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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Pandemic Teaching Finds I Plan On Keeping

As this school year comes to a close, there is a lot I absolutely cannot wait to walk away from and never have to do again. Concurrent online and in-person socially distant teaching, for example. Or taking all of my teaching materials home every day in case the school is online tomorrow. But there are also some things I've done for the first time this school year that have been positive and I definitely plan on keeping as part of my teaching practice in the future! Here's my list of new things I'm keeping from this year of pandemic teaching.

1. Flipgrid

I've said this before and I'll say it again: Flipgrid has been the absolute best discovery I've made through this pandemic. Although I certainly won't be needing it as much as I have this year, I will definitely be continuing to use it for things like the International Music Festival (see how I do that in this post), recorder (for students to do individual playing tests), and as a supplemental way for shy students to perform. 

2. Frequent family communication

I've been sending home positive notes with at least 1 student per class in every lesson for years now, but I've always handed the handwritten notes directly to the students. They usually showed them to their families, but not always, and even when they did it was not a direct conversation between the families and me. This year to avoid handing out pieces of paper I started sending my "happy notes" to the families on ClassDojo instead. I still verbally tell students directly what positive comment I am giving them, but the message goes directly to the families. 

This has been a tremendous asset in communicating with families this year! Every single child's family has heard at least 3 times from me this year something that they are doing well in music class. There have been times this year when I have been able to get a response from a family that had not responded to messages from the school office or their homeroom teacher, and a few students have told me their family only opens messages from me. 

I think I am going to go back to the handwritten happy notes next year, because there is also something special about having a physical note for students to keep (I've had students show me their wallet where they've kept every single one for years), but I plan to continue sending those notes directly to families through ClassDojo as well. It has been well worth the effort.

3. Zoom meetings

I cannot tell you how happy I am that our district has said we will not be teaching synchronously next school year. I cannot wait to be untethered from the computer in my classroom! But for collaborating with colleagues, Zoom is definitely something I want to keep. Being able to get on a Zoom call has made it so much easier for all of the music teachers in the district to talk more frequently, and have more time for the meeting itself when we do, because we aren't all traveling across town to get to one meeting location. And even without the travel time, being able to screen share and look at documents together is honestly so much easier than trying to set up a projector or making photocopies. I absolutely am looking forward to more face-to-face meetings and conversations with colleagues- there is of course so much that is lost when we're all just little faces on a screen- but I am hoping we can continue to collaborate more often by holding onto video calls.

4. Google slides

I have been a big Google Drive user for years now, especially after I went through the experience of having a computer die and losing a hard drive! And I have loved the ease of sharing folders and documents with colleagues and being able to edit things together in real time. But despite hearing other teachers talk about the wonders of Google Slides before this year, I hadn't really taken the time to explore and understand how much better it is than PowerPoint or other presentation software. This year I have moved all of my lesson visuals to Slides and I couldn't be happier- I will never go back. You can read about some of my most-used and most-loved features in this post.

5. Talk time

I'm actually reverting back to my beginning teacher practice with this one: I want to continue to allow for more time for students to share "off-topic" things. This year with an extra focus on social-emotional health, I made a conscious effort to leave some time at the end of class for students to tell me things, whether it's about their cousin's birthday party or their new puppy or anything in between. I have gotten so good at maximizing learning time over the years, and keeping students engaged from the moment they walk in to the moment they leave, that I realize I've missed out on some of those little peeks into their lives outside my classroom. I've always tried to find opportunities for conversations outside of class, but I've found it really makes a positive difference in the classroom climate when students have time to share during class as well. I probably won't do it as often as I have this year, but I'm committed to making sure I still build in time for that in the future.

6. Rhythm play-along videos

There's no denying I am completely burnt out on rhythm play-along videos right now. But I definitely plan on keeping them in the future (though we will use them much more sparingly)! I've made my own rhythm charts on a slide and had students play them with music in the past, but these play-along videos are a great way to mix things up and keep it interesting, especially now that there are so many of them out there for every season, holiday, music genre, and level of rhythm notation possible!

I'm sure there are more things I'll think of as I have time to process, but for now this is my list of new things from this school year I'm hoping to continue in the future. What were your favorite "finds" this year? I have a page dedicated to posts related to pandemic teaching below if you're interested in seeing more of the technology, strategies, and lesson ideas I've used:

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