Returning to School 2. Adjusting to the New Normal

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Returning to School 2. Adjusting to the New Normal

After Disruption…..

As the kerfuffle abates, confusion subsides, and the dust begins to settle in classrooms across the globe, educators are setting their sights on helping students get back on course with their learning.

If everyone were restarting on a level playing field, it would be easy to assess mastery of expected learning outcomes during the months of being away from the classroom. Unfortunately, schools are not reopening under these ideal conditions: Some students have stayed on track towards meeting end of the year requirements. Others have lagged due to no fault of their own.

Blaming others is not a feasible solution, nor is telling learners and their families to pull themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps. Most boots no longer have those provisions and some students may not be as resourceful and self-starting as anticipated. Some schools and learners never had boots, others have outgrown them, and some have faced obstacles in using them on uneven learning paths.

The magnitude of the effects of school closings combined with varied student experiences at home, is yet to be known. Without a consistent road map, schools, teachers, and learners will be forging new and alternative pathways to success in meeting grade level and subject area requirements.

Here are four guideposts to keep learning and assessment on track when returning to schools and classrooms.

Time-tested, predictable routines are a good starting point. Fine-tune previously successful practices for getting students’ attention, engaging them in learning, and monitoring progress. Perhaps ask students to recall prior classroom expectations as well as suggest feasible modifications. It is best to avoid substantial changes such as regrouping or shuffling classes, introducing new curriculum, or restructuring schedules.

While keeping an eye on long-term goals and measures, use this time to integrate low-risk formative strategies in the classroom. Instead of a whole class review of vocabulary, have small teams of students select vocabulary words from a bowl and decide together the best way to review the definition and usage. They could choose to illustrate or acting it out or develop a mixed list of synonyms and antonyms for their classmates to sort into the correct category.

In addition to traditional teacher-guided routines and measures, consider asking students to demonstrate what they learned. They can prepare an empty outline for the class. As they explain their topic, others insert the correct word into their own outline. For example, when the outline says: The last major battle of the Civil War was at _________ Courthouse where General ______surrendered to General ___________. To incorporate higher levels of thinking, ask students to explain the significance or two aftereffects of this battle. Rather than having students provide one correct answer, ask them to elaborate on their thinking or explain a concept to a Martian.

It is possible to study for a test, select the right answer, and yet not be able to explain or demonstrate understanding. Instead, consider open-ended questions that require higher levels of thinking or evidence of learning. Students could write questions for others to answer, use the content vocabulary to write a poem or rap, or create media and visual images such as infographics. Note: it is best to accompany these less conventional methods with rubrics and other types of rating scales.   

UP NEXT: Identifying and Responding to Lingering Gaps

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