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Engaging All Learners, Anywhere

02/20/2024 9:05 AM | Joanna Edwards (Administrator)

We know that children learn best through play and that, more than ever before, we need to keep students engaged and wanting to come to school. Especially in a time where we had some students home and some in person, our zoomies and roomies, respectively. Group work was put on the back burner due to social distancing and CDC guidelines. This created new barriers but did not make it impossible. One of my favorite hybrid lessons was one where we thought outside of the box with what a classroom should look like and released some of that control by trusting the students who were not in front of us to be on task and wanting to participate.

Setting the Scene:

My partner teacher and I wanted to create a fun and creative learning environment for our students that were back in person but also wanted to find a way where the students at home did not feel that they were missing out. We had come up with a mad scientist lab theme where we switched out the decor in our rooms for some black lights and glow sticks. We dressed up as Mad Scientists, lab coats, large wigs, and all (Figure 2). Walls covered with large painted beakers and glowing balloons. We set up fake lab experiment jars on our bookshelves and equipped each desk with the necessary lab materials. In science our scholars had been learning about chemical reactions and in math we were practicing with decomposing numbers and expanded form with decimals. When students arrived the next morning they would pick up their clearance badge. Their badges had their Clever QR codes which allowed them to log onto their computers by a scan instead of typing in their information. A new feature that our school had just started and they hadn’t tried yet.

Mad Scientist Day:

Scholars walked into a classroom that was transformed into a Mad Scientist Lab, where they would suit up with goggles, protective booties, and a scientist hairdo headband (see Figure 1). Our lab technicians that were at home learning were eagerly awaiting for their partner to give them the secret code to open the challenge. The in person scientists were very happy to start their first experiment. Students were given “ Mystery eggs” (Frozen balls of colored baking soda) that contained a secret message inside. The message was the Nearpod code that would open the assignment challenges for each lab team. Using pipettes and vinegar they opened their eggs and via zoom they shared their code to their zoomie partner. (Figure 3)

This was the first time that I had tried to pair a roomie with a zoomie and have them work on an assignment. With the students who were learning from home it was hard to gauge a few things, 1) If they were at their computer, most scholars chose to keep cameras off and it was not a requirement in our county for them to keep cameras on. 2) Even if they were behind their screen, would they be active participants and not just sitting while multitasking with TV or Video Games. To my surprise our zoomies were more engaged than ever. They had to be the one in the Nearpod sharing their screen and talking with their partner on what they should type into the “lab reports”. I had never used a Nearpod lesson in this way. With being fully virtual last school year we had most of our lessons via Nearpod, but they were like lectures. Teacher led, while the scholars followed along and answered the questions as they appeared.

The conversations heard between all the scholars that day made my teacher heart happy. The ones on zoom felt like they were just as involved with our scientist day. I had students turn on cameras that had not done so all year. Our classroom is now all back in person and while we are still using Nearpods my tech newbie self has learned there is much more out there for the students to play around with when it comes to technology. This was also a great reminder that even with all the challenges thrown during pandemic teaching that we can still think outside of the box and when addressing more difficult or boring concepts that sometimes we just need to have fun and let the kids learn through play and laughter.

Stephanie Noonan is a graduate of Salisbury University where she earned a dual degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She has spent five yearsteaching fifth grade in Wicomico County, Maryland. Stephanie is currently working towards getting her masters in Educational Leadership.

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