With the onset of the pandemic and the abrupt switch to remote learning, schools instinctively continued to view parents as “parents” and teachers as “teachers,” which on the spur of the moment may have seemed like the logical thing to do and may have worked as a band-aid solution; however, should part-time or full-time learning from home continue to take place next year, redefining and renaming the roles must be considered for it to work long term. And why is that? If the roles aren’t redefined, then the danger is that the work being sent home will continue to be viewed as “homework,” which in a traditional sense functions on the premise that students have been taught the concepts they need to know in order to complete the assignment prior to bringing it home and therefore parents need only offer a little support here and there. With our new reality, this is no longer the case and so simply sending home links to websites and a package of worksheets isn’t going to cut it. Parents can no longer be viewed simply as parents; instead, they now need to be viewed as “co-teachers” and as such will need to be supported accordingly, which means providing them the planning tools to be able to teach lessons from home because for the average parent this isn’t a skill set they necessarily possess. That said, this begs the question of how to design a parent-friendly template that would allow one to take control of their daily schedule and guide them with methods for teaching their child vs. simply providing busy work, and the answer is by following the 4 simple steps below!
Step 1: Communicate Changes and Brainstorm Ideas
First things first, it’s one thing for you as an administrator to accept a change in the traditional role of parents, but this needs to be communicated with your staff as they also need to start viewing parents as “co-teachers,” and begin treating them accordingly. In addition to discussing the role switch, it may also be a good idea to discuss which information should be included on your school’s parent planner. For the purposes of this article, supposing that the following elements have been deemed important by staff and therefore areas will need to be allocated on the template to include:
In addition to this, the staff has also decided that it would be easiest to work off of one collaborative template per class, meaning that teams of teachers could add lessons on a single template thus eliminating multiple planners going home on a weekly basis.
Step 2: Design Your Parent Planner
With the information collected by the staff, the next step would be for you to design your template, and based on our imaginary scenario, the parent planner below was developed.
The template begins with the Zoom schedule on top, and then moves onto dividing lessons by days. In keeping things generic, any subject area teacher could complete their section by noting an approximate duration for the lesson, lesson objectives, where the materials can be found (homework package, links, etc.), and guiding parents through the beginning, middle, and end of a lesson. And with this information, imagine how empowered any parent would feel!
Step 3: Brief Staff on the Implementation of the Planner
Once your parent template is complete, it is worth reviewing it with staff and running through a mock-up so that they are clear on expectations for filling it in. In addition to clarifying expectations, guidelines should also be set about weekly due dates for having them completed. For example, they may need to be handed in on Thursday, thereby giving you time to review them on Friday morning so they can be sent out before end of day on Friday.
Step 4: Brief Parents on the Purpose of the Planner
It goes without saying that before introducing anything new to parents, they should be briefed on the planner that will be sent home for them to use as a guide when teaching their children. One could even take things one step further and offer a video as a tutorial with tips for using the planner it! It is also worth keeping in mind that it may take a few weeks for parents to feel comfortable following the plans, but once they get in the rhythm of things, there’s no telling where their newfound knowledge of how to structure a lesson may take them!
No one could have predicted the upheaval that we have recently been faced with, however we can prepare accordingly for next year, and if we are able to get staff and parents working together within the roles of teacher and co-teacher, imagine the impact that could be made!
Collaborative planning isn’t easy at the best of times, but in the face of COVID-19 it has been become even more difficult as educators are finding themselves working from home part-time, if not full-time. To top it all off, regulated teacher timetables have gone to the wayside as teachers are free to schedule Zoom calls (or equivalent) with students as they see fit during the day. With all these obstacles in the way, and an upcoming school year that is looking to be much the same in the fall, what measures can be taken to ensure staff are still working together as a team and that specialist subjects and language/learning support are incorporated within the structure of remote learning? And the answer is: by providing staff a means of planning together without necessarily having to meet face-to-face, which can be done using software such as Google Docs that would allow one to create a shared template, like the one below.
The idea behind the above template is that mainstream and specialist teachers would complete their sections first, which would include noting their Zoom call schedules for the upcoming week and filling in their respective subject-area planning boxes, requiring them to list objectives, at home learning activities and links to documents/websites that will be provided to learners. These teachers would need to complete their portions of the planner by Thursday, thereby allowing Language and Learning Support staff a day to differentiate/scaffold learning activities for their students and to schedule their Zoom calls accordingly. And one could end things there as the goal of teacher collaboration would be met, but what if one were also interested in encouraging transdisciplinary planning? Could this be accomplished using a similar template? But of course! With an additional note reminding teachers to link subjects together (see modification highlighted in yellow below) and a staggering of the days when each teacher completed their portion of the planner – for example, mainstream teachers by Tuesday, specialists by Thursday (thus giving them two extra days to look at what mainstream teachers have planned) and Language/Learning support by Friday – it could easily be done!
