Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Virtual Co-Teaching: Connect, Collaborate, & Customize Learning With Digital Tools

Excited to be presenting at the International Society of Technology in Education with Mr. Nathan Dingman and Dr. Trey Moeller.

Wednesday, July 1, 11:00 am–1:00 pm EDT (Eastern Daylight Time)

Would you like to connect, collaborate, and customize a lesson or unit with our staff?
We are creating a data base for educators who would like to virtually co-teach together.
Check out our site for more information and
sign up  if you would like to be included in our data base.

We would love the opportunity to customize, create and learn together during the 2015-2016 school year and beyond.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

3 Easy Steps to Redefine Research while Virtual Co-Teaching

As an elementary educator it is hard at times to excite students about research.  During this past year a colleague and I stumbled upon a topic that really hooked and engaged our students. We were contacted by a teacher at an international school in Europe.  The teacher wanted to connect and learn more about the United States.  Our 4th grade students were getting ready to begin a research project ,so we decided to use this country as our jumping off point. Wow, our students were so excited to research and learn.

How did this partnership and virtual co-teaching lesson begin? Check out the example of the process we used to connect our students and ensure the learning was top priority. It's extremely easy to get started when you think about who, what, where, when, why, and how you are going to connect.

1. Establish a Connection (Who are you going to collaborate/connect with?)
This begins with a simple e-mail, tweet or post from a single teacher. 

Example conversation:
"My name is ... and I work at ... I found your email address on Quadblogging and I’m also looking to Skype with foreign countries ... We study new countries and cultures and the US is on our list. Would you happen to be interested in Skyping with us?" 

2. Collaborate (What is your topic? Where will you connect? When will you connect?))
Teachers communicate to identify details for the lesson/activity 
  • How will your classes connect? Skype, Google Hangout or Drive, Twitter, Padlet
  • When is the best date and time to connect?
  • Details of the lesson (so important)

Example conversation:
"We have a 4th grade class that is interested in connecting.  Do you use Google Hangout?  This is usually what we use to connect."

"What did you have in mind to do during the connection?  We are Central Standard Time.  Are you Central European Time? If so, 4:00 pm would be 9 am in our city."

"Can you send us a link to your class website so we can become familiar with your school?"

"Would you be available next Thursday, January 29th? We would just ask ... a series of questions about your culture and location. Below is an example of the types of questions we used for our last Skype conversation. Then, you can call on your students to answer the questions for us. Then, your students can ask us questions .. .here is the link to our school website: ..."

"Where is your school in the US? We’d love a link as well!"

Note: If using Skype or Google Hangout establish who will make the call.

3. Customize the Learning (Why will you connect? How will you co-teach the lesson?)
Establish objectives and procedures. 

Example conversation:
"You will be Skyping with ... and her 4th grade classroom ...We are in the middle of a researching unit.  Our students spent one day researching (your country).  We have developed a list of questions we would like to ask...We are also working on listening, restating our questions, and giving a detailed responses. We are looking forward to your call."

The fun part ... the learning!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Virtual Co-Teaching: Redefining Descriptive and Narrative Writing

This year for the first time I felt like we really HOOKED our 4th grade students during our descriptive writing unit.  How?  We gave our students a fun topic and a VIRTUAL audience. The unit was designed as a virtual co-teaching unit that fosters redefining how we use technology tools in our classrooms to meet the needs of our students.

Unit:  Monster Match (2-3 Weeks)

Virtual Co-teaching tip:  Find a classroom in another building, district, state, or country to connect with via GHO (or Skype) during this unit. We connected with a class in the state of Vermont. You could also connect with the teacher across the hall.

Common Core Academic Standards Addressed in this Unit
4.W.03a - When writing narratives (real or imaginary experiences), orient the reader by introducing characters, or events that naturally unfold.
4.W.03b - Use dialogue and descriptions to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.
4.W.05 - With audience and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
4.SL.01 - Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.

ISTE Standards
S.2 - Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
T.2 .a - Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.
C.3.a - Model effective classroom management and collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology rich learning environments.

Additional objectives that may be incorporated into this unit during mini lessons:
  • Order adjectives within sentences according to conventional patterns.
  • Produce complete sentences, recognizing fragments and run-ons.
  • Correctly use frequently confused words (to, too, two, there, their)
  • Use correct capitalization and punctuation.
  • Use commas and quotation marks to mark direct speech and quotations from a text.
  • Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting reference materials as needed.
Co-teaching Note:  It is important for both teachers to have great communication.  Use tools like Google Hangout, Skype, shared lesson plan doc in Google Drive, and/or e-mail to connect and plan the instruction.  In my opinion a little bit of planning for this unit will make a HUGE difference when it comes to time management and students' academic success.

