Teaching in a Pandemic, Part 2

In my last post, I gave an overview of the changes my school made during the pandemic. In this post I want to talk about the changes I made at the classroom level.

Before the pandemic, here's a summary of how I ran my classes.

  • Monday- teach new skill by working out examples with students on the board that they write down in their interactive notebook, I have them work out some on their own and then give them the answer
  • Tuesday- practice new skill (with notebooks open) by playing a game or activity, usually involving dry erase, sometimes involving cards, scavenger hunts, etc
  • Wednesday- quick review, take a quiz, start the notes for next new skill
  • Thursday- finish notes and start practice
  • Friday- finish practice and take quiz 

After 4-5 skills we do a study guide and a test. And then repeat. Each week students had a Delta Math assignment of Algebra I or middle school level problems.  There were 4 topics with 5 questions each and it was 10 points a week. I gave the same assignment to every class.

My goal was to try to make hybrid learning as similar as I could to our regular routine. I didn't want to do quizzes or tests on days students were at home because I didn't know how to do them well or give feedback or prevent cheating. So I decided that making videos of the instruction I normally give for the notebook could replace my Monday and Wednesday plans from above. Then on the days that students were at school with me, we could do the practice activity and quiz.  

I spent the summer making 110 videos that covered every skill of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. (Fortunately for me, I didn't have enough students to have a trig class so I only had three preps, otherwise it would be 145 videos) I used the Good Notes app on my ipad with an Apple Pencil. I already had powerpoints made for every skill that match the notes students fill out in their interactive notebook. So I saved all of them as pdfs to use in Good Notes. The app records my writing and I just screen recorded with the microphone on to make a video of me narrating while writing out the notes. I was definitely not making a video where my face or body could be seen. Hearing my own voice is bad enough which is why I never watched any of my videos. Most of them I did in one take and if I messed up then I used the iMovie app to edit out the mistake and then put the pieces together. I would say out of 110, I probably edited less than 30. I saved them to my hard drive, uploaded to Youtube, and uploaded to my Google Drive. There's no way I was losing these!

That was definitely the biggest change I made. Some other changes I made were to give students all of the pages they needed for their notebook and binder at the very beginning. I made sample notebooks for each class and then I took a picture of every single page. I inserted each picture onto a slide in powerpoint and then saved it as a pdf to share in google classroom. On the first day of class I gave students all of the papers for their notebook and they started cutting and taping the paper into the notebook while looking at my pdf for instructions. Then the next day, their assignment at home was to continue the taping so that the entire notebook was ready to go. 

In the next week or so I also gave them every handout. These are worksheets that go with practice activities and study guides. In the footer, I label each one as Handout #1, #2, etc. At the top, it says the number of the skill it goes with as well. I even wrote page numbers on the bottom corners as well. Which sometimes made it even more confusing for students lol...too many numbers. My thinking behind this was that if we got shut down at any point, students have all the papers they need as well as the videos. If we go to full remote, everything is ready to go except assessments. And as for that...I will think about that another day. :-)

I also changed my Delta Math assignments a little. Instead of Algebra I/middle school topics, I made the weekly assignments based on the skills we covered that week and the previous. I should have done that from the beginning but I was lazy. I'm doing that this year and now next year I can copy. :)

I like these three changes and I plan on continuing them, pandemic or not. But let me stop here and say...there's no way I could have done all of this without using a pre-made curriculum and using it for years. I could make videos because I taught the same skills over and over using my powerpoints. I couldn't have copied all of the notes and handouts if I hadn't used the same ones for years. I couldn't have done any of this without having a great memory and being a super organized person.  

Pre-pandemic, I had 22 desks that I moved around in groups and I had supply carts at each group. But now I had to get rid of my carts and my groups. :( My biggest class was 13 so I moved out the extra desks and carts. I took the supplies from the carts and split it up into 13 little baskets. I had the school pay to buy every student a little calculator from Dollar Tree instead of sharing the TI-84s anymore. At first I planned to use Desmos for a calculator but students were typing in entire equations into google to look for answers so....back up plan. Since students finished their notebooks the first week of school, we didn't constantly need scissors and tape. And since students did their notes at home, we didn't really highlighters either. I think we may have used my little baskets twice this year. The main thing we used was rulers and they didn't even fit in my baskets. lol :)

 Another change was my bell ringers. Previously, I did Mental Math Monday, Tough Guess Tuesday, Which One Wednesday, Test Prep Thursday, and Factoring Friday. But now with only seeing them twice a week, I just picked the two most important, mental math and factoring. I love these so much and I think they've made a huge difference by using them year after year. I was really trying to hold on to them but students were taking a quiz every day they came to school. By the time we did a bell ringer and then did some practice, they would have like 5 minutes to take a quiz. We were always running behind and they were always rushed. I slowly let it go. 

The last few weeks I had started posting a to-do list for the class period to help students stay organized and try to get everything wrapped up for the end of the semester. That worked really well. Almost too well....the students would come in, look at the list and get right to work. Which was great. But also sucked all conversation and life out of the room. 

And that's another topic....this whole year and all these changes were very efficient. But my classes were so boring. There was no talking or joking or laughing. And I missed that even more than being proud of my efficiency. It took several months for it to come back. I don't know what really helped. And these are students who I have had year after year and have been going to school together their entire lives. I can't imagine what it would be like to do only remote teaching with everyone's cameras off...but I imagine that this was the in person version of that. 

To Be Continued..



  1. Thank you for sharing all of this information. It is really helpful to see how different teaching has become this last year and the different tools that teachers have used to get through the year.

    I particularly loved how you created videos as your lessons! I think that is a brilliant idea and I wish I came across this blog sooner because I would have used those techniques as well. My classes became not as engaging because of all the guidelines we had to follow. I think if I did create these videos, it would have helped a lot. It was a struggle trying to get into a routine this year.

    Again, thank you for sharing all this information. It is extremely helpful and I think it will be great to even incorporate when we come back to a normal school setting.