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6 Lessons Learned About Better Teaching During the Pandemic

“Schools in personalized learning networks such as High Tech High, LEAP Innovations, Rocketship, and Summit Learning have had to make teaching and learning adjustments whether they are fully remote this semester or having students come to campus some or five days a week. These changes, educators say, have helped them become even more focused on the primary goals of personalized learning: tailoring education to address the individual strengths and weaknesses and personal interests of students…
Eesir Kaur, the senior director of humanities and professional development for the Rocketship Public Schools network, which is still providing mainly remote instruction this semester, said campuses hosted a distribution day where families picked up materials for hands-on projects. For example, students picked up markers, paint, and poster boards to create a “get out the vote” campaign for a civic engagement lesson. For an engineering lesson, students picked up popsicle sticks to build a catapult.

With remote instruction, Kaur said, one initial challenge was making sure young students had enough opportunities to talk in class. Typically, they’d do “turn and talks,” a classroom practice in which the teacher poses a question or discussion topic and students turn to a peer and discuss. But breakout rooms on Zoom were cumbersome for kindergartners.

Instead, one kindergarten teacher told students to bring their favorite stuffed animal to virtual class. That stuffed animal, the teacher said, would be their study buddy. Students would be responsible for sharing their thinking with their study buddy or telling it the sound they were learning.

In other words, the stuffed animal served as a “turn and talk,” Kaur said. The concept was so successful that Rocketship has replicated this practice across the entire network for grades K-2.

“You see little Lilos and Stitches everywhere, or parrots or teddy bears,” she said. “It’s really awesome.”…

“When we transitioned to distance learning, it emphasized the idea that you move at your own pace because you are only trying to compete against yourself, you’re only trying to be a better version of yourself,” Rocketship’s Kaur said.

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