Activity #1:  Read I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll

Virtual co-teaching strategy:  One teach and one support
Note:  One teacher is teaching while the other one clarifies and supports the instruction.
Connection: Whole class Via GHO

Begin the unit by connecting via Google Hangout (GHO) to read I Need My Monster.  You could also use Skype if you prefer. Introduce your classrooms. Next, share the video from Storyline Online.  This enables both classrooms to see the video at one time and brings another techy resource into the lesson.  Students seem to enjoy the video more than a teacher reading the book during the Hangout.

Explain the project/unit to students. Build excitement and hook the students.

Activity # 2:  Read Book and Record Descriptions

Virtual co-teaching strategy: Parallel teach
Note: Teachers teach same lesson in perspective classrooms.
Connection: Whole class Via Padlet

Read the book a second time aloud in perspective classrooms.

As you read record the descriptions on an anchor chart or create a Padlet at and use it to post collaboratively with the other classroom.  (Commercial break: Padlet is one of my favorite tools to use when connecting with other classrooms. I love how students from multiple classrooms can collaborate on one document. One teacher can create the document and email the URL to the other teacher.  Share the URL with all students and you are set.  It's a piece of cake.)

Example of a Padlet

Activity #3: Discussion Questions

Virtual Co-teaching strategy:  Team Teach
Note: Similar to tag team.  Each teacher has a planned role for the lesson. One teacher leads a specific section while the other teacher supports.  Teachers swap back and forth roles. 
Connection: Whole class connect via GHO

Teacher A: Read the book a final time. Stop frequently to discuss.

Teacher B:   Discuss how the author uses descriptions in her book to make the story more exciting.  This activity can be done as a collaborative group or as a parallel lesson.

Example group discussion questions for after reading:

1. What is so special about the boy's monster? How do you know? Use details and/or examples from the story to support your answer.
2. What is the author's purpose?
2. How does reading this book help us become better writers?

Activity #4: Graphic Organizer

Virtual co-teaching strategy: Parallel teach
Note: Teachers teach same lesson in perspective classrooms.
Connection:  No connection

Guide students through creating their own monster.  Give students a Monster Description Organizer (What does the monster look like, smell like, taste like, sound like, and feel like?).  Students will brainstorm what their monster will look like, feel like, smell like, sound like, and taste like.

Note:  This is also a great place to insert a mini lesson on adjectives.

Activity #5: Rough Draft
Virtual co-teaching strategy:  Parallel teach
Connection:  No connection

Students will create a rough draft of their monster.

Activity #6: Listening and Revising Activity 
Virtual co-teaching strategy:  One teach and one support
(Note: Teachers should agree upon rules that either teacher can clarify or add to instruction at any time. The supporting teacher looks for ways to improve lesson and interjects when needed. This is extremely important during a virtual lesson.)
Connection: Via GHO

Connect classrooms again via GHO.  Chose a student from classroom A to read their descriptive writing.  All students in classroom B will draw the monster as the student A reads.  Give students a few minutes to quickly draw.  A few students from classroom B will show their drawings.

Discuss what one thing the writer described really well and one thing the writer could describe better. Classrooms switch roles and repeat process.  The purpose for this activity is for students to realize the need for good descriptions and how important the revision stage will be. The better they do on their descriptions the better the other class will be able to draw the monster.

Note:  This would be a perfect place to add a mini lesson on revising writing.

After the connection students will reread their monster descriptions and revise their writing.

Activity #7: Edit and Publish Monster Descriptions

Virtual co-teaching strategy: Parallel teach
Note:  Parallel teach in perspective classrooms
Connection:  No connection

Mini lesson:  Editing writing

Students will edit their writing and publish their writing in their Google Drive.

Activity #8: Monster Draw

 Virtual co-teaching strategy: Parallel teach
Note:  Parallel teach in perspective classrooms
Connection:  No connection

Each student will draw their monster using Google Draw or create their monster on paper.

Activity #9: Partner Draw

Virtual co-teaching strategy: Parallel teach
Note:  Parallel teach in perspective classrooms
Connection: Via Google Drive

This activity works well if  teacher A creates a Google Drive Activity Folder with a folder for each classroom inside the Activity Folder.  The Activity folder is then shared with teacher B. Each teacher adds the files from their students to their class folder which is easily viewed by the other teacher. 

Note:  I like to label individual documents with the child's first name and Monster Description.  This makes it easier for both teachers. Example: Susan Monster Description (Do not use last names.)

Each student from classroom A will be paired with a student in classroom B.  I will call them student A and student B.  Each teacher will share their writing folder with the other teacher who in turn will share the specific files with the appropriate students.

