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Hybrid Instruction - Eight Tools and Strategies for Success          

For the past several months, we have all tried to wrap our minds around hybrid learning models. Regardless of how districts implement hybrid classrooms, how can teachers serve multiple groups of students, often at the same time, in different places? The good news is that we are not alone. The best professional development experts have always been those who are closest to the work: teachers and students, and they have shared some invaluable tips as we continue to explore shifts in practice. Below is a detailed list of instructional strategies for consideration in a hybrid environment.

  1. Assign a teacher adviser to virtual students. While students remain at home, set up a check-in system for them so that they can speak to a staff member on a regular basis, anywhere from weekly to every other week. In order to make this partnership as successful as possible, it might be helpful to pair teachers with students who have strong relationships with them already (if possible).
  2. Focus on interaction. Digital tools can enhance learning, but they also have the capability to overwhelm instruction. Rather than relying on slideshows or apps to reach kids, aim to interact meaningfully with students each week in a way that is most doable, whether that occurs online or in person. That could take place in a chat, in an email, in the first few minutes of class, or in a phone call home. Some teachers even create a separate breakout space for checking in with students, which is a good way to incorporate face-to-face time with students.
  3. Be organized. A lesson that is not clearly mapped out with learning outcomes will be fuzzy for both the teacher and for all students, regardless of their location. The more organized a teacher is, with strong framing at the start of each class and equally solid methods of summarizing and assessing learning goals, the less perplexing a hybrid environment will be.
  4. Plan for failure. Technology will break down, slideshows will crash, and internet connections will falter. Plan ahead by making sure that students always have an offline learning option to go to, such as a long-term assignment or a journal. Many teachers have designed a list of “just in case” activities for learners that work offline in the event of a technology stumble, making possible connectivity or access issues far less powerful.
  5. Remote considerations come first. If teachers plan for remote learning first, they can adjust for in-person instruction as needed. If that process occurs the other way around, virtual student needs will be inadvertently forgotten. When planning a lesson, think about how it can be most clear to a student not in proximity, and then use that thinking to consider the students in class. After all, most schools are enforcing masks and distancing, which means that nobody really has the full benefit of in-person learning.
  6. Use discussion boards and the chat feature frequently and liberally. Why guess at what students are thinking and feeling when we can just ask them to write us a note, or to share ideas with classmates? Some teachers limit chat spaces for their distracting nature, but allowing a specific timeframe (say, a five-minute thought share) can be a more strategic way to incorporate the chat. Discussion boards are even easier to manage, since they are typically a medium that the teacher can moderate.
  7. Ask students for help. Students in the classroom can help virtual learners gain different perspectives of the classroom, or they can support distance learning by sharing their own strategies for success, such as the extensions or apps they’ve enjoyed in other classes. Students have the benefit of experiencing multiple classrooms, and they see more than we do. We can stand to learn a lot from what they have found to be helpful, as well as what have been sources of frustration.
  8. Deliver information in more than one way. Students process information differently, so providing directions or instructions verbally, in writing, and even visually can help the class understand expectations no matter their location. More than before, we need to think about how students process what we share with them, and try to make that process as accessible as possible.

As we all continue to learn how to navigate hybrid learning, we will need to support one another with strategies and recommended practices. The learning process is a collaborative endeavor, and the people who know the most about how to manage these new challenges are those who frequent classrooms, virtual or otherwise. With time and some understanding from everyone (including ourselves), we will make progress in serving multiple groups of students at one time.

Written by Miriam Plotinsky, Education World Contributing Writer

Miriam is a Learning and Achievement Specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, where she has worked for nearly 20 years as an English teacher, staff developer and department chair. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, and recently earned her certification in Education Administration and Supervision. She can be followed on Twitter: @MirPloMCPS

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