Teachers, “By design, hybrid learning is meant to combine the best parts of face-to-face learning and online learning to maximize students’ learning experience and potential. Asking teachers to take one curriculum and teach half of it online and half of it in person at the same time does just the opposite of that. It’s like putting a square peg into a round hole: it doesn’t make fit no matter how hard you try.”

Now there is a lot of criticism of the hybrid synchronous model and teachers are working harder now more than ever, myself included. At the same time this is a opportunity for me to look closely at the curriculum and teaching materials to assess and reflect on what are the best tools, strategies and teaching methods that will help engage students so they can learn deeply.

So here are some hacks that I have put in place to help both the unperson learners and at home learners build their literacy skills, while at the same time learn some new skill sets and utilize technology in innovative ways.

Keep it Simple – I am talking about assignments as well as Google Classroom.  I want my classroom to be accessible to all students. I post a daily agenda so that students know what to expect each class. That students can see whether they are in class or working from home.

Simplicity goes for Google Classroom as well. Everything is clearly labelled and easy to find on my Google Classroom pages. I limit the announcements so that students are not bombarded with messages and have important documents accessible. For example, every day I begin with a Read Aloud and I have been keeping a running list of the titles, authors, and guiding question for students to refer back to if needed.

Provide Choice and Implement Universal Design Learning – Every unit my students are given choices. Choices in the books they read, the activities they complete and even their assessments. I create choice boards and learning menus to help my students choose the activities that they feel confident in showing me their understanding and learning. The social justice menu is the most current choice board that students are working on as they read books with social justice themes.

Social Justice Choice Menu

UDL focuses on representation, engagement, and the actions and expression of learning. When teachers design with Universal Design Learning in mind, differentiation and accommodations for all learners are already built into the curriculum. The goal is for all students to knowledgable and motivated who evolve into expert learners. This is where assistive technology also plays a role to make learning accessible to all.

We want our students to become empowered learners and practice digital citizenship so they can be creative communicators, knowledge constructors and global citizens. Teachers and students are currently Utilizing technology tools and platforms to customize their learning. Whether that includes utilizing a font like OpenDyslexic Font for Chrome to increase readability for readers with dyslexia or Texthelp’s Read&Write Tool Bar to provide visual and audio supports for learners.

My favorite new tool is Mote: Voice Notes & Feedback. This tools allows me to send students voice notes and feedback on their writing – especially when I am reading and responding to 96 papers in a weekend. I can leave a message in response to their work rather than type out comments and questions. Mote works with Google Docs, Slides and Sheets, as well as Google Classroom.

Lastly, check in regularly. Whether it is a daily meme check in or a Google Form, check in with your students to see how they are doing and how learning is going for them. This is a difficult time for many. Anxiety levels are up and the stress of working from home can have an impact on our students. When we check in and ask how are things going, empathy is so important now.

So what are the things that are going well for you and helping teaching in a hybrid model or synchronously? Share your roses and thorns when it comes to remote learning and hybrid teaching in the comment section below.

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Mash Up March: App Smashing for Effective Feedback

When students are writing, Google Docs is a great tool to help brainstorm, draft, edit, and revise their work. I have been thinking about the most effective ways that I can offer effective feedback on their writing throughout the writing process beyond the Comments feature on Google Docs. Here are a few apps to utilize when giving feedback on student writing.

Flipped Lessons with Exemplar Writing – I often share an exemplar essay from a student from the previous year as a model and mentor for student writing. Using the SMARTBoard or Document Camera I am able to show the writing model and talk through the craft moves the student made that make it an exemplar paper. But, I can also make a recording of this and provide students with easy accessibility to the model essay, annotations highlighting the key writing moves, and explanation why the essay an exemplar. Using Google Slides, Google Drawing, and Screencast-O-Matic, I am able to record this lesson and have it available for students to view any time. Additionally, students can respond to the elements of the exemplar they notice, like, and want to model in their own writing with Padlet. Padlet is a collaborative platform or “board” for students to share feedback, answer questions, respond to a prompt, or brainstorm together.

MultiModal Feedback – Google Comments allow teachers to add comments on Google Docs. This is helpful to address specific concerns and highlights on a student’s essay. Additionally, the extension Checkmarks is an easy commenting tool that has popular pre-made or custom comments. Another possibility is to add vocal feedback with extensions like Read & Write or Talk & Comment. Teachers or peer editors can record their comments on these apps and the writer is able to listen to helpful suggestions to make their essay clear and concise.

App Smashing the Entire Writing Process – Using a semantic map tool like Popplet or Bubbl.us can help students in the beginning stages of writing to jot down ideas what they will write about and gather necessary textual evidence. Then, to help students build an outline, they might demonstrate their thinking using Explain Everything or using a voice recording app like Audacity. When students are writing Google Docs is a trustworthy tool. Then, reading aloud their essay to get peer feedback and check for correct grammar and usage, students can read and respond to each other’s writing on Flipgrid. Students can compile all their work on Thinglink posting links to showcase their writing process.


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Effective feedback improves student learning with Google Add-ons

Effective feedback improves student learning. 

In a 2012 article in Educational Leadership,  Grant Wiggins writes, “Helpful feedback is goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent.” As a middle school English teacher I spend many hours reading and evaluating student writing in order to help them improve as writers and articulate their thinking. I offer A LOT of feedback, both positive and constructive to help, support, guide, and meet learning targets for written communication. Wiggins goes on to say, “Effective feedback is concrete, specific, and useful; it provides actionable information. Thus, “Good job!” and “You did that wrong” and B+ are not feedback at all.”

I have found two Google Add On tools to help provide more specific and effective feedback. As John Hattie states, “To make sure that feedback is effective, teachers must know where their students are going, how they are progressing toward the goal, and where they need to go next. Because all messages are filtered through the students’ perceptions, what works as good feedback for one might not work for another.”  With these thoughts about feedback fresh in my mind, I am using the Google Add On Read & Write for Google Chrome from Texthelp to offer verbal feedback in addition to written comments on student writing. Using the the “Voice Note” feature in Read & Write I am able to record spoken feedback up to a minute in the document up to one minute. And the students do not need the add on to access the voice comments, they are given a link in the comments section to access the feedback. Additionally, the Voice Notes can also be used to 

  • Read the directions aloud for students who may have difficulty reading.
  • Provide additional clarification beyond the written directions.
  • Add a personal touch to the document by adding your own voice.

When reading many class papers in one seating, often times students might be making similar errors and rather than typing the same comments over and over again, Checkmark by EdtechTeam is designed to offer common edit and usage comments for quick commenting. This add-on saves time for teachers by clicking the appropriate comment automatically when highlighting a word or phrase in a Google Doc.

If we want our students to succeed, teachers need to be clear of the learning goals, strategies and moves to help students meet those goals, and articulate in the feedback we offer.

How to get both these Google Add Ons and use them to work smarter when it comes to giving effective feedback to our students is presented in the slide deck below.


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