Todays contributor: Melissa Prepster
Melissa is an 8th grade US History teacher at Gorzycki Middle School. She serves as her campus Campus Innovation Coach and Social Studies department chair. Melissa loves integrating technology to help bring the past alive. In her free time, she likes hanging out with her 3 dachshunds, traveling, and attending concerts. She has seen the Eagles over 100 times and is a two day Jeopardy champ.
BLEND is a great tool for providing blended learning experiences and personalized instruction for my 8th grade students. We use it daily (especially after getting our 1:1 Chromebooks).
To be honest, though, it took me a while to figure out how to effectively organize my course materials so that they were easy for students to access. Blend comes naturally with a module structure so that a blended learning experience can look like this:
That’s great and I used this view for a while. Questions, though, continued to plague me. Is everything a module? How can students navigate this? How do students know what we did and when we did it? I wasn’t 100% happy with the module view.
That’s when I began to play around with a daily agenda. This transformed my class. Let me explain how it works.
This is what students see now when they log into my BLEND course.
Everything they need is linked up. I post our daily learning targets and then provide links (or just text if things are analog/offline) for the activities we will be doing. The last column mentions homework, again with links directly to what they need. Students can now see exactly what we did on each day and access resources for our activities. I can leave notes and announcements in the far left column (like a link to our class trip flyer). Students who are absent have zero excuses about knowing how to make up the work that they missed.
What I like about this format is if the assignments/quizzes/pages are already made (as they are from last year), I just have to drag and drop them into my grid. If plans change, I can change this on the fly. I can link up quizzes so that students don’t waste time trying to find them and if we are doing a module, I can put the link to the first activity in the module in my grid.
I’m also able to provide links to things we use regularly. Our notebook table of contents is just a google doc. When we are updating binders, I can throw this link onto our grid.
Also, because many of our notes are digital, I keep a page devoted to our digital table of contents. This way, students can access previous notes when they are studying or preparing a project.
The links on top also help keep us organized. Previous Agenda is an obvious necessity. It helps students go back a week. That way if they are absent on Friday, they can access the work even if a new school week has started.
The Graded Work page is also essential. Middle School students have a typical question when they see a missing assignment in the gradebook. “What is that?” The graded work page lists only the assignments that are in the gradebook, with links to those assignments. That way a student with a missing only has to click to find the makeup work.
The Daily Do Nows takes them directly to their warmups. Since they are all in one file and online, students who are absent can still take care of this important class activity.
I also make sure to make things that we aren’t doing online assignments so that they show up on the students’ calendars and to-do lists.
What I’ve found with BLEND is that the more information I can provide my students…the more transparent I can be about what we are doing with parent, the fewer questions I get and the more self-directed my students can be. It all comes down to organization.