Navigating the Uncharted Seas of Remote Teaching for Secondary ELA

Navigating the Uncharted Seas of Remote Teaching for Secondary ELA

I just completed week 3 of distance learning, and it feels as if I am weathering a storm. Some days, I am barely holding things together. Between all of the new information and directives that seem to change almost daily, to the unimaginable task of changing everything I’ve ever known about teaching in less than 24 working hours, and adding in the stress of working from home while simultaneously trying to still be a good mother and wife, I’m ready to throw in the towel. I’ve already checked; I don’t have enough banked sick days to sit the rest of this pandemic out. And even if I did have enough days stocked away, I couldn’t even bring myself to do that. I am constantly thinking about work.

Multiple times since we’ve started our statewide stay-at-home order (I’m in California), I’ve woken up with worry and have not been able to fall back asleep easily. So, the long and the short of it is this: I see you, I hear you, I feel you, I am you. I am in this with you.

Since there isn’t much anyone can do to help rectify this situation immediately, I’m trying my best. I am also trying my best not to unload any more unnecessary stress onto my students. I teach in California, and my state has already said that students are not to be held harmless during this time. Essentially, that means their grades can only go up from this point.

To try to engage my students as best as I can, while also holding class and attempting instruction, I have completely switched gears. My lessons are now week-long mini-units that encompass multiple standards and skills. I’m trying to engage them with authentically interesting content that they will actually want to do.
Navigating the Uncharted Seas of Remote Teaching for Secondary ELA

I came across this lesson idea as I was mindlessly scrolling on Facebook one afternoon. I abruptly stopped my scrolling as I came to this post. Immediately, it drew me in because of how relevant it was to our current situation. Initially, I was going to plan an entire week-long mini-unit on this post. But once I did some quick fact-checking, I soon realized that the entire post, one that (at the time) had more than 16,000 shares was fake. Had I not stopped and fact-checked this post, I most certainly would have shared it, and thus I would have also contributed to the spreading of false information on social media. 

It was in that one brief moment that I knew I actually did want to use this social media post for my lesson plan. However, in a matter of just a few seconds, I changed the objectives. Since I know all-too-well how stressful remote teaching is, I’m sharing this with all of you.

My assignment this week requires students to use a variety of skills: research, fact-checking, analysis, reflection, and probably even more. However, the real purpose of this assignment is to get students to realize how important it is to verify that information is reliable and credible as they complete the tasks in this assignment.

Navigating the Uncharted Seas of Remote Teaching for Secondary ELA

I want them to see how pervasive false and misleading information truly is. I want them to see how quickly inaccuracies that could potentially influence our decisions can spread. But most importantly, I want them to come to this conclusion on their own, and I want them to gain this valuable insight as they fact-check the post itself. You can make your own copy of this resource by clicking here.

While so many teachers are navigating the uncharted seas of remote teaching, I want to take a moment and share a few things that have been working for me.

1. Consistency - I am posting assignments on Mondays in the morning and they are due on Friday by the close of the normal school day. My students know that they can always expect this from me.

2. Flexibility - I have no idea what my students are f=going through right now. Yes, I do check in with them, but I still don’t know their real truth. For that reason, I need to make sure that I am remaining flexible with my students. This blog post, 5 Things to Avoid While Remote Teaching, might help you be more flexible with your students.

3. Compassion - This is hard on all of us. It is difficult for teachers. It is difficult for parents. It is difficult for our students. Understanding this and extending some compassion will go a long way during remote teaching. If you'd like to read more about this, here's another blog post: 10 Things to Consider for Remote Teaching.

I hope this resource helps you out during this time! I am using it as a week-long project. I'll assign it on Monday, and then on Wednesday, I will hold a virtual class to discuss the work with my students. 
Navigating the Uncharted Seas of Remote Teaching for Secondary ELA

If you teach public speaking in a distance learning or blended learning model, you might also like this blog post by Secondary Sara

Paperless Independent Novel Study

During a time when distance learning is more prominent than ever, online learning resources are vital to our teaching and to the learning of our students. Reading is a part of every English Language Arts classroom. Whether it be a whole-class novel study or independent novel, reading is a great way to help students escape the 'new normal' that our entire planet is now facing. Right now, we are essentially forced to go paperless, so here are some things you can do with your students during this unprecedented time.

To assist and encourage reading with my own students during their time out of the classroom, I create a Paperless Independent Novel Study. Why am I choosing an independent novel study over a whole-class study? First, I want students to WANT to read while they are not in an actual classroom. Not only will it be a needed escape, but I want them to be genuinely interested in what they are reading to keep them engaged. Let me walk you through how this works. Of course, when classes resume, you can grab a printable copy of this same resource if preferred HERE.


Here are some suggestions to help your students get access to some books, while they are distance learning:

- Scribd (Free for 30 days. Thanks to Room 213 for sharing!)
- Amazon (Check out their free books! Thanks to Tracee Orman for sharing)
- Open Library (Free digital checkouts! Thanks to The Daring English Teacher for sharing!)
- Book Flix
- Libby


Setting up a Google account is fairly simple and fast. In addition, it is FREE. So, for many of the resources you may be purchasing over the next few weeks, it would likely be helpful to have a Google account. Check out this webpage to help you get started! If you are going to use Google resources in your new digital classroom, then both the teacher and your students will need to create an account.


Now, that everyone has their own Google account, you can get started! Once you purchase a digital resource, a link will be shared with you within that download. It's that link that you will be sharing with your students to access the digital learning resource.


This may not be your (or their) first rodeo when it comes to using a Google resource, but in the event that it is, (from that link you provided them) students will be instructed to 'make a copy'. This will be their own individual copy and they can re-name the file as they wish.

You can definitely be flexible with the organization of this Digital Distance Learning Independent Novel Study (in regards to how many and what particular assignments that you may want your students to complete), but this digital online novel study has been designed to be set up into three different parts.

Should you decide to organize the unit in this manner, have your students divide their novel into three equal parts (or as close to) ideally, at the end of a chapter. As a class, you can set a goal as to how long it will take everyone to read to their designated section (ex: four days). They can decide for themselves how many minutes a day they will need to read to complete the section (as the sizes of the sections will vary for each student). They can keep track of their reading in the digital reading log provided.


Each of the three sections has a set of short reading response questions that will need to be answered. This is an easy way for them to reflect on what they have been reading.


Three differentiated activities have been provided for each section and can be completed upon completion of the section. There is no set order to complete the activities and they are also optional, so you can pick and choose which activities you may or may not like to complete.


A final wrap-up activity can be completed as a way to both reflect on the novel and share the information with other peers who may be interested in reading the book. There are many different platforms teachers are using to interact with their students, such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. This book talk could either be done live with the class or perhaps students could record a video and send it to you to be shared with the class. Again, this is completely optional, so if this seems like an unmanageable step, then you can disregard it.


If you are looking for an additional way for your students to respond to a text, then this FREE Interactive Reading Connections Foldable is a great way to start. This activity can be used with any text, play or movie and it requires students to look deeper into the various characters, the setting and/or the theme of a novel. A Google Slides digital copy has also been included within the download. This paperless version of the activity can easily be incorporated into any unit, including the resource shared in this post. It's just another way to get your students thinking - paperless, of course! :)

Check out these other paperless ideas from my fellow Coffee Shop members:

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