By Lorie Banks
Trying to plan for the 2020–2021 school year has been like trying to fly the airplane while building the wings.
I am a career educator—a middle grades math teacher in an urban district in Western Massachusetts—and this year has promised to be one like no other. As we began planning over the summer, more and more questions emerged. Even so, I knew I wanted to be a part of any planning, so I joined my school’s math leadership team. We were tasked with identifying priority standards that would guide our instruction until the end of the year and developing a pacing guide. The district was developing three reopening plans: full return, hybrid instruction, and full remote, which further complicated our planning. As things progressed, it was evident that the situation was so fluid that it felt impossible to create detailed plans.
IM’s new distance and unfinished learning resources include many invaluable supports to address grade-level content and “unfinished learning” students may have from previous grade levels. (Ed: read about the resources in a July 2020 blog post) We used them to help guide our planning. At the time, our district was leaning towards a hybrid model for reopening, so we planned with this in mind.
Unit Planning with IM’s Section Guides
First, my school’s math leadership team identified priority units. Then, we reviewed the section guides to map out the first two units for our middle school grades. From our deep dive into the section guide, it became clear that developing a schedule that worked for our needs was going to be challenging. A sample hybrid schedule, with two days of synchronous learning and three days of asynchronous learning, did not seem to align with how the documents were laid out.
IM suggests thinking about instruction in several phases: Explore, Deep Dive, and Synthesis.
The next challenge my school’s math leadership team faced was how to pace a week’s instruction within these phases, and how to meet the needs of the kids who were at any given point working asynchronously as we would be teaching different cohorts synchronously four out the five instructional days. As presented, the section guides call for instruction that flows from asynchronous to synchronous then back to asynchronous. However, our initial scheduling had us alternating between cohorts: teaching one in person while another worked asynchronously, then flipping, with one day in the middle to work asynchronously with everyone. That one Wednesday did not seem to be enough to spiral back to previously taught concepts, build upon shared understandings, assess, and support our neediest learners.
We collaborated at length about what a schedule might look like for any given week, and used the section guides as our compass. We came up with the following plan:
(this could be Monday-Friday or Thursday-Wednesday depending on cohort)
|Review previous asynchronously (taken from section guide)Start “deep dive”|
|Review from previous week|
|Asynchronous Practice/apply from this sectionExplore for the next section|
|Day 1||SynchronousReview Check Your Readiness Review Activity 2.3: Virtual Card Sort Start Lesson 3|
|Day 2||SynchronousFinish Lesson 3Activity 4.3|
|Wednesday||Review Lesson 1 (use practice problems or cool downs)|
|Days 4-5||Asynchronous Activity 5.1Activity 5.3: Make content of cards available in online or paper journals for students to respond|
Or, in thinking about what the teacher’s week might look like:
After having decided on this as a template to frame our planning for the upcoming units, our district went with a full remote start to the school year. My school is hoping to be able to adapt this template into one that we can shift into one that meets the needs of a fully remote design. As with everything, the situation remains fluid, and our ability as educators to stay flexible while existing in a constant state of flux speaks to our determination to provide our students with the best possible learning experiences.
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