Student A reads the descriptive writing from Student B writing and draws the monster using Google Draw or traditional methods. Student B works the same.

Activity #10: Share/Discuss

Virtual Co-teaching strategy: Team teach
Note:  One teacher leads a specific section while the other teacher supports.  Teachers swap back and forth roles.
Connection: Via Google Drive/Sheets/GHO

After the drawing phase students will share their drawings to see if their monsters look alike. This can be done during a GHO (or Skype) OR by sharing pictures using Google Drive.  Students could create a Google Slide to show their monsters side by side.

Narrative Writing
Activity #11: Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer

Virtual co-teaching strategy:  Team Teach
Connection: Via GHO

Use ideas from Pinterest or other resources to introduce or review Narrative Writing. Reminder: Plan the co-teaching.

Students use the monster from student A and student B as characters for their narrative writing.

Activity #12: Narrative Writing Rough Draft
Virtual co-teaching strategy:  Parallel Teach
Connection: None needed

Teacher models creating a rough draft. Then each student will create a rough draft.

Activity #13:  Narrative Writing Revising and Editing

Virtual co-teaching strategy:  One teach and one support
Connection: Via Google Hangout and Google Drive

Classrooms connect via Google Hangout to discuss the revision and editing stages of narrative writing.  Procedures will be clearly stated. Student A and Student B share their rough draft on Google Drive.  Student A will use the comment section in drive to revise and edit the work of student B.   Student B will do the same thing with the writing created by student A.

Mini lessons may be included during GHO or each teacher may choose to teach a mini lesson within small groups according to student needs: 

Mini lessons on sentence fragments, run-ons, correct capitalization, and frequently confused words 

Activity #14: Narrative Writing Publishing

After the revision, editing and publishing stages students will connect with their partner to share the narrative writing.  

Students will be so excited to read the narrative writing with a character that was created by themselves.

Have fun co-teaching in our virtual world!

Resources we used to form our unit plan:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Virtual Co-Teaching: Redefining Math

Take math to new heights with Twitter.

Connect and have fun! Student engagement will soar to a new level.

Two teachers facilitating and connecting the learning in two

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Road Trip Read

Beautiful Missouri day...great day for a road trip and another great read. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mentor Text for Persuasive Writing

Check out this New York Times Bestseller by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. As I searched for mentor texts to teach writing during this dreary snow day,  I ran across this great children's book. I can't wait to add it to our persuasive writing unit and have students add their own pages.

Is it a duck or is it a rabbit?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Basics of Virtual Co-teaching

Co-teaching is an education buzzword that has been around for MANY years.  My first experience with co-teaching was in...ahummm (I’m showing my age here)...2000. I must admit that back then I did not have a real understanding of co-teaching.

The past 2 years I’ve come to realize the power in co-teaching and am in LOVE. Not only have I had the opportunity to co-teach with amazing student teachers and incredible classroom teachers, I’ve also had the opportunity to virtually co-teach with teachers as far away as Europe and New Zealand.

Let’s start with what is co-teaching?

Co-teaching can be described as two teachers working together to instruct students and it can be implemented in many different forms.  I’ve listed a few examples below:

  1. One teach and one support - One teacher teaches the lesson.  The other teacher monitors student understanding and clarifies learning.  I love to use this strategy when creating anchor charts with students.  One teacher leads the class discussion while another teacher records on the anchor chart and adds clarification to the discussion. Note: The support teacher may or may not be the teacher who monitors and clarifies.
  2. Parallel teaching - Both teachers are teaching identical lessons but the class is divided into smaller groups.  This approach fosters balanced participation among students.
  3. Small group instruction - This is similar to parallel teaching except each teacher teaches a different lesson to their perspective small groups.  This allows the teacher to be an expert at 1 lesson that is taught multiple times during the instruction time.
  4. Team teach - I like to call this tag team.  The co-teachers plan instruction but 1 teacher leads a specific section while the other teacher supports.  The teachers swap back and forth roles throughout the lesson.  

Why co-teach?
In my opinion this is somewhat obvious.  When more than 1 teacher is teaching in a classroom you have a second pair of eyes, a second pair of hands, and another professional to collaborate with and reflect on the learning.  If “two heads can be better than one” then why wouldn’t we want two teachers working together to monitor data, plan instruction, give instruction, and assess student learning.

I’m sure you are thinking I get it, but what is virtual co-teaching...stay tuned to my next blog post or join us this summer in Philadelphia, PA for our presentation at ISTE 2015 (SORRY, I hate to watch a show that ends with "to be continued").

Co-teaching resources you must check out:

P.S. Happy Valentine's Day!