Below I have compiled some quick tips for teaching in person during a pandemic. Face it, the 2020-21 school year is like no other, not even back in the Winter/Spring when COVID-19 first appeared.
Teaching in Person: Visuals
1. Use visuals around the class. This might include tape on the floor around each student’s desk, or using a visual schedule showing kids when they must wear their mask and when they can take it off. I also suggest that you use adapted books, social stories, or social stories to teach/remind kids of the new expectations. Little Autism Learners has a bunch for free here. Idea: So far I have taken a few of her stories to read aloud in class. I especially like the one called, “When Can I Stop Wearing my Mask?” That one has a handout to keep as a reminder at home.
Teaching in Person: PPE
2. Stay safe and use all Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) required and recommended. Using a clear face shield and mask with clear cut out to show your mouth might help students to understand you when you speak (even if they are not Deaf/Hard of Hearing). You might use a karaoke machine or other technology so your voice can be heard better. There might be plexiglass shields on desks.
I just went back last week and the PPE equipment hadn’t come in yet. So I brought my own. It is also good to have some extras in case something gets damaged during the day when teaching in person. Moreover, I am currently itinerant and share a classroom/office crammed packed with 10 other educators. So I hung up clear shower curtains around my desk. It was $20 well spent.
Teaching in Person: New Procedures
3. Model and practice new procedures. Returning students to your school will remember school-wide procedures such as going to recess lunch, library and bathroom. You might even have returning students in your special ed class. However, teaching in person during a pandemic will make virtually everything thing different. Even drop off, pick up and riding the bus will not be the same. Hopefully your principal will go over these things with the whole staff, otherwise, ask!!
You will need to instruct your students (and their parents) on the changes. If possible, send a video before school even starts with changes to drop off and before school recess before the first day of school. Plan to spend time the first week going over procedures. Teach, show a video of you doing it, show how to incorrectly do it, and then have the kids practice the correct way.
My first day of school class and school procedures resource can help you plan it all out whether you use the secret agent theme/game format or not. Your school might also have PBIS materials to help you plan and teach new procedures as well.
Teaching in Person: Boom Cards for the Win
4. Boom Cards are amazing. I have used them for the last few years (great for in-person teaching) but are becoming even more popular with distance learning. Many teachers are not sure if they can be used with Google Classroom, Seesaw, etc. but they can be!! Check out my blog post with videos on how to use them with your students. I love that kids get instant feedback and can correct any mistakes and that I get automatic data collection. I especially like that I can avoid germs by not needing to use actual file folders… and that means no more velcro, cutting and laminating, plus lost/missing pieces!!
Teaching in Person: SEL is Paramount
5. Focus on SEL. SEL is Social Emotional Learning. It will be important to take time to get to know your students and let them get to know you. Then you can build trust. In normal years, I would take the first several weeks to focus on routines and relationship building. It is even more important this year. Pathways to Success has a lot of SEL activities in her TpT store. Plus, she was featured in TpT’s Back to School Guide.
6. Don’t forget SELF-CARE! Be sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, drink water, eat nutritiously, and exercise! It is IMPOSSIBLE to get everything done (or at least I’ve never had a night in 25 years where I thought I finished everything), so DON’T try! You and your family must come first. Especially in a pandemic.
You Might Also Like…
Here are some “Help for Special Educators” podcast episodes for back to school you might like: