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How digital tools aid in-person block rotations

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Teachers have spent so many months learning how to use tools for remote teaching that it makes sense for us to incorporate some of those methods into in-person lessons. 

I was in the midst of moving from Texas to Colorado and preparing to take on a third-grade class when the pandemic disrupted education. Initially, I wondered how I was going to learn an entire new curriculum and teach online and still meet my students' needs. But because my new district had just adopted the complementary online Kiddom and EL Education curriculum/instructional support platforms, I wouldn’t be the only one in learning mode; all the teachers would be learning together.

Learning to use tech for workstations 

Workstations -- or block rotations -- had been an important part of my classroom before I moved to Colorado, and I wanted to find a way to make that work in the new, virtual world to keep students engaged and give them all my attention. 

Discovering the programs’ pre-existing lessons and auto-grading features for multiple-choice assignments lessened my planning time and made the transition to daily, online block rotation easier after a little trial and error. The whole class would meet with me synchronously online for a 60-minute module lesson, then work at their own asynchronous pace for another 60 minutes on the personalized block lessons I assigned based on individual student needs. I didn’t have to create different worksheets, because I could choose from our new online platforms’ built-in curriculum, lessons and activities. 

Incorporating tech tools into blended learning

This year, I’m teaching second grade, and the different grade-level tools I need are available among the platforms’ online resources. Even for in-person learning, printed worksheets in block rotations will be a thing of the past in my classroom, saving my school the paper and printer expenses. The vast number of activity options allows me to personalize lessons for differentiation -- for example, assigning some students a selected lesson on consonant-vowel-consonant patterns.

I’m revamping blocks of time for hybrid learning, with a classwide, 15-minute opening lesson followed by each student tackling three rotations of 15 minutes each: word study, fluency and accountability reading. 

  • Word study: I’ve downloaded an interactive activity on alphabetizing from the platform’s K-12 library so students can practice spelling words, I also use the interactive short-vowel video-and-practice activity. 
  • Fluency: I’ve created slides of decodable book content available in one platform’s online library and have uploaded them to the other platform. I pair up students and ask them to read the slides and use a timer to count the number of words read in two minutes.
  • Independent reading: Students choose a book from the online library and complete the provided readers’ response assignment. To enhance the platform’s library, I’ve uploaded leveled books from Reading A-Z. To offer even more choices, I can paste a link for the GetEpic digital reading site onto my platform’s classroom page, allowing students to click on it to access those books.

My one word of advice for teachers is to deeply learn their tools and resources before using them. You’ll find that these online learning platforms and instructional methods will keep your students focused, interested and engaged, while also helping you avoid all that time-consuming planning you used to do on paper. 

 

Adrienne Bowen, a 16-year teaching veteran, is a second-grade teacher at Bishop Elementary, which is part of Englewood Schools in Englewood Colorado. She uses online platforms Kiddom and EL Education in her in-person classrooms.  

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