Introduction to Schoology

beginners guide to learning the basic functions of schoology for grades 4 5 6


Introduction to Schoology: 


    A learning management system allows you to run a virtual classroom while managing administrative tasks such as taking attendance, inputting, and recording grades. Choosing a learning management system is tough. In the past, I started out using Edmodo. It was ahead of current tech trends and allowed a constant relationship between school and home. Then I dabbled with Google Classroom, for the fact that it was easily connected with so many apps and extensions. For many years colleagues within my district used a platform that spoke to them, whether it was Google Classroom, See Saw, Schoology, or simply posting on a website. With the onset of remote learning due to the worldwide pandemic, my district made a decision to move forward with a streamlined learning management system so that all teachers could remain on the same page. Beginning in September 2020, our district is requiring teachers to use Schoology. 

    Having used several learning management systems before, there are aspects of all of them that I loved. 
  • Edmodo: So easy for the kids and parents to navigate as it resembled a Facebook newsfeed. It is very intuitive and fostered a nice relationship between school and home. 
  • Google Classroom: Integrated nicely with many other apps and extensions. There are so many that are specifically made to work with Google Classroom. 
  • Schoology: The ability to track and sync grades with our grade book, Infinite Campus, makes life so much easier. Report card time is now a breeze as it takes the effort out of calculating grades and limits the need for a paper grade book. 

Knowing that the onset of remote learning has put many others in the same predicament, I will introduce you to Schoology so that by the time you are using it, you will have a good idea about the features it holds and areas to pay attention to.

Getting to Know the Schoology Platform: 

When you log into Schoology, your home page may look something like this. Along the top, you will see the Schoology logo. Whenever you click on it, it will take you to this screen. 

Courses: 


Clicking this button will take you to a page that lists all your courses. This is also known as the Course Dashboard. Here you will be able to click on any of the icons to access the course in which you want to view. 

    Courses are normally populated for you, by your district. 

    The icons for the courses can be changed. You can choose one of Schoology's limited layouts or create your own. 
Getting Started with Schoology by learning about the courses that you will use for your grade 4 5 6 classes

Groups: 


Groups are different from courses in that they are created to allow for professional development, communication, collaboration, and resource sharing. Teachers can create a group for class parents, clubs, or a collegial circle. 

    There are also groups already formed on Schoology. One that you might be interested in joining as a newbie is Schoology Educators. In order to join a group: 
  • Click on "Groups" along the top bar. 
  • To the far right, click on "My Groups" 
  • There you have the ability to join a group with either an access code or by searching school or public groups. 
  • Or, you can create a group and invite others to join in. 

Resources: 

    This is an area that holds all your teacher stuff. Think of it as your virtual filing cabinet. All folders and materials that you use to teach are housed here in one easy spot. There is unlimited storage in this area, so that is one worry off of your mind! 

    
Resources tab in Schoology

    There are three areas that you will want to familiarize yourself within Schoology's resource area