By Matthew Jones
As the world started to shut down last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers worried about how they would reach their students. The 2020-2021 school year quickly approached and I started stressing about how virtual classes would work. Especially being an elementary school teacher, connecting with students at a younger age through a computer screen can be very tricky.
Before we went into a shutdown, teaching and connecting with students came naturally to me. We could sit down and chat about what was happening in their lives, we could play games, and we could even high five and say hello! Now, we have to be very creative in order to complete these tasks that were at one time so simple. As the school year started I felt lost trying to get to know my students, their interests, what they liked outside of school, or even what kind of student they were. I felt like they were just as nervous for virtual schooling as I was.
As the school year quickly progressed I started to hear other teachers discuss different strategies they were trying to implement. Nearpod was one website I heard over and over again from teachers. They raved about how awesome it was and how lessons could become somewhat interactive and normal again. I quickly hopped on the Nearpod bandwagon and fell in love.
I started using Nearpod slowly and incorporating small chunks into my lessons. I thought this would be a great idea so that my students wouldn’t get overwhelmed with something completely new to them. I also didn’t want to overwhelm myself in trying to go overboard with a new resource. Day by day, week by week I would try something new that I realized Nearpod offered. As I started to dive deeper into the different activities I started to get creative with how to add them into lessons so that students were being interactive throughout the lesson and not just listening to me talk. I wanted to start using Nearpod so my students could feel as if they were in the classroom with me.
The list below consists of a variety of activities that I like to use from Nearpod. These activities have made my online classroom come alive. I hope this list of activities and how I have implemented them into lessons will help other teachers who are struggling with meeting their students and getting to know them! Nearpod Activities for Distance Learning
- Time to Climb - This activity is awesome to review content that has been taught or if you want to crank up the competition within your classroom. It starts off with the teacher being able to pick a theme, Himalayas, underwater, space, etc… Then students are able to choose a character of their choice! Once the game starts, a question will appear and students as fast as they can have to select the correct answer. As the students get the correct answer their character begins to climb up the mountain. This activity I love to use at the end of my lessons to recap on skills that have been taught. It creates some competition that my students thrive off of and really like to show off their skills.
- Videos - When showing videos on Nearpod teachers have the option to show it off their screen, or they can have the students play it off their laptops. You may be thinking what is the difference of showing a video just off of YouTube or playing it off Nearpod? Nearpod has a feature when you upload a video you can add questions throughout the video. I like to use this for read alouds. For asynchronous learning, I like to assign students stories that are being read by myself. Once I upload the video to Nearpod, I go through the video and can add multiple choice or open ended questions. I like to see what my students are thinking about the story and check for comprehension as they are listening. It also allows me to see how well my students are able to write when asked to explain.
Here is an example of the Draw-It tool on the students end. They can write with a pen, highlighter, or type their answers on the screen. Here is an example: https://share.nearpod.com/auCTlZ5hceb
Draw-It Tool - This tool is one of my favorites on Nearpod. I make Google Slides for Math class all the time. Before Nearpod I would tell the students to write or draw their work on
paper or a whiteboard. Draw-It allows students to be able to show all their work right on the slide deck. What is also awesome about this tool is that as the teacher, I am able to see each student's “whiteboard” on my screen. This is a great tool to make sure students are understanding, or if they aren’t doing anything you can chat them on zoom and ask if they need help.
- Voice-Recorded Answering - The newest feature I have found on Nearpod is allowing your students to use voice recording. I quickly learned that elementary students are not the fastest typers in the world. To solve that issue, time in class doesn’t have to be wasted waiting on them to type out a response. Nearpod allows students on open-ended questions to record their voice. After recording their answer students can send their recording to the teacher to listen to. This cuts down on time being wasted and really allows you as the teacher to understand the students thought process.
As the school year continues and Nearpod continues to add on more and more activities and resources I will do my best to continue incorporating them into lessons. I hope by using these resources my students feel as connected to me as I do to them. Using Nearpod in my classroom has allowed me to interact with students as close as we can during distance learning. We have fun in my classroom and love to try new things. I think the most important thing for all teachers to understand is we are all new to this. Never be afraid to be a risk taker and try it out!
Matthew Jones is a 5th grade self-contained special education teacher at North Salisbury Elementary School in Wicomico County Public Schools. You can connect with Jones via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @Jones_Matt8