English Teacher: 6th, 7th, 9th Grade
New York, USA
“My teaching philosophy is that I'm just trying to make brownies out of vegetables”
“They have recipe books where they'll make pureed vegetable brownies, this magical thing and [remote learning] are literally the same thing, right? They're still getting their serving of carrots and apples, but it's just presented to them in a different format.”
Over the past year, teachers have been challenged to find new ways of teaching their classes remotely. In this blog, we are shining the spotlight on Chelsea Medina for all the amazing work she has been doing for students during this pandemic.
Transitioning to Remote Learning
“March, Friday, the 13th. That was our last day with the kids. We canceled classes and had the teachers come in and train that Friday. We all sat together and went through ideas of how we're gonna deal with this and then starting that Monday, classes were remote.”
When COVID-19 cases were growing in numbers last year, the transition into remote learning was quite sudden. Teachers and students alike did not have time to prepare for what learning from home would be like. Students were completely missing their chance for social development and cognitive development in the classroom with their peers, and it was Chelsea’s goal to “not only to get them to know how to read and write but also to develop social relationships and that's been the biggest challenge.”
Transitioning to Hybrid Learning
With vaccinations rolling out and controlling COVID-19 outbreaks, schools have transitioned from fully remote to hybrid learning. This gives students the option of coming to school in person or staying at home with remote learning and for Chelsea, this means teaching half of the class in person and half online.
To keep the students engaged in this format, Chelsea has been making use of tools and resources such as Zoom, Function, and Flipgrid. However, one of the best resources is social media. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat allow students to use the apps that they are familiar with to create projects about the content they’ve learned in class.
For example, students would create an Instagram profile for one of the characters in the story then interact and role-play with other characters’ profiles. This is a form of creative writing because the students are challenged to truly understand the characters and analyze how they would react in each situation. While it is still educational in the way that correct spelling and use of citations are necessary, the project is still fun which keeps the students engaged.
This is a great way to create a private community in class by using a platform that they use so much outside of class. Also, Snapchat can be used in a similar fashion where students role-play using stories and Twitter is great to get students to practice creative writing but still keeping things concise due to the word count.
Adding Joy Back into Education
“I think it's just kind of getting on their level of understanding with what they enjoy in their personal lives and then bringing that into the classroom. Being on their level, in terms of, Pop culture references and things that are fun to them.”
Chelsea adds joy back into education by assigning projects like writing a short story based on the games “Among Us” and “Five Nights at Freddy’s” or role-playing by creating character profiles on Instagram from the stories they’ve read in class. Another example would be watching Netflix documentaries based on the readings assigned and having discussions as a class. Alongside keeping assignments fun, having break times for students to unwind are equally important.
“CrowdParty has been helpful. Oh my God. That's been such a saving grace when it comes to days, right before the break. That's been our tradition, it's just been our thing this year. I use it as a de-stressor and a reward. The kids always ask, “can we play another round? Please, this is so fun.”
CrowdParty is an interactive platform to play easy joyful social games on Zoom and others. It is a great tool for students and teachers--in person or remote--to enhance educational content or to enjoy a break from academics.
Advice to other Teachers
“My biggest piece of advice I could give would be to ask the students to tell you what to do. Asking: “How do you suggest that we do this for this unit”? The kids, you'll be so surprised by how excited they are by you simply asking them and giving them a little bit of reign. Giving them that creative freedom to come up with the project themselves or give you ideas for the project. Introduce fun, with some sort of expectation along with the fun. That's when engagement is high because it's enjoyable.”
Chelsea is one of the many teachers who are trying out new tools and activities to keep students engaged during these uncertain times. When students are usually playing out at recess, they are getting mask breaks and when students are usually hanging out with friends in class, they are sitting in front of a computer screen at home. There is no doubt that students are facing a completely different school life than they were expecting but teachers and staff are working hard to aid this transition. We’d like to show our appreciation to Chelsea and all teachers that have been adapting and working hard to find ways to bring joy and learning into classrooms.
Check out our newly released Class Pass to add joy into your own learning atmosphere!