Digital Tools Support Online Learning at Middle School

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Teachers at Edmund W. Miles Middle School in the Amityville Union Free School District are connecting with their students in new ways as distance learning will continue for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. Students have been accessing all of their coursework using their provided Chromebooks. 

Ninth grade social studies teacher Jack Zider recently prepared his students for Advanced Placement Human Geography exam, which was being given online this year. The format of the test was different from prior years, as students had to answer two long-response questions in 45 minutes. 

Mr. Zider used Google Classroom to post lessons and practice questions, and also conducted video chats with his students through Google Meets twice a week. In addition to mastering the course content, helped them get accustomed to the writing style expected for long-response answers.

“It’s important that the students know you are there and can see you,” he said. “Teaching is all about the connection and you’ve got to maintain it.”

He also teaches global history and has been coordinating with Leslie Ciliotta, the other ninth grade social studies teacher, in planning virtual lessons. In pre-recorded videos, students can see their teachers as well as information on the topic through a screen share. Student choice, a Columbia University Teacher’s College learning strategy, complements the common assignments that students complete. 

Mr. Zider cited one lesson on the Spanish Conquistadors, in which students could pick any aspect of this topic to research, become an expert on it and create a presentation. They could write a persuasive speech, prepare a Google Slide presentation, create a written timeline or record a Flipgrid video. One student wrote a speech from the vantage point of a Conquistador leader trying to recruit people to join his expedition. 

Eighth grade English Language Arts teacher Katie Rosario and ENL co-teacher Christina Romeo use Google Classroom as the main learning platform for students, posting a slideshow twice a week that includes the learning objective, lesson and activity. Students can use the message board or email to ask any questions.

A recent poetry unit featured YouTube videos, Google Doc activities, Padlet links for class discussions and Kahoot games for review. For an upcoming short story unit, Ms. Rosario and Ms. Romeo will use Google Meet to stream live read alouds. The videos will also be recorded and posted so all of their students can access and review them at any time. 

Flipgrid is another tool for class interaction as students can record themselves and post their videos in response to a question or discussion topic. Virtual reading logs motivate students to continue their independent reading. 
“Using these various methods, we are hoping to create some normalcy and consistency for our classes,” Ms. Rosario said. 

English teacher Katie Pallini shares her lessons through Google Classroom which has “allowed me to provide instruction in an organized way, communicate with students, provide meaningful feedback, and monitor their progress.”

The middle school is using virtual block scheduling for home instruction, so assignments such instruction in each subject area is done on assigned days. The school’s website also includes tutorial videos on the use of Google accounts.