Many teachers return from Spring Break this week and will begin a new chapter in teaching as they return to in-person learning for the first time in over a year. One learning model that is being embraced by many districts in California is the hybrid learning model. With a hybrid learning model, some students attend class in-person while others join remotely from home. Classrooms are often split into cohorts, where they attend in-person learning several days during the week.

In an article recently published by Common Sense Education, writer and high school English teacher, Paul Barnwell offers some tips for those returning to hybrid instruction after the Spring Break.

Barnwell recommends utilizing tools that will create equitable access opportunities for all students in the classroom. “Some apps and programs will be better for helping both in-person and remote students fully participate in any given lesson,” Barnwell states. He recommends activities through Pear Deck, Nearpod, Flipgrid, and Padlet as these tools “allow for both in-person and remote groups of students to access materials, participate, and interact with each other equitably during lessons and assignments.” He also recommends utilizing programs that districts already have access to – like Google Slides – to create interactive activities that allow for collaboration among students.

Hybrid learning will not be at the same pace as traditional, in-person instruction – and that’s to be expected and okay! Barnwell states that teachers need to be realistic in their expectations for hybrid learning. “The only way to keep all the moving parts in check is to slow down – a lot. Instead of a lesson with three activities, it might become two. Whereas you may have checked in or conferenced with everyone during one class period, now it will probably take two or three periods. Beyond curriculum pacing, it’s important to acknowledge that this learning environment isn’t normal or easy by any measure. Along with slowing down, teacher self-care is another important thing to consider.”

While many schools are implementing strict safety protocols and social distancing guides, Barnwell encourages educators not to completely abandon collaboration opportunities for students. Instead, he recommends using tools like breakout rooms to increase productivity and enhance remote learning. “With [hybrid] instruction, you can pair up in-person students with remote students in video-chat breakout rooms. Just be sure that your in-person students have headphones (to reduce audio distortion and feedback, as well as distractions). In-person and remote students can often be paired or teamed up for various types of classwork, whether it’s a discussion activity, collaborating in a Google Doc, or completing a science lab, among countless possibilities,” Barnwell states.

Educators need to remember that they are teaching in the middle of a pandemic and that students’ emotional well-being and mental health will always trump academics. Barnwell recommends incorporating SEL components into your regular teaching routine. He shares these classroom-ready SEL resources from Common Sense and their We All Teach SEL resource.

“As with any type of online or hybrid teaching, it’s imperative to consider students’ privacy,” Barnwell states. “In addition to being mindful of students’ data privacy, it’s also important to consider students’ visibility in shared online spaces.”

Whether it’s virtual or in-person, teachers should be mindful and accommodating of conversations with their students.

If this pandemic has taught us anything it’s that screen fatigue is REAL! Students and teachers are easily drained by the influx of screen time. Barnwell recommends infusing your schedule with planned and intentional “off-screen” opportunities – activities that don’t require a student to plug-in and engage with a screen.

For more tips and recommendations, or to read Barnwell’s article in full, please visit here.

About Kristin Oropeza
Kristin is a full-time special education teacher, contract consultant, and educational content writer. She is a Google Certified Teacher (Level 1 and 2), Google Certified Trainer, and MIE Expert for 2020-2021.