Eureka and Middle School Math · Remote/Digital Learning · UDL in Practice · Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Going Digital–A First Stab at Teaching New Content

In 7th grade, we teach two levels of math, a grade-level class (Standard) and a class that covers some additional 8th grade content (Extended).  I have written two posts already about how we took some first stabs at transitioning to digital/virtual teaching.  The posts I have written before focused on our first week of work with our Standard students who are using their first few weeks of digital learning to review power standards.  With the Extended classes, we were tasked with teaching new material, material that the students had not seen before.

As we looked at transitioning from brick-and-mortar to a virtual/digital model, my colleague and I began with things we had already created, the “By the end of” documents.  Since we teach selected 8th grade algebra content in the last quarter of the year, in between MCAS, MCAS prep, MCAS recovery, and the inevitable mole-whacking that characterizes the end of the school year, I began with the “By the End of” documents we had already created, with curated resources, to create this new version.  I have documented my attempts in this post for others to learn from and improve upon my mistakes.  Believe me, you will have plenty to improve upon!!

The Inspiration

When we first learned that we would be teaching digitally, I started drafting a “present” for Irene, my amazing colleague–I tried to make a single hyperdoc of the content on linear equations by combining the content of four topics, plus some additions and new approaches.

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At first, I didn’t include the essential questions.


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As you can see, this version is a draft–I knew we wanted a self-assessment AND needed a graded (pass/fail) final assessment for each topic, but we were working asynchronously at the time so I put in “place-holders.”
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I went back to each of the original “By the End” documents (the four for this Module) and copied over the Essential Questions.
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Some of the By the End of documents had had Extensions; some had not.  It’s always a good idea to offer Extension options, both to avoid being put on the spot (unprepared!) when a kid does finish all the work and needs something more to do….but also to always underscore the expectations that (1) there is always more to do and (2) all students are capable of accessing Extensions–it is not teacher-directed choice, but student-driven based on self-assessment and self-awareness.

It became clear that having all four topics in one hyperdoc was way overwhelming!  I pulled them apart again and we went back to one topic per week and one topic/week per hyperdoc, with some changes in the hyperdoc/”By the End of” format.

An Opportunity for New

Long before COVID-19 upended our professional lives, Irene and I had been talking about some changes we wanted to make to our shared practice:

  • we wanted to build opportunities for self-assessment on the part of the students, with the goal of building self-awareness (helping students know what they do and do not know)
  • we wanted to make the “By the End Of” documents both more supportive (i.e., being more targeted in the material we list, the problems we name, etc.) and also more independent (this would come from a combination of being both more supportive and more interactive, with students more directly responding to the material we include on the documents)
  • we wanted to build, create, and curate more video resources–curating resources was a recommendation from a student in my recent professional development course with a virtual school

Right now, the entire 7th grade is sharing a single Google Classroom, so Irene and I can’t use our daily announcements to communicate with our students, nor to create an interactive practice in this world of digital learning.  This has lead to some new practices on our part in our “By the End of” hyperdocs:

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We added an “announcements” box at the very top of the “By the End of” where we can add updates.  Normally, these are the things we would have posted in Google Classroom, but, with a shared Classroom, we needed a way to be able to keep our kids updated without involving the entire 7th grade.
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Irene “stole” this idea from our 6th grade colleagues (thanks, again, Maureen and Steph!!) and created a weekly schedule for the kids.  We don’t usually work on a weekly schedule during the school year, allowing the content to drive the timing, but we have reversed that with digital learning, having the timing drive the content.
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Irene pointed out that we needed a way to be specific with the students about what we were assessing on the Topic Assessment at the end of the week.  The Essential Questions are too “big,” too broad to serve this purpose.  In our regular practice, we provide a study guide one week prior to all Module Assessments.  Since we won’t be doing any Module Assessments with digital learning, this list of specific topics replaces the study guide.  In fact, it came from the study guide for this Module–I do love recycling!!
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We have been upfront with students about their required assessments.

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