Not-Quite-Viral Videos

It’s been almost a year. March 13, 2020. That was the last day we were at school before COVID-19 ROCKED our worlds–inside and outside of school. Eventually we did get back into school, but not until almost 250 days later in October, 2020. And over that time we were on our virtual learning journey, teachers like me worked soooo hard to figure out a way to try to make our online classroom a rigorous, engaging and welcoming place for kids to be. It was NOT the same as being at school in-person, but we did (and still are doing!!) what we could.

One way we pivoted (ha! I wondered how long it would be til I used that word!) to teaching virtually was to begin making videos of our curriculum content. It’s not rocket science by any means, but it definitely had a learning curve from how we had done them pre-COVID, partly because we started using a new tool in Screencast-o-Matic. Now that I know how to use it, I LOVE how it has impacted both my teaching and my kiddos’ learning.

  1. Recording lessons allows me to post content for kiddos so they can revisit the topic. Sometimes you just need to hear something more than once for it to “stick.” This is as true for adults as it is for kids! Especially when we were home doing virtual learning full-time, there were times when kiddos couldn’t be there for the lesson when it was “live.” Sometimes they were there, but it was hard to understand because of being on Zoom or because of distractions in the background–or for any of the countless other reasons people have a hard time listening. :). Since I had recorded the lesson ahead of time (and was then playing it during my mini-lesson time), kiddos could easily access it via our Schoology page and rewatch it. 2 or 3 times if need be! Then they can get on with whatever the follow up activity is.
  2. Recording lessons allows for my team to share the load. One of the BEST things we discovered during our virtual learning so far, is that it is A LOT for one person to do on their own. Differently than during in-person school, virtual learning has another level of difficulty–partly just because it’s new for everyone! I know we can all agree that teachers can do everything (well, almost everything LOL), but of course pandemic teaching was a whole new kind of hard. As a means to make sure we were taking care of ourselves and giving our students what they needed, our 2nd grade team divided up the work and everyone took a subject. We planned out the goals and objectives and which lessons and all of that, and then teachers focused on making “their” subject accessible to their students and the rest of the grade.
  3. Teaching through videos and sharing the load allowed kiddos access to ALL of the 2nd grade teachers. This was great because it gave our kiddos a teeny sense of “regular” school normalcy. In those long-ago, before-COVID times, our team did many things together and “shared” kids for experiences and group learning. This was especially helpful as we tried to differentiate and address specific student need. Welp, it was all gone once this stupid virus started messing everything up and it was obvious that kiddos were missing it. By using videos that other teachers had made during my mini-lessons–and then stopping along the way to explain or discuss as a class together–our 2nd graders still felt a little connection to their “other” teachers, even if they weren’t really there in person. Additionally, I think it’s a benefit for kiddos to hear how other teachers teach things. Just like how hearing something more than once often makes a topic “stickier,” hearing it from someone else’s mouth can be the thing that makes that concept finally understandable. Everyone has their own set of strengths and talents and I LOVE that we can spread the wealth and take advantage of what we all do best. :). Even though we’re in-person again, we’ve continued this because it worked so well!
  4. Videos allow me to focus on making a mini-lesson ACTUALLY mini! I know I cannot be the only one who sometimes teaches mini-lessons that go longer than they want them to. Yeah, maxi-lessons. Or I-was-on-a-roll-and-should-have-stopped-talking-15-minutes-ago lessons. It’s not just me, right? Well…since I am recording my lesson, AND since I know that other kids and other teachers are going to have to use my lesson, it somehow forces me to make sure that I am more on point. Accountability maybe? Focus on a sense of clarity? Something about making something for someone else helps me not to ramble. Ok, at least not ramble as long as usual.
  5. Recording videos helps me reflect on my own teaching. After the teaching/recording part of the lesson comes the editing part. Besides being about to take out dead air and ums and mistakes I made, it also allows me to see what I actually look and sound like to a kid when I’m presenting something. I have to admit, when I first started doing this I was surprised by how it didn’t always turn out the way I intended. Alternatively, though, sometimes it turns out even better and I’ll hear myself say something that I KNOW is going to hit kids them in a way that will really be impactful. And because it’s recorded and I have the luxury of seeing what happened, I can respond appropriately based on what comes out in my first draft. In my opinion, this is one of the best things I can do as a teacher–figure out what I do well so I can do it again, and also figure out where I struggle so I can work on making that part of my lessons better.
  6. Using videos from other teachers gives me instant PD and helps me to see how other people do things. Besides watching yourself teach, some of the best professional development comes from watching someone else doing something really well. I LOVE to see how my colleagues explain things and which parts of a topic they choose to enhance or highlight. I often hear phrases or questions that I would never have thought to say, that I can later tweak to use in my own teaching later. Sometimes it is tone of voice, sometimes it’s how different teachers use visual pieces to reinforce what they’re saying, and sometimes it’s just learning about a new book or teaching tool I haven’t used, but I ALWAYS learn something when I see what my colleagues are doing. It’s definitely a win/win!
  7. Posting videos for kids helps parents to know what’s going on, too! I have no expectation that parents are watching the videos I post (they are for the kiddos after all), but if they want to, they are definitely welcome to! I know that parents can feel a little out-of-the-loop, since their kids spend all day here at school without them, and we have experiences and learning they don’t know about. By being able to see how it sounds when I teach it also helps parents help their kiddos if there are questions.

