Friday, March 27, 2020

Setting Up an Easy Virtual Classroom | Distance Learning Series #3

This post is third in a series on distance learning. You can find the other installments here: 
Connecting with Students During Distance Learning
5 Teacher Tips to Save Your Sanity During Distance Learning

Setting Up an Easy Virtual Classroom | Apples to Applique
This has been a crazy whirlwind of a ride, learning how to shift mid-year from a traditional school setting to distance learning. There has been so much for me to learn as a teacher, and I know it has only just begun!

There are many platforms available out there to use for distance learning. Since I teach first grade, my goal was to make my virtual classroom easy for both my parents and students to navigate. Some options that work well for older students just weren't a great option for 6- and 7-year-olds.

The best option that I came across to meet my needs was a Google Site. It is free and user-friendly. I love that I can quickly and easily insert resources right from my Google Drive, embed videos from other websites, and add features like Google Forms so that students can check in with me. (No, this post is not sponsored by Google 😉 ). I've heard great things about Google Classroom, too, but, unfortunately, I was not able to try it out, as my district does not give students email access in 1st grade.

The thing I like about having a class website is that everything is in one location. This was important to me so that I would not overwhelm my parents. I'm sure they are overwhelmed enough right now! From that one location, I either embed or link everything the students need for the week, including any videos or printables, and even assignments from specials teachers! I directly link to the platform I am using for students to submit assignments, so parents don't have to remember anything more than just the one site.

I added tabs and pages, and was able to quickly and easily hyperlink to other pages on my site to help parents find what they are looking for. Nowadays, most parents are comfortable with navigating websites, so having a one-stop place for them to go helps ease their mind as they learn how to "homeschool". Even better, it can be accessed on their phones, tablets, etc. so they can check things on the go.

You can make your site as simple or complicated as you want. If I were using Google Sites for other purposes, I would probably bemoan the lack of customization features, but for these purposes, it's perfect! Everything is pretty much drag and drop, which is just what I needed. No messing with html, no finicky settings to worry about messing up. In just a few hours, I made a professional-looking website that I could push out to kids and parents, where they can access everything they need to do their schoolwork at home. It's super easy to edit, too, when I need to change plans for the next week.

Now that I've got it set up and ready to go, I feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief and focus on what's really important: helping my kids to keep learning these next couple of months!

Stay tuned for more distance learning tips, and hang in there!
Keep teaching with heart and passion!

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