Our suggested template is a generalized and basic way of organizing staff and lesson ideas; the information you would like to include in yours is entirely up to you as long as you have provided a means for all team members to view each other’s plans and add their own on a single planner. Ours was also designed on a weekly basis, but the time frame you choose can also be adjusted.
Unusual circumstances call for unusual measures, and although creating a collaborative planning template for your grade level teams can never replace the value of face-to-face meetings, it would still provide staff with way of working together and presenting a united front to parents. Mainstream/homeroom teachers would be able to share weekly plans that not only highlight their expectations but those of specialists and support staff – and how beneficial would that be!
Have you designed a collaborative planner for your staff? We would love for you to share your ideas!
You finally got the budget to order new resources for your staff and could not be more excited! What do you buy with so many available options? How do you know which materials are right for your school? Here are a few questions that can be used as a guide to ensure your money is being well spent!
1. How Many Chapters?
If textbooks are what you are after, it’s always a good idea to look at how many chapters there are and divide them over the amount of school weeks in a year before making a final decision. And why is this important? Let’s suppose there are 25 weeks in your school year, and you are looking at purchasing textbooks that contain 20 chapters; this means teachers will need to move through the program at a rate of approximately one chapter per week. Doable, perhaps realistic, but maybe not, and if you were to purchase the resources and the teachers weren’t able to keep the pace, how would this impact students as they move on to the next grade level with gaps in their knowledge?
2. Do the Resources Align with Your Curriculum Objectives?
With all the flashy resources that are available it can be easy to get caught up in the pizzazz and features – bold colors, audio buttons, interactive capabilities, etc., but try not to let looks be your sole basis for judgement; otherwise you may end up purchasing materials your staff can never use as they don’t align with curriculum objectives. To ensure you are making an informed decision, as time consuming as the process may be, pull out your curriculum objectives and cross-reference them against those covered by the resources, using a table similar to the one below:
In going through the process, not only will you ascertain that the resources in question are a good fit, but if you notice there are a few areas that aren’t covered and you have enough money in the budget, additional resources can be ordered to fill in the gaps.
3. Will There Be Foundational Gaps?
Sometimes when one is looking to introduce a new set of resources to a school with the aim of revising the way concepts have previously been taught, one overlooks foundational gaps that may transpire and impede learning. For example, when selecting math resources some companies offer materials based on more traditional rote teaching methods while others are based on newer methods (like those coming out of Singapore) that encourage deeper student understanding. If your last set of resources were more on the traditional side and you are looking to swap things out, it’s a good idea to get a more in-depth look at what will be covered by less traditional resources, as students in the older grades may not have the foundational skills needed to answer the questions. If this is the case, then the new program needs to be unveiled in the lower grades only, while the old program is slowly being phased out as younger cohorts move up.
4. Is the Discount for the Online Copies Worth It?
Quite often companies will offer discounts if one orders the online copies versus the hardcopies, and it may seem like a good idea to jump on that; however, before deciding to go down this route, it’s a good idea to approximate the cost of staff photocopying resources (paper, ink, etc.) as more often than not the amount you think will be saved isn’t worth the hassle.
5. Will Staff Need Training?
Keep in mind that with the introduction of any new resources or software programs, staff will need time for processing and learning. In some cases, staff are capable of learning on their own as the necessary adjustments are relatively minor; however, sometimes the changes are simply too much for staff to take on without training. This is something you will need to factor in prior to placing your order, and if training is required it’s advisable to look into the costs of this beforehand.
6. Is a Free Trial an Option?
Most companies offer free trials to sample their resources, so why not take advantage? That way you know for certain if the resources they are offering are right for you school!
7. Do You Know What You Are Paying For?
Always take the time to read the fine print and make sure you know what you are getting. When paying for a subscription, is it per class or per school? What are the renewal fees? Can students access the resources from home? These are things to check into before going ahead with your order, and if they haven’t made things clear on the website, never be afraid to email the company to find out more!
In going through this checklist of questions prior to placing your order, you can be sure that you are covering all your bases and that whatever you select will be a good fit for your school. Happy shopping!
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