I know we are all feeling some COVID fatigue and are super tired of all the changes this past year has brought us. After it all, though, I do think there are some positive changes that we have had to make—-and changes that we will keep even after COVID is a distant memory.

What experience do you have with videos in your teaching? How have videos helped you grow? What struggles or hiccups have you run into? I’d love to hear more about others’ experiences with virtual learning and/or videos in teaching.

I’m Out But I’m Still Teaching

Today was one of those days that I unexpectedly had to be out with a sick kiddo.  😦 It’s always tricky trying to figure out what leave for a guest teacher to do with your class; many lessons just need you to be there to do the teaching.

It being the last week of the quarter, I had a harder time not doing the lessons I already had planned, so I figured I’d do the next best thing to being there: record myself teaching the lesson and leave the video for the guest teacher to play.  I know, it’s not rocket science, but sometimes I forget (or don’t have time to make it happen before my absence).  And honestly, I ambitiously recorded a WHOLE DAY’S worth of learning one year (which literally took me the length of a whole school day at home to make!) only to have not a single second of it watched by the class. Wah, wah….

Fast forward six years (I know, I guess it affected me and took a long time for me to recover LOL) and I tried it again.  Like I mentioned before, some things are just not possible to leave with a guest teacher, often because of craft or style that I add to the lesson, or just because of background knowledge that isn’t there.  Writing is especially tricky, so that’s the lesson I decided to record and leave for my class and the sub (plus, it was a fun lesson I didn’t want to miss teaching!).

The best part?  I heard from my teammate that they WATCHED the video, that it went well and that my writers did a SUPER job with the writing work time that followed. Whew!  That’s so great to hear. :). Also, it featured my own second grade learner, which made the whole thing extra fun. 🙂

And since I know you’re dying to see what it looks like in our room during writing (or at least in our classroom after school when I’m getting ready for a guest teacher!), here’s the video I left for Rm. 111 and 112 writers today. :). Would love to hear what you think!


No Voice Day!

Today was kind of tricky.  I have an unfortunate beginning-of-the-year-my-kids-got-me-sick cold, and it’s taken my voice. 😦  Luckily my throat doesn’t hurt (no, I don’t have strep–don’t worry, friends!), but it’s hard to not talk when you’re a teacher. LOL  The hardest thing–especially when we’re in the midst of a #classroombookaday challenge–is the read alouds.  I couldn’t NOT read aloud today (especially when there are texts that go with subjects as well as the ones just for fun), so I figured we’d “read” them on YouTube instead.  I know it’s not really rocket science, but it’s the first time I’d done it, so I was kind of excited about it.

Today was a 3-book day, and two of them were videos.  We started the day with How Full is Your Bucket? for Kids, which is one that kiddos know from kindergarten.  It’s a great story, and is a super book to use with kids anyway, but this one was chosen also because we’ve been having some empty buckets at the end of the day lately. 😦  Everyone needed a reminder. 🙂

Check it out, in case you haven’t ever read it (or even if you have!):

Another one we “read” like this was The Night of the Veggie Monster which is a mentor text for our Small Moments writing unit we’re starting.  It’s so funny and is a story every kid can relate to personally.

Kiddos were so excited about this kind of read aloud that I might start to incorporate it more frequently just as a change of pace. 🙂

I’m wondering…

Kids:  What did you like best about these stories today?

Parents: What did your learner tell you about our #classroombookaday choices today? 

Teachers: How do you use videos for read aloud?  What suggestions do you have?

Thanks for sharing your voice!


The Cat’s Away

So I’m home with a sick baby again today.  I HATE to be gone, but sometimes I just have to be a mom, you know?

So today’s absence reminded me of an idea I learned about recently.  I was out a couple of weeks ago, and I used a great idea from a couple of teachers I met when I attended an EdCamp St. Louis conference earlier this month.  They both teach middle school, and are out of the classroom periodically for activities with their school, and so need to leave plans for a substitute.  Rather than just leaving written ones, they record videos to leave for their classes, often teaching the lesson from their couch and giving directions for what they want their students to do.

Last time I was out, I knew ahead of time, since her fever popped up in teh evening.  So with my MacBook, my plans and my couch, I set to work putting together what I hoped would be a great day of learning for my kiddos, even in my absence.  Here’s what I left as a welcome to the day, along with our normal morning routine screen on the ActivBoard:

After they went off to specials, it was time for Writer’s Workshop in our room:

That big blue button sent them here to this video:

Next in our day was Math Workshop.  This video was a little different, but hopefully just as helpful.

Off to lunch and recess they went, and then back into the room for Read Aloud and then Reader’s Workshop.  Again, a flipchart welcomed them with directions:

Ok, well at least it had a place to send them for directions.  Those were here:

And here:

Social Studies followed Reader’s Workshop, as it normally does, and the lesson that they worked on that day was about the Natural Features of Europe:

Unfortunately this was the last day of the week, since we had a Professional Development Day the following day on Friday. We were also going to be out on Monday, too, since it was President’s Day! That meant I wouldn’t see them for what seemed like FOREVER, so I sent them off to their long weekend with this Goodbye and Good Weekend video:

Ok, so if you’re a frequent visitor to our blog, you know that I can’t write anything without ending with my thoughts and reflections.  And of course the topic of this post means that those thoughts and reflections are definitely doosies! (Is that how you spell that?  There was no choice for it in the dictionary. 🙂 )

(Now would be a great time to take a break and grab a snack if you want one!  I know I didn’t warn you that last part would take so long.  Sorry.  It’s ok, I’ll wait for you.)

Thoughts and reflections from using video sub plans:

Ease: The only reason I tried this whole thing originally is because I knew at around 6:00 the night before that I would be gone.  Since that was the case, I had lots of prep time to get it all ready.  This would not have been possible had I woken up and been surprised with an absence (like today, for example!).  Also, this was for an absence for a sick kid, not a sick teacher.  Had I been the one that was ill, this would have been almost an impossibility.  I hope, though, that since I’ve done it once now, and figured out all the logistics, the next time it won’t take me quite so long to put it all together.  And no, I don’t really want to admit how long it took me.  Ask your kiddo if you want.  I told them. 🙂  The other idea I had just now, though, is to prepare a generic “sub plan video” that could be used at any time if I had to suddenly be out.  It could then be added to my normal sub folder or uploaded to the portal that we use online to secure our subs.  Who knows, maybe I’ll start working on that one.

Logistics: I know this is partly related to the “ease” subject I just mentioned, but what I mean with this one is that there are a lot of logistical things on the school end that have to happen in order for my video plans to work like I had hoped they would.  The substitute has to know how to use the ActivBoard flipcharts I made, they have to know how to log on to my YouTube channel so the videos all play, and they have to be willing to follow the directions I gave in my videos.   So, in a perfect world, this would have been a great way for me to be at school with my students even though I wasn’t able to be there in person.

Impact: While the original reason I decided to try it was because it sounded like a great idea, incorporated technology and was something I hadn’t done before (which is often very motivating for me), I decided as I went through my planning, that maybe just seeing my face would be a subconscious reminder to follow the rules.  You know, unfortunately some kiddos tend to move into a different state of mind when they see a substitute at the front of the room instead of their normal teacher. I was also hoping that having me “teach” the normal lesson they were going to have for that day would help as they tried to keep the learning day as predictable and productive as possible.  I wanted to get the most bang for my buck.  I know that the day is never the same without me as when I’m there, but this was my way of trying to do what I could to help make it as normal as possible.

What experience do you have with using video sub plans?  What suggestions do you have for me? If you’re a parent, what do you think?  If you’re a substitute, have you used video sub plans in a classroom you’ve been in?  I’d love to know your thoughts!  Leave a comment for me. 🙂