Teaching from Home? 5 Sanity-Saving Tips You NEED to Try!

Hi!  If you're reading this, I'm guessing you're bravely diving into the world of distance learning!  Me, tooooo! There's definitely a learning curve to all this new-ness, isn't there?!  So that's why I'm here: to share some of the things that are SAVING MY LIFE right now! I hope it makes your life a little easier, too.  Let's go!

1. GET ON GOOGLE DRIVE:

If you haven't done much on Google Drive yet, THIS IS YOUR TIME TO TRY IT OUT!  Do you have other people at your school you can share ideas and plans with?  Google Drive is a game changer because you can all be looking at a document or presentation at the same time, editing it in real time while you're on a Zoom call together ...or you can add your links and ideas anytime and know that everyone from your team will be able to see and access it.  It's the ultimate way to share the load of distance learning... and that leads me to tip #2...

2.  SHARE THE LOAD:

I really hope you have a team or at least one like-minded colleague that will share ideas and work with you (if not though, keep reading because I have ideas for you, too...).  For example, my kindergarten team is sending out 3-4 short video lessons per day to our students (I'll show you what that looks like in a sec).  At first we thought we'd all do our own videos, but we pretty quickly realized that would be SO. Much. Work!  If you're up for that, hey- more power to you, but when I go to our Google Drive and just grab the link for each day's math or writing lesson from my friend, I almost want to cry because I'm SO RELIEVED to not be doing this all alone.  What a gift to be able to share.


If you're feeling alone though, I want to encourage you that you can find some teacher friends to support you on TPT and also on various Facebook groups.  For example, my school is using Seesaw as our content sharing platform and there is a "Seesaw Teachers" Facebook group that is overflowing with knowledge and helpful info to get each other through this time.  Whatever YOU are using (any specific curriculum or platform or grade level) search for it on Facebook, and chances are there is a group there ready to answer your questions.  Also- check the group's search feature because your good question may have already been asked and answered!  If you're on Seesaw like me, be sure to check out the "activities library" for TONS of FREE activities you can use with your class.  We're all in this together.  πŸ’•

3. GET ORGANIZED:

It really helps me visualize everything when I have two main templates that are editable in Google Slides : a weekly AND a daily template.

  •  Here's the scoop on the weekly template:

You could use this in so many efficient ways:
  1. Get Yourself and Your Team Organized: It can help you see what’s coming up this week.  If you’re sharing with teammates, you can even share it over Google Slides so you can all edit and add links!
  2. A Weekly Newsletter: It can give parents, students, and/or administration an overview of your week.  You could make it as detailed or general as you wish. Personally, I send it out Sunday evenings to parents so they can have a quick peek at what is coming up.   It says basic things like “Writing Journal, page 1” or “Math Lesson about more and less.” You could add learning targets, links, and more, but mine is just a simple week-at-a-glance with no links because I want them to get the links from my daily slide and not work ahead. 
  3. A Guide for Students: You could also share this with your students and, depending on their age, it might be a really efficient way to give them their weekly assignments.  I’m staying away from this because I think it would overwhelm and confuse my kindergarteners, but YOU know your students best!

  • Now here's the scoop on the DAILY template:

This is how my students get each day's lessons. They just click on each picture and it zips them over to a video or site. SIMPLE. CLEAR. BEAUTIFUL.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Distance-Learning-Organization-Kit-EDITABLE-Lesson-Meeting-Templates-5395008


I send my students a one-page PDF (like the example here- you choose the stickers and arrange them any way you wish) each morning that contains the day's 3-4 lessons represented as picture stickers. Each picture is linked to a video so that when kids click on the picture, they can follow the directions in the video and before they know it- their schoolwork for the day is done!  YAY! πŸŽ‰

You can create/edit everything in Google Slides and downloaded as a PDF ...and if you're saying, "Wait- HOW do I do that?! And how do I link the stickers to a video?!" I promise it's all super easy and I'm giving out simple step-by-step details if you need them!  You can do it and I'll help you!


The stickers though! 😍They make me soooo happy! There are almost 100 of them so most everything you'd want is there, but you also get blank, editable ones in case you need to add anything.

4.  PREPARE TO BE A YouTube STAR:


Okay, not really (how did we sign up for THIS?!), but I do have a list of my TOP 10 secrets for creating awesome teaching videos at home (...even if you don't feel like a YouTube star)!  You can read all about it HERE!

5. TRY SEESAW!  

If you're still searching for a way to deliver and share content with your students, I will tell you I've been using Seesaw for years and I love it - in both my face-to-face AND distance learning classroom.  It's kid-friendly (remember, I teach 5 year olds, so if they can figure it out, most kids can!) and parents love it, too.  The student work journal is the perfect place to post links to your daily (or weekly) lessons for kids.  


As I mentioned earlier, Seesaw also has a huge free library where teachers can share activities.  They also have a "Blog" feature I'm using for my students to do "Show and Tell."  Students can post pictures or videos (everything has to be teacher approved before it actually hits the blog) and they can comment on each other's posts (these also require teacher approval, which I love.).  I'm a huge Seesaw fan.  And remember- if you have any questions, their Facebook page is awesome.

I hope these TOP 5 tips help save you tons of time and sanity during distance learning!  πŸ’– We're in this together! 

TOP 10 Secrets for Creating AWESOME Teaching Videos at Home (...even if you don't feel like a YouTube star!)

Well, here we are teacher friends!  Who would've ever IMAGINED so many of us would be transforming corners of our homes into video conferencing and recording studios?!  We did NOT sign up for this!  However- I know us, and we will do ANYTHING for our students.... even if it means becoming YouTubers. :) 

So in honor of our new adventure, here are the top 10 secrets for creating awesome teaching videos at home (...even if you don't feel like a YouTube Star!). 

1. Find some good, natural lighting:  Sit yourself in front of a window with the light coming in towards your face.  Don't put a window directly BEHIND you or you'll probably look dark and hard to see.  Take out your phone and spin around and see how the light changes your appearance.  If it's late in the day or you don't have access to a window, think about shining a light towards yourself.

2. Consider your camera angle and orientation: You don't want to have kids looking up your nose, etc. so you may want to prop your computer or phone up on some books or boxes or get a cheap phone holder to help you out.  If you're using your phone, also be sure to have it going landscape (the long way) because that's what works best for sharing videos.

3. Simple lists can be your friend: If you're nervous about forgetting everything you want to cover, jotting down a little list of highlights can be a great way to keep on track.  You can even put the paper (or typed list or script on your computer) where no one will see it!   They'll think you're such a pro.  ;)

4. Be thoughtful about your background:  Keep it simple and clean and/or maybe even school related.  Without a doubt- even if you're working from a spare bedroom or sitting in front of your couch, your kids are going to love seeing you no matter what.  Just make sure everything they're seeing is something you'd be okay with the whole world seeing (my Principal keeps half-joking about things like, "Don't film with your home bar in the background."  :)

If you have a chance to still get into school, grab a few things from your classroom (or maybe you have something like this around home) : a lamp, globe, student artwork, a sign, class picture, plant, etc.  Here's my set up, complete with the "Pop Art Heart Directed Drawings" in the background!):  
Special shout out to my husband and ALL the family members out there who are letting the teachers they love take over and TRANSFORM corners of our homes into virtual classrooms! We appreciate you!

5. Don't be TOOOOO much of a perfectionist:  This is me.  I like to do things really, really well.  A few of my teacher friends have encouraged me though to NOT re-watch and re-record my videos over and over.  I needed that.  Is it worth me taking hours and hours of my day to make the perfect 3 minute video my students will watch ONCE?  Probably not.  Do it well, but don't worry about being PERFECT.  Be yourself. If you make a little mistake (just like you might in the real classroom!  You might cough or your dog might bark, someone from your family may wander into the shot...), it's okay to laugh about it and keep going. Our video skills will improve with time and no one should expect us to be flawless, including ourselves.  

6. Relax, look at the camera, and be confident:  It might help you to tape a little photo of someone you love by your computer or phone's camera (see example below).  You can remember to look at them and feel calm and confident as you're teaching. Take a deep breath and dive in!
Now let's get into the actual video creation:

7. Find a good way to record:  I am using Screencast-O-Matic (another good, similar one I’ve heard of is Screencastify).  It lets you show yourself, your computer screen, or even BOTH at the same time (like your face can be in a smaller rectangle in the corner, still visible to the kids while you’re looking at my computer screen together!).  You can also flip through those 3 options over the course of a single video.  Once the video is recorded, you can upload it straight to YouTube from Screencast-O-Matic.

8. Decide exactly how famous you want to be: (I'm kidding...) I recommend saving your video in YouTube as an UNLISTED video.  If it’s private, no one can see it besides you.  If it’s public, the whole world can see it and it can show up in Google searches, etc.  If it’s unlisted, only people with the link can see it ...so I think that’s PERFECT for our purpose.  
9. Filter Out The Junk: ONE MORE STEP! You probably know that after you watch a YouTube video, the screen fills with suggestions for videos to watch next.  I didn’t want my kids to see all of that and be responsible for them potentially clicking on some inappropriate garbage so I recommend filtering your video through another site like “Safe YouTube,” safeshare.tv, or viewpure.  It’s VERY EASY.  You just grab the address of your YouTube video and then paste it into the site you want to use and they’ll give you a NEW link to give to your kids.  Your video will still be on Youtube, but now when kids watch it, they won’t have any risky pop ups. 

10. Beware of Blockers: Some servers may block certain video sites so this might take a little troubleshooting, but it shouldn’t be too bad.  For example, I had to put it a request to our tech department to please unblock “safe youtube” on any devices kids are borrowing from the school.  Some families may also have filtering software set up at home that they will need to adjust so their child can view YouTube or whatever site you used to filter the videos with.  It’s an easy fix, but I just wanted you to be prepared. 

Got it!  Now how do I SHARE my videos with students?
Do you want a SIMPLE, BEAUTIFUL format for sharing your lessons and videos?
Would you like to learn helpful tricks like how to easily turn a picture into a clickable link that zips kids right to your video or site?
This is what I'm using and loving:


Best of luck, teacher friends!  You've got this!  I believe in you and I'm in this with you!