SCSD Teachers Create Engaging Lessons through Virtual Instruction

     Published on 7/6/21   Tagged under:    District News    Corcoran High School    Lincoln Middle School    McKinley-Brighton Elementary School    Nottingham High School    Salem Hyde Elementary School   

At McKinley-Brighton, students may be learning virtually, but third grade teacher Melanie Amodio made it a priority to help students feel as if they were right there with her in the classroom.
“During our collaborative Teams meetings, we have created an environment that is welcoming and interactive,” Mrs. Amodio explained. “I treat my virtual class as if they are right here with me. We continue to take ‘brain breaks,’ incorporate Granny’s Wacky Prizes, and meet together to have important discussions not just about academics, but about social and emotional aspects of learning too. Most importantly, they are getting the goofy and silly Mrs. Amodio in front of them each day, which keeps them coming back for more.”
Using platforms like Seesaw and Talking Points, Mrs. Amodio said she was able to create a hub where students and families can find the daily schedule and schoolwork, as well as to communicate with her easily. It has made the virtual experience easier, she said, noting that her goal is to make students feel as if they were right back in McKinley-Brighton, not behind a camera.
“I understand that right now these kids need us more than they probably ever have,” Mrs. Amodio added. “We are adjusting together as a third grade class to all of the new responsibilities, changes, and challenges that we are facing as remote educators and learners.”
Salem Hyde first grade Special Education teacher Dan Karleski said that virtual instruction brought with it some frustration and struggles, but ultimately there have been positives that have resulted from the change in instruction.
“Starting right off every morning at 8 am, we are able to see the excited faces of our first graders ready to begin their school day,” Mr. Karleski said. “We have a PowerPoint that structures our day to help keep the students focused and engaged. From video links to Seeesaw, WCNY and sharing our work, we have been able to engage children in a variety of ways.”
Through SeeSaw, he noted, he has been able to assign lessons based on students’ needs, interact with each other and build relationships. In the first week of school, he asked students to share something about themselves so he and co-teacher Daniela Klamm could get to know them.
“Not only did we get a chance to learn about our students, we also found out how they best express themselves,” Mr. Karleski said. “We received writing responses, oral responses, and even some beautiful art work. This is one advantage that I see of virtual learning: not only are we learning about our students, but finding ways in which they learn best. There is not a more crucial time for teachers and families to bond together to ensure the success of children. We create a safe space for these students to learn, socialize, and at the end of the day just be kids.”
Having a set schedule for students has helped Lincoln students in Samantha Marnon’s seventh grade Math class.
“As a teacher my role has always been to engage, support, and challenge students,” Ms. Marnon said. “Now, I am doing the same thing, just virtually. I create interactive activities online to engage students using the Desmos activity builder and embed it within Canvas. I support students through live Teams classes whether they need help with the technology or the assignment itself. And I continue to challenge students and push the way they think about math in their world, now with the use of videos and other resources right at their fingertips.”
Like other SCSD teachers, she has also focused on including fun or socioemotional questions and activities on a daily basis, which she said have been helping students warm up to virtual learning.
“I do not think online classrooms will be going anywhere anytime soon,” Ms. Marnon added. “I am excited to see what this will lead to, as I have always dreamed about utilizing the flipped classroom model. Now that more students have access to devices and are familiar with our online platforms, I may soon be able to do that.”
Corcoran English teacher Kubra Akturk also found a unique way to help students build relationships with her – and each other: a daily attendance question. To help students get acquainted with the Canvas learning platform, she asks a lighthearted question that touches on social-emotional issues. Students are able to see each other’s responses, allowing them to get to know each other beyond academics.
“My virtual teaching experience has definitely been something to get used to,” Ms. Akturk said. “It's different, but I am learning how to be quickly adaptable. I feel like my role is important because I have the ability to be a familiar face to students, and someone they can depend on when times are uncertain.”
She noted that having a district-issued laptop allows her to be productive both at school and work, giving her room to expand upon her existing teaching knowledge.
Nottingham Social Studies teacher Pete Sterpe said teaching virtually has helped him reevaluate some of his teaching methods.
“I am adapting and adjusting,” Mr. Sterpe said. “There are parts of this process that have caused me to look at what I did in my classroom before distance learning and reevaluate them. Technology will continue to be a greater part of education going forward, and I'm hoping we all come out of this as better educators overall. Teachers have always been important; but during this time, we are even more essential than ever. We are not just a tie to some sort of normalcy, but also have the responsibility of keeping our students on track and not letting this become a lost year for them.”
He added that his students have been fantastic, which has made the experience easier. He said collaboration with colleagues has also been at its best, with other teachers sharing best practices on a daily basis. Working together helps staff address the frustrations and challenges that arise from teaching virtually.
Students have been interested in trying new activities, including using QR codes in his presentations, Microsoft forms and other options that allow them to complete tasks from their phones rather than computers, which sometimes have slower connections.
“I've found that being understanding about that and offering students other ways of showing they are paying attention than just being on camera causes students to be more willing to actually engage and connect,” he added. “There are tons of other ways students can demonstrate that they are learning. When it comes to seeing students and getting to know what they look like when they aren't on camera, I've invited students to share their best selfie. We need to be willing to meet those students halfway.”

In Mr. Sterpe’s class, students will have the opportunity to enjoy some cool online museum virtual tours, including exhibits at the Smithsonian that tie into course content; they also have more choice in both what they are reading as well as what form they want to use to demonstrate their learning.”
#SCSDGivesThanks for all the teachers who are going above and beyond to find creative ways to engage with students during virtual learning; and the students who are actively participating in this new form of learning!