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This week, I have begun trying to get a handle on a plan for remote teaching my classes this year and, as I wrote in The Washington Post yesterday, I have a lot of worries.

This is the first of a series of posts where I’ll describe my tentative (and, boy, do I meant tentative) about my plans for each class.

Today, it’s my United States History class for Intermediate and Beginning English Language Learners.

Near the end of our spring semester, I had shared some thoughts in Resources For Teaching U.S. History Next Year, but I’ve now made a number of changes to that plan.

There will be a very wide range of English proficiency levels in the class.  Fortunately, I’ll have two student teachers, along with excellent peer tutors who are Seniors (and former students in my English classes) to help make it work.  Having peer tutors in the spring was one of the factors that made remote learning so successful during that time.

Our district is proposing that classes meet three times a week for live instruction.  My English class met five days a week in the spring, so I’m thinking that we could meet for at least four – and maybe even five – classes each week now.  I am thinking, however, that if we did five, three would be for forty-five minutes each and two would for thirty minutes each.

But there’s a big IF in that schedule.

My U.S. History class is first period, and the district is saying it would start at the regular time three days a week.    Even though students did it in the spring, it was hard for most of them to get up and start our class at 9:30.

I’m planning on having conversations with most of the students AND their parents/guardians prior to school beginning to have a candid conversation about what students are willing to do and, importantly, what parents/guardians are willing/able to do, to start class in the early morning.    I see a lot of regular early morning class reminders going out through the Remind app in my future.

So, we might start on time three times a week or I could also see us starting twenty minutes later and having fifty minute classes two afternoons a week (that is being officially scheduled as “targeted structured support”).

Okay, now for what is going to happen in the class itself (you’ll be able to find a lot more related information in the distance learning chapter from our upcoming book that the publisher will be releasing for free next week):

1. We’ll begin with some kind of question/response, both for relationship-building and for speaking practice.  They may be SEL related (see REFLECTIVE SENTENCE FRAMES I USE TO OFTEN BEGIN MY ELL CLASS), ones designed to help us learn more about each other, or history related ones ( for example, “What is the most interesting thing you learned about U.S. History this week”).  I thinking we’ll start off at first with everyone doing it in a big group and then quickly move into doing it into three random groups each day being led by the two student teachers and me.

2. Probably a quick review of the previous day and a reminder about homework (more on that later).

3. “The Lesson”

This part will begin with something like a ten minute (maybe a little more) section of bilingual direct instruction with a great deal of interaction (choral repetition of words, questions I pose that need to be answered in the chat box by everybody, answering a poll question, drawing something on a virtual whiteboard, etc.) and modeling for the following activity.

4. Division into breakout rooms.  In these rooms, “staffed” by student teachers and me (I would be teaching one group and darting in-and-out of the other two), along with at least one trained peer tutor in each one, students will do one of a variety of activities for between ten-and-twenty minutes:

  • reading in partners with texts I get from various places and in particular from Edhelper.  They would be applying various comprehension strategies and making annotations on their individual Google Docs.
  • starting work on a collaborative project like a Jigsaw using Google Slides, a timeline using Padlet, create a 3-2-1 poster using one of those tools, or something else.  I think one of the reasons for my class’ success in the spring was having these kinds of assignments that students did at home together – simultaneously working on a computer project while Facetiming on the phone or using a video conferencing tool.  They could start on the project in the breakout rooms, finish them at home, and then make short presentations at the next class.
  • Depending on their English proficiency level, one breakout room might be for Beginners and use more simple activities, like the Picture Word Inductive Model.

5. Breakout rooms end, students return to give brief reports on what they did there.

6. We do a whole class game using either Quizizz or Gimkit – perhaps even two different games depending on English proficiency.  The game would reinforce what was taught that day.  I use those two game platforms because others that are similar don’t show the questions on the same screen as the answers (they’re set up to be displayed on class projectors).  And having students create two browser windows is just too complicated when there are two alternatives that make things more simple.

7. I remind students about homework.  The amount will depend on how much time we meet in live class.    I’m thinking it will be some combination of Brainpop, a short response to a writing prompts,  some Quizizz and Worldwall games, an EdPuzzle or two – with a whole lot of choice involved.

I’ll be making lots of calls home, make sure we have everyone on Remind for texts, and having students schedule one ten-minute individual conversation with me every two or two-and-a-half weeks.

This plan is informed by my spring experience, and the fact that the ELL U.S. History textbook I usually use is not online and it’s too late to purchase another one even if there was one available.  I will, however, make good use of the activities and lessons on our U.S. History class blog and generally follow that content sequence.

Let me know what you think – please!  I’m all ears, and would love to make this better!