Preparing for Remote Learning in 2020-21 – Reflection

As I said in my Back to School Thoughts post, my school district has decided to begin to school year online with 100% virtual instruction. With this decision, there are a ton of large and small elements of what the school day will look like. With all of the uncertainties, I am dedicated to focusing on only what I can control within my “classroom” and teaching style. Everything else will be ironed out with time.

Teaching online is going to be different than teaching in person. It is going to be so much more than just digitizing what we have done in the past and attempting to replicate what we’ve always done.

Besides the district provided professional development that includes a partnership with a large public university in my state, I know I need to find additional resources to help me feel comfortable with remote learning and be as prepared as possible.

Enter “Preparing for Remote Learning in 2020-21”.

Source – Chippewa River Writing Project

This professional development was put on by the Chippewa River Writing Project, the National Writing Project site at Central Michigan University. The professional development was a day-long conference over Zoom. There was a $25 fee for the program. Knowing the organizers and most of the presenters, I was confident that the day would be filled with a ton of useful materials and resources. Check out my thoughts below regarding the day, along with shared resources and information.

Tools/Resources Shared

Planned Breakout Sessions Available

I attended the session titles in bold with notes below

  • “Perspectives and Planning: Learning and Teaching in Virtual Environments” – Amanda Cornwell
  • “From Texting to Teaching” – Jeremy Hyler
  • “Introduction to Blogging” – Janet Neyer
  • “Teaching the Research Paper … Remotely” – Sharon Murchie
  • “Examining Multimedia Non-Fiction as a Mentor Text” – Andy Shoenborn and Troy Hicks
  • “Choose your own adventure: Creating interactive Google Slides through Pear Deck” – Lyndsay Young
  • Digital Writer’s Notebooks: Continuing the Writer’s Notebook Practices in Digital Classrooms” – Becky Schwartz
  • “Building Community and Facilitating Asynchronous Class Discussions Using Flipgrid” – Sharon Murchie
  • “Using HyperDocs to Engage Students and Extend Their Learning” – Jeremy Hyler

“Perspectives and Planning: Learning and Teaching in Virtual Environments” – Presented by Amanda Cornwell


  1. Capacity and Cognitive Load
  2. Perspectives
  3. Organization
  4. Communication
  5. Think about the ONE THING

Amanda encouraged attendees to read, write, reflect, plan, network, and collaborate in order to stay energized and engaged during the school year.

“Examining Multimedia Non-Fiction as a Mentor Text” – Andy Shoenborn and Troy Hicks

Excellent overview of how multimedia non-fiction writing can be taught using the mentor text “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” from the New York Times. Andy and Troy effortlessly traded off, finished each others sentences, and introduced attendees to a wide range of tools for empowering students to read and write with purpose.

Digital Writer’s Notebooks: Continuing the Writer’s Notebook Practices in Digital Classrooms – Becky Schwartz

Becky and attendees were on the same page (pun intended) regarding the importance of the Writers Notebook in the classroom to build relationships with students and to establish writing as a culture and habit in the classroom. She pointed out that digital Writers Notebooks do not replace the value of pencil-paper writing, but it does provide teachers and students with new avenues. And, you can’t lose them or forget them at home.

All attendees were provided with an example copy of Becky’s digital Writers Notebook and we worked through the set up of a “Where I’m From” style poem and learned how Becky uses the digital Writer’s Notebook in her classroom.

Overall, there seems to be a lot of up front work in the set up of the Writer’s Notebook as I would be truly creating the parameters of the notebook for my students. There are more opportunities to add and personalize the digital notebook and I’m toying with the idea of having mine be vertical to try and replicate a composition notebook.

Unconference Breakout Sessions

  • School Year Discussions
  • PearDeck Tutorial
  • Google Tools Sandbox
  • Building Relationships Remotely
  • New Software Strategies
  • Conferencing with Students in Digital Spaces/Writing Centers
  • Crash Course in School Learning
  • Group Work and Curriculum Choices
  • Communication around School Calendars
  • Independent Reading Resources
  • FlipGrid Tutorial
  • Special Education Conversations

Brainstorm sessions before and after lunch collected ideas and thoughts to fuel the unconference sessions. The creation of this was similar to an EdCamp-style conference where the attendees create the sessions on the spot. This worked well with the National Writing Project philosophy of “teachers teaching teachers.”

I attended the Independent Reading Resources breakout session and we discussed best practices related to how long books should be quarantined after being returned, how to get books into students’ hands, and encouraged each other to contact our school and local libraries for more information and resources.

Chippewa River Writing Project is leading the way in terms of formulating useful professional development for English educators during this time. I am thankful for this opportunity to watch, listen, and reflect on resources for the upcoming school year. I’m looking forward to their future offerings.

We, as teachers, need to accept the idea that teaching during a global pandemic is going to be messy. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been teaching. We’re all first year teachers this year. We need to embrace the process and experience just like we did our first year of teaching. If we can do this, set up parameters to balance our work lives, and remember to care for ourselves and families, then we’re going to be alright.

And you do too. Just breathe.

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