When I first set out to create these choice boards, I had one thing in mind: being able to successfully implement both the Daily 5 and Daily 3 programs in Grade 1 in a Hyflex learning environment. I have definitely accomplished this goal. What I didn’t factor in was how useful they would be each time we needed to pivot to full Distance Learning. And even more than that…how beneficial they were when I was the one who needed to stay home and a substitute teacher took over my class.
Everything in one spot. No explaining to do.
Most of my students can navigate the choice boards independently, allowing me to support the few that need guidance. When I was teaching from home while the students were in the classroom, the substitute teacher only had to make sure there were enough iPads for each child (8 to be exact) and we were off! If that wasn’t a possibility, the links were all there and photocopies could be made to use in class.
When we needed to do a quick pivot to online teaching in April, again, no problem! As schedules were being adjusted based on feedback, and many of my colleagues were scrambling to change their plans, I was ready to go! I just needed to link my choice boards to the schedule, and Math and Language Arts were up and running.
After implementing this with my students for a few months, I knew it was time to collect some more formal feedback. I created and sent out a quick Google Form to gather feedback from parents and colleagues for my PGP. I targeted colleagues with a special education background, parents who were permanently on-line, parents who only experienced these boards because of distance learning, and a member of our administration who happens to wear three hats. This feedback will be very important, as it will allow me to continue to adjust these boards to meet the needs of my students. I am still waiting for some responses, however so far, the feedback has been positive and the choice boards have been well received.
Parents appreciate the flexibility of the boards and that there are mandatory and optional activities. When we switched to distance learning for the month of January, I received the feedback that the board had too many options, making it difficult to know what was required and what was more of a suggestion. Therefore, at that time, I began starring mandatory tasks, which alleviated much anxiety for some students and parents. In addition to this, there are also personalized options for reading and math. Through my Google Form, I did get feedback that there seemed to be a gap in the amount of weekly writing tasks students were required to complete. Upon reflection, I realized that this truly was absent from my board, and I will spend time over the next few weeks adding in a mandatory written component, along with the spelling rules introduced this year.
One final adjustment I have made at this point in the school year is helping students develop their independence and accountability. I have been spending time over the last 2 weeks teaching students how to submit their own work through Classkick, rather than having their parents take pictures of it and email it to me. Developmentally, this may not have been appropriate earlier in the school year, but students have now had lots of practice with Classkick as a tool, and they are much more comfortable with learning online. Therefore, although it is still a work in progress, I am excited to see them take on this new responsibility and deepen their skills even more.
With feedback from parents and teachers, you’d think I was all set, right? Wrong! Feedback should not only be from the parents, but from the students themselves, too. This is when our Teaching and Learning Coordinator, Melissa Thompson, suggested using the ‘Poles’ function through Google Meet. As always, she was an excellent sounding board and I immediately created a pole to help me better understand how the students themselves felt about both the Daily 5 and Daily 3 choice boards.
Whether we need to revisit Hyflex learning or not next year, these boards are going to be a permanent part of both my Language Arts and Math program. Through the exploration of trial and error I have done this year, I am already thinking ahead to what will need to be true at the start of next school year. I officially launched these choice boards in January, therefore, I will need to create more phonics mats to add to the boards, to account for what the students will be learning at the start of grade 1. It is always necessary to start with a little review, as well as provide fewer choices in order not to overwhelm them. I am excited to find new apps and tasks to add next year! I am feeling very satisfied with these choice boards and am eager to share them with my colleagues.
I have always described myself as a lifelong learner. It can sometimes sound cliche, but looking back on my 37 year of teaching, I can’t even count the number of new things I have learned this year! My perseverance and dedication to my own growth will hopefully continue to filter into my teaching, improving my curriculum while also setting the example for my students and colleagues that we truly are all “always on inspiring (learning) journeys”.