Let me begin by saying, I love some of the ideas I learn about on Twitter! During remote teaching in the spring, or shall I say, “emergency remote teaching,” I felt my students needed an activity that would involve some type of group collaboration.
As I scrolled through Twitter, I came across an idea for a “Mystery Number Jar.” This seemed like a great idea for a connection that I could make between my 7th grade students and students in the elementary grades.
First, students were grouped into Zoom breakout rooms. Then, one (or more) students gathered small items from around the house and a jar.
Second, students devised clues in a slideshow about the correct number of items in the jar.
Lastly, students recorded their presentations in Zoom and uploaded their videos into Flipgrid. The Flipgrid videos were shared with teachers of the elementary students who then recorded their guesses in Flipgrid.
Some alternatives to the way I did this activity could be to have students in the same class create mystery jars for each other. Other items or ideas with clues could be used for guessing. For example, students could select an animal, historical figure, or location for their mystery.
This activity nailed 4 key areas of instruction in an online environment:
Engagement and practice with mathematical concepts
Technology integration which enhanced engagement
Collaboration between students
Bridging a connection between middle schoolers and elementary school students
Overall, my students responded positively to this activity. It also helped build some classroom connections as well.
I, along with millions of educators around the world, have been part of this crazy experiment that required shifting from face-to-face teaching/learning to online, remote teaching/learning in a matter of days.
In fact, it felt like the months of March, April, May and June 2020 were some kind of triage mode, just making it through ’til we can really figure out what to do with schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, it seems that we are continuing in triage mode as we try to figure out how to teach our children for the upcoming school year. While I don’t have many answers, I do have a few ideas in the event teachers are teaching remotely. These ideas can be done synchronously or asynchronously as I’ll explain.
First, make connections. My previous post discussed the hashtag #MysterySkype in which I connected with teachers and classrooms all over the globe. During remote teaching, I connected with a teacher in California. We created a Flipgrid for students to record clues about a “Mystery Location.” My 7th grade students worked in breakout rooms in Zoom to record their clues as a group. However, this activity could also be done using a shared Google Doc or Office365. They can also use a free screen recording tool such as Screencast-O-Matic to record their clues.
Once the clues have been recorded, upload them to Flipgrid. Students can then record videos with their guesses. If they are camera-shy, they can use the text box to enter their guesses. This activity can be done asynchronously. I found my students to be highly motivated and engaged knowing that they were creating content for other students. Not only that, but they were learning geography skills which are sorely needed!
A second idea that I did with my 9th grade students also incorporated Flipgrid. I connected with a teacher in Ecuador. We had met several times via #MysterySkype pre-COVID-19, so my class was somewhat familiar with these students. However, once we were homebound, we had the opportunity to connect on a deeper level by becoming GridPals.
The students in Ecuador wrote interview questions that they recorded in Flipgrid. Their interview questions included:
How are you doing? What’s happening in your country right now?
Then, they asked my students to share their feelings and concerns about being confined. “How do you keep busy?” “What do your days look like?” This connection allowed my students to express themselves with students in another country who expressed similar feelings. It also helped me realize how much my students missed their friends and what a toll the pandemic had taken on them.
Lastly, my daughter’s school did not offer any synchronous teaching. I decided to set up a #MysterySkype for her 3rd grade class. I arranged a time to be on Zoom with my daughter. We selected a “Mystery Location” to be from while her classmates had to ask us yes/no geographic questions. For example, “Are you in the United States?” “Do you border an ocean?” etc.
While they were thinking of questions, I guided them by sharing my screen with the ScribbleMaps website. ScribbleMaps is great because it allows you to “scribble” and cross-out and zoom in on a map. This helps students learn geography and helped them narrow down their questions.
This was an example of a synchronous activity and the students LOVED it! It is easy to do and it teaches students geographic thinking and problem-solving.
Keeping Students Engaged: Some Ideas for Remote Teaching