A NEW REALITY:

strategies for Impactful Distance Learning

To our Dear Rebbeim and Mechanchos:

CHINUCH IN COVID-19: A NEW REALITY

We are coming to understand that the current situation with COVID-19 is called an Eis Tzarah for a reason. Most schools have decided to continue Distant Learning using a variety of technological options. Even with the incredible efforts of the Rebbeim and Moros, the previous pace of our students’ learning is essentially compromised.

The reality is that each home situation is different. Some of your students may have a quiet place to work with a phone or computer all for his or her use. Some other students may have many siblings in need of the phone or computer, or live with stressful family situations.

We, as teachers, are working really hard and doing our best to provide our students with some structure and basis for learning at home. Even with all this effort expended, we must accept that things are different.

OVERALL GOAL: STUDENTS SHOULD LEAVE THE CONFERENCE CALL FEELING CONNECTED, INSPIRED, AND SUCCESSFUL.

As we’ve mentioned, accomplishing this goal has its challenges. We have been in touch with many teachers to hear some thoughts, ideas and tips that can enhance these teaching sessions and ensure that our students get the most they can out of our time and theirs. Please feel free to contact us to add to this list. As we become better at what we do and learn from our mistakes, we can share it with others, hopefully creating a better Distance Learning experience for all.

Tips and Suggestions for Teleconferences:

SETTING THE TONE:
  1. Begin by stating the day and date in both Hebrew and English.

  2. Announce any calendar related reminders for your students to hear. Ex.: Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh,  the count of Sefiras Haomer, etc.

  3. Say something personal to raise the feeling, tone and excitement of the “classroom.” For example: “It seems so long since I have seen all of you, and I really miss you.” “I miss our classroom and lively class discussions, and how much you have all added to it.”

  4. Acknowledge that now it is a challenging time for all. “The first few days might have been fun to stay home and not have to go to school, but by now we are all feeling ready for normalcy and going back to the regular schedules.

  5. Acknowledge that it must be difficult in so many ways.
    • Not to see their classmates
    • Not being able to see their teachers
    • Not having a white board
    • Not having a desk like they have in school for all their materials.

6. Find opportunities to acknowledge individual students:

    • A student birthday
    • Any class Mazel Tov
    • “Today I ____ and it reminded me of what Rivky told us about her brother.”

7. Don’t let the perfect spoil the good. Teaching and learning will be somewhat compromised, but whatever the student can get is beneficial. Tell the students, “I will do my best, and I need you all to try to do your best.”

8. Make it very clear what it means to mute or unmute the phones. Practice as a group and tell them if they forget to mute themselves no one will be able to hear the teacher.

MAKING IT MORE INTERACTIVE:

9. Call a selected “share” student in advance and let her know that she will be asked to unmute herself and share an idea, or an answer, with the class.

10. Leave them with an activity or idea to do that afternoon. 

    • Think of calling someone you have not spoken to and check up on them.
    • Call a grandparent.
    • Pick up garbage on your front lawn.
    • Think of five things you want to be thankful for.
    • Go take a walk in Hashem’s beautiful world and look for something you have never noticed.
    • Look for an opportunity to be mevater. (even though you deserve it and you are right.)
    • Ask a challenge question or extra credit and have students call a number to leave it on recording. This can be done till tomorrow’s class begins.  Example, “Why do you think we count up to Shavuos and not start from forty-nine and count down?”

11. Ask someone in your house to be a “talmida” in your teaching. This allows for more than one voice (if it’s a recording), it will also make the students curious and you can tell them who it was at the end of the lesson.

12. Mail a letter with an envelope and stamp to a student and include a story that you will use in a future lesson.  Include a note that will say “This is a story that I will ask you to read the class on Thursday morning.” This will add a personal touch and make the student feel special and acknowledged.

13. Ask a student to prepare something to share. A student shares a story or write a poem and be given the platform to present it to the class.

14. Give student charts and ask them to check off at different times of the conference. “If you are sitting with your Chumash opened and your daf Sheailos out, give yourself four checks.”

15. Raffles can be done at a distance, where the teacher picks it and announces the winner before she hangs up.

16. Invite a guest speaker. Perhaps a relative of a student, a previous teacher, an older sibling of a student, or a parent can be invited to present to the class. You can decide where in your teaching they might have something that connects to the learning or inspires the class. It’s a great way to get extra involvement, and their presentations can be short and perhaps prerecorded.

Here is some feedback given by teachers using Zoom, but most tips apply to phone calls as well.

6-7-20  by M. Blicksilber, Manchester

We have daily teleconferences with the class.

MINUTE CHALLENGE!
To encourage my students to call in right on time, we start off the conference with a daily ‘ MINUTE CHALLENGE’ which is always new, innovative, fun and competitive. The girls have 60 seconds to complete challenges such as: How many store names can you think of? Names of teachers in the school? How many jumping jacks in a minute? How many round objects can you spot in the room you are in? Words rhyming with.. etc
It works a charm! It’s a fun way to start the day and definitely encourages the girls to call in right on time!

STAR OF THE WEEK!
We also have our weekly ‘STAR OF THE WEEK’. I choose one girl who has shown outstanding effort throughout the week, and I call her privately at home. We have an impromptu ‘interview’ with fun questions e.g What’s your favorite sandwich filling, something you are scared of, bravest thing you’ve ever done, date of birth…and then during the teleconference, I use these answers as clues so that the rest of the girls can guess our special star of the week! The girls love it! Star of the week also prepares a presentation for the class e.g poem, riddles, memories, story etc

Wishing all the dedicated teachers much Hatzlacha!

5-19-20  by Morah Miriam

Show and Tell: I have found that having a weekly show and tell is a great way to take advantage of the current situation. I tell the students to find something around the house related to something we learned about in class and “bring it in” for show and tell (ex: something in your house related to shavous). It is exciting for the students to show their friends special things that are at home, and they often bring things that they wouldn’t be able to bring to school.
Mystery Visitor: To build anticipation and excitement about Zoom School, I started a weekly Mystery Visitor program on Erev Shabbos. The students don’t know who is coming on to tell them a shabbos story and they are excited to find out.

5-13-20  by M. Lebovits, Toronto ON

I teach 8th-grade using ZOOM.
Ideally I want the boys to “show themselves in class” however there are a few who are very camera shy. The rule with them is that if I call their name they have to either flip on the camera or give me some response (thumbs up or chat) that they are there. If there is no answer I “send them out” to the waiting room. They usually realize that they were “sent out and quickly ask to reenter.

The chat function, set so the boys can only chat with the teacher.
It’s a great way to have active participation!
I ask questions and tell them they should “chat” the answer-back. I can respond to each student by name if they got the answer or wrong or if they need to add more.
It gives them all time to think before they answer knowing that the first one to raise a hand won’t be called on right away. The quieter boys get to put in an answer.
The boys also use it to ask a question if I am in the middle of explaining something and can’t stop to take questions.
It is a good way to give chizuk or redirect someone if they seem distracted without anyone else knowing.
The boys use it to tell how they are doing w/o everyone “hearing”.

Using screen share is great way to show Powerpoints or other programs like Mercava open to whatever subject is being, Gemara, Chumash ect..

4-24-20  by F. Hoberman, Lakewood NJ

Rather than one 45-minute class, consider doing three 15-minutes classes with a third of the class each time. When instruction is delivered this way, the rate of student participation greatly increases. Plus, groups can be designed to keep certain personalities apart. While there is considerably less time to cover content, the content that is covered is at least taught with a greater degree of efficacy.

4-22-20  by S.B. Katz, Lakewood NJ

Combine visual elements with the presentation. If students only have a teacher’s face to watch, their attention will quickly waver. When text, images, and the like are made a part of the presentation, attention and engagement will increase. For telephone learning, give out printable visuals in advance.

5-13-20 by C.B, Brooklyn NY 

When the 45-minute phone conference is over, I invite my students to stay on and share personal stories/news. I found that with weaker students, this gave them a chance to be heard and in some cases even encouraged them to participate in the actual learning more often! I also pay special “shout-outs” to students who email me with photos of their school work or home projects. The positive feedback makes them feel noticed and valued!

5-11-20  by Rabbi Zoimen 

Advantages of not being in classroom.

  • Rebbe has tremendous opportunities to be מחזק a weaker boy. If he raises his hand, make sure to call on him and compliment him for his great question. (In a regular classroom this may not be possible if it’s a silly question, as the better boys would be smirking.) Rebbe can even open up the question to all boys to raise their hand if they have an answer.
  • Rebbe can ask boys to raise their hands if they understand or don’t understand the קשיא ,without any boy feeling any embarrassment or peer pressure.
  • Rebbe can say, I would like everyone to now חזר and say to themselves the four steps of the גמרא and raise their hand when done. A few boys raise their hand. The Rebbe says “Wow! So many boys are raising their hands!” Other boys will want to be part of it and join in.
  • It’s an opportunity to let your personality shine; to be more geshmak, humorous, complimentary etc. In a normal classroom setting we are sometimes apprehensive of being a little loose, as we fear that this may cause the class to get a little too loose.

Creating a strong קשר /Making תלמידים feel special

  • Boys love hearing their name. There is no such thing as hearing a name too many times. Keep a class list and mark a dot each time you say their name throughout the day. Can be “I know Shimmy liked that תירץ“ “.Yanky just smiled at that joke”.
  • Many Rebbeim like using attendance as a time to connect with each boy individually, unmuting them and allowing them to speak a little. It’s an ideal opportunity to connect with each boy. The time this takes is well spent. Others feel this takes up too much learning time, and boys may come on late as they know that first 15 minutes is just בס”ד 2 schmoozing. They would rather go through attendance quicker, and warmly greet each boy saying “I see (on computer) Yanky is here, Baruch….”, so that each Talmid gets his individual עליכם שלום .One רבי prefers to give each boy an individual send-off at the end of the day. This helps them stay connected, with a desire to be part of the class.
  • Rebbe has a תהילים list of Corona חולים that talmidim submit. Each boy updates him daily on his חולה.
  • Rebbe sometimes sings with talmidim, makes a kumzitz.
  • Rebbe connects to boys by coming on early and schmoozing with them or/and staying on with them after class is over.
  • Erev Shabbos at about 4:15, Rebbe has תלמידים on and says a מעשה , sings nigunim..
  • Stops in middle of learning and says, “I am so excited I have everyone on”, and goes on to mention every boy’s name. “Chaim is here…”
  • Many גבאים ;1) Decides what type of raffle, 2) has a ס”ש and חומש handy to look things up for רבי ,3) counts ספירה ,4) raises hand to let Rebbe know its recess time, 5) calls Rebbe’s cell phone if Rebbe’s phone is not clear, 6)raises hand if Rebbe made mistake.
  • Innovative ideas; Talmid can be a co-host. Talmid can be appointed to say פרעגט or ענפערט the ‘גמ . Boy can help with raffles or games…
  • Rebbe can allow a boy to read a story for first five minutes of second period. “Everyone give a כח יישר to Yankel”. Talmid feels special.
  • Drops off small raffle prizes by boys’ homes. Waves to them from car.

Incentives

  • Every boy has a chart enabling him to get a certain amount of checks for various performances; Shmiras sedorim, staying on until the end, if they know the next word. Rebbe can use this program throughout the day. “If you… then give yourself a check.”
  • Raffle; “Whoever was the 10th caller will win, if you do all that is expected- notes, having the place etc. Others said- to pick the number caller at the end, as a boy may know he was on first and won’t try.
  • Games. בס”ד 3

Accountability/Productivity

  • Invest the time to randomly call on boys- keep them on their toes
  • Sends a daily quiz. Have them review together. Each boy then says his mark. Others suggested that Rebbe says, “If you got five right raise your hand, four right etc.” (Or can email quiz back to Rebbe)
  • All boys have a notebook. Rebbe dictates to talmidim what to write. They then have a visual aid of גמרא that they can look a מעשה בשעת , and used to chazer later. Also, have them make a Rabbi Anisfeld type map that they can check off themselves. Constantly have them read back to him. Constantly include weaker boys.
  • Email a picture of a complete white board. Map on left side, date on right side. Leave many blanks. They send back the filled in board.
  • Prepare questions that have one word answers for weaker boys to answer, or to have everyone call out. פטור, חייב ,yes, no..
  • Leave message for talmidim with three questions. They leave a message for the Rebbe with answers.
  • Have תלמידים leave a message of them reading חומש or גמרא.
  • On bottom of their Sunday, weekly בחינה ,have boys write how many points they received for their incentive program. Encourages them to send back the בחינה.
  • Short Rabbi Anisfeld style Chavrusas work beautifully even in younger grades.
  • Unmute all boys- everyone hears each other saying גמרא creates Bais Medrash feel.- .“קול רם” it Call Tips
  • When you call on someone and unmute him, stall a few seconds and do not start the question immediately, as he is hearing “you are now unmuted” and will not hear the question.

4-24-20  by F. Hoberman, Lakewood NJ

Rather than one 45-minute class, consider doing three 15-minutes classes with a third of the class each time. When instruction is delivered this way, the rate of student participation greatly increases. Plus, groups can be designed to keep certain personalities apart. While there is considerably less time to cover content, the content that is covered is at least taught with a greater degree of efficacy.

4-22-20  by S.B. Katz, Lakewood NJ

Combine visual elements with the presentation. If students only have a teacher’s face to watch, their attention will quickly waver. When text, images, and the like are made a part of the presentation, attention and engagement will increase. For telephone learning, give out printable visuals in advance.

4-29-20 by C. Kashani, Los Angeles CA

ZOOM Tips:
1) Have students annotate to write translations, circle shorashim, or type answers to questions on the screen.
2) If you have zoom pro, use polls! Students love answering questions.
3) Have students count or find objects in their house that connect to the lesson.
4) Charades! You can Private Chat a topic to a student, and they act it out while everyone guesses. You can also play Taboo this way. Alternatively, let them choose the topic.
5) Stretch with them. ZOOM classes require way too much sitting. Bonus points if it connects to the lesson! (for example, bracha = bending your birkaim, exercise – same shoresh as emunah)
6) Minute to Win It games that you can do on a computer – have students race against each other, or against you.
7) Have students dress up according to a certain theme.

4-28-20 by N. Unger, Phoenix AZ

When chanting chumash pesukim (in younger grades), ask one of your students to unmute themselves to chant what the students should be responding.

4-28-20 by S. Berger

I asked the class a “thought” question and asked them to call me with an answer. It was so interesting to hear from so many girls who

normally would never dare express an opinion in class (and would also never dare to call a teacher!)

4-28-20 

I teach 6th grade on Zoom. Almost every day I update my profile picture to a different class picture that was taken during the year. The kids are excited to see themselves and it reminds them of the fun times we had as a class. They see the picture when my video is off (breaks, before class starts) and they love the memories that it brings up.

4-28-20

I teach 6th grade Hebrew on Zoom.

1. I try to use PowerPoints when possible because I can share my screen with the girls and it makes it more visual.

2. My students must have their video on at all times. I find that there is more interaction and accountability when I see them at all times. (Some teachers that I spoke to don’t mind if their students’ video is off, but I find that the girls will then do whatever they feel like because no one can see.)

3. Breakout rooms are a great feature! I divide up the girls in groups, partnering them for all sorts of things. I’ll ask a question, put them into breakout rooms, and tell them to discuss it with their partners. After a set amount of time, I stop the breakout rooms and we discuss what they came up with. I also use it when I want them to come up with motions for a song, the girls loved it! It’s interactive, exciting, and different than just hearing me speak.

4. I’m wondering what kind of incentive program I can use. My students live far from each other and from me, and mailing a prize is expensive. What are some virtual incentives that other teachers are using?

4-26-20  by A. Cohen, Brooklyn NY

Invite parents to join the class when possible. The presence of an authoritative adult is sometimes enough to keep students engaged and attentive. This might be exceptionally difficult for many parents given the present circumstances of our country, but sometimes teachers only need to address the behaviors of one or two students privately in order to regain control. It is not advisable to discipline students on zoom meetings. The one-on-one conversations should happen either before or after the teaching session.

4-24-20  by F. Hoberman, Lakewood NJ

Rather than one 45-minute class, consider doing three 15-minutes classes with a third of the class each time. When instruction is delivered this way, the rate of student participation greatly increases. Plus, groups can be designed to keep certain personalities apart. While there is considerably less time to cover content, the content that is covered is at least taught with a greater degree of efficacy.

4-22-20  by S.B. Katz, Lakewood NJ

Combine visual elements with the presentation. If students only have a teacher’s face to watch, their attention will quickly waver. When text, images, and the like are made a part of the presentation, attention and engagement will increase. For telephone learning, give out printable visuals in advance.

4-21-20 by B. Eisgrau, Monsey

All student should mute microphones during instruction. When a question is asked, the teacher chooses which student should answer, at which point that student’s microphone is unmuted. Teachers can’t teach effectively with multiple microphones on at once.

Do you have strategies that work for you? Please share them:
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