Preparing for the Unknown

I teach at a school in Iowa. Preparing to teach virtually is not in clear view yet, but it’s sneaking up, in my peripherals, as I watch school closures slowly creep closer and closer to the Midwest.

[UPDATE: As of 8:49PM last night, my district closed for 4 weeks per recommendation of Governor Reynolds. I’ll keep blogging as my planning unfolds!]

My heart is with all of the students whose schools are closing, who won’t have consistent meals on weekdays, who are craving face-to-face social interactions with their peers and the teachers who love and care about them. My heart is with my students who are watching their world change through the lens of social media, the news, and adults in their lives. My heart is with my husband in the healthcare industry and my biological children attending preschool and daycare. My heart hurts.

Sometimes it feels like I’m overreacting, while simultaneously not doing enough. For my family, my students, my colleagues. For you, your students, and in the resources that I give away in the hopes of helping with day-to-day routines, to make things even just a smidge easier.

Here’s the truth: virtual instruction will never truly replace what you do for your students in your classroom each day. I know how you impact young mathematicians, and you know this too. So let’s start by giving some grace. To ourselves. To our admin and colleagues. To our students, whose worlds are changing each day.


My district is still at the wait-it-out phase, and we’ve been told to reflect on how we will deliver instruction via technology or hand-out locations for print materials. The waiting game continues. Here are some thoughts about good places to go for this unprecedented scenario. Though the sites may not work for all of you and for your specific situations, I hope they spark some ideas!

Content Delivery Platforms

Google Classroom: I work at a Google school, and we already deliver day-to-day links and materials to students via the resource. Each day I attach my Google Slides lessons, lesson summary, videos, and practice problems with answers for my students.

Canvas: If your school has Canvas as your educational platform, there are so many resources for courses out there, especially in the Open Up Math Facebook groups. (There are groups for the grade band 6-8 grades, 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade.) Jen Arberg, Community Coach and K-12 Math Director in North Carolina is a great resource for using these tools!

Video Instruction

Mr. Aaron Morgan has been an excellent resource for talking students through Open Up Math lessons and practice problems. His videos are very popular and students across the country has greatly benefitted from his time and expertise put into these videos. Make sure to check out his Google site, which houses his videos and resources for public use.

Zoom is a video conferencing tool that has recently removed the 40-minute time restriction for free education accounts. (Thank you Zoom!) From Zoom, it’s easy to record video and host learning sessions, while using tools like screen annotation and a chat window during the meeting. One piece of advice I’ve heard is to keep your face in the video as much as possible, even if off to the side as you go through the material. During live meetings, students can use video and audio as well.

Assessments/Check-Ins

Here’s another piece of the truth: I don’t know what assessments will look like under a digital structure. But here are my thoughts on resources:

Desmos is a math-lover’s go-to site for content exploration, discourse, and formative assessment, and it would be an awesome way to reach learners outside of the classroom. There are lots of card sorts and lessons created by Open Up Resources 6-8 Math users on the site, and you can make your own as well!

Google Forms: We use Google Forms on occasions for Cool Downs, where students are choosing from a list or using explanations. I plan to use these as much as possible since my students are used to the structure of a Google Form, and I can collect all of the data and answers in one place.

Assistments looks like it is really user-friendly and is organized by Open Up Resources 6-8 Math content that is easy to assign via Google Classroom.

GoFormative is another resource that I’m looking into, as students are able to do a little more with their responses as they submit them to me, including showing their work, as well as open-ended and multiple choice question-types.

We are Alone Better Together

While I do not have all of the answers or perfect solutions for what’s ahead, I do know that this community of teacher is better together. We’ve proved that in our daily face-to-face teaching, and we’ll surely do it again virtually. Please be on the lookout for video conferencing, Twitter chats, Facebook posts, so we can stay open and collaborative, all while practicing social distancing.

As always, reach out with questions, ideas or whatever! I’m always open to talking through ideas, successes, and challenges.

Share your ideas and thinking for virtual learning in the comments of this post to help educators across the country formulate a game plan and be our best (with lots of grace) for our young mathematicians! They deserve it!

3 thoughts on “Preparing for the Unknown

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