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Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

08.13.20Notes on Starting a Lesson (Online)

The Role of the Fast Start Bonus - at

Last week I posted a really great clip of Denise Karratti, a middle school math teacher from Hawaii teaching her kiddos remotely back in May.

Her procedures and routines and her culture were fantastic.

Today I thought I’d take a more careful look at how she starts her lesson because it’s a really nice case study. So having taken her first few minutes and edited them down a little to make everything more visible, I wanted to share some notes:

At the outset we see her warm welcome greeting of students, making them feel seen.

at 0:10 class starts and she’s got her orientation screen up. This tells students what they need and how to be successful in her session and shows that she’s prepared and ready herself.

0:42 she frames expectations. Love that she reinforces for students how to ask questions in chat or email. Love her clarity and simplicity in asking what is maybe the single most important expectation in online learning: camera on and face visible. You cannot connect with students or fully understand their learning experience if you can’t see them.

At 1:12 she’s off and running. Admittedly I made some small edits for simplicity’s sake so it might have taken 20 more seconds in real life but the idea is still clear. 1) She gets going right away. She’s warm and gracious but it’s also school and she’s reminding her students of that in the way she honors time. 2) THEY get going right away. They’re asked to do something active–that she can see whether they’ve competed–within the first minute or two. Message: this will be a fun lesson but this will be an active lesson. You will be doing things and attentiveness will be required.

Again we see her do a beautiful job of installing and reinforcing one of her systems for using the chat: In this case waiting to answer until everyone has thought through the question–a “Wait Question.”

Students affirm her directions with a thumbs up. Thus she constantly reconnects the circuit with them and assures that they’re listening and not off in some corner of the internet. She can only do this if cameras are on.

One of the best things about the Chat is that students potentially get to see and learn from one another’s thinking. Denise makes this explicit by telling them what to do after they’ve answered: to read their peers’ responses and, even better, some of the things they might be looking for as they do so: “See if anyone writes the same idea as you. See if there were other ideas that were shared that you forgot about.”

Then she does a beautiful job of carefully reading the chat and showing students how important their participation is to her.

And there you have it. We’re three or four minutes into the lesson and she’s connected with her students and gotten all of them actively engaged. It’s going to be a great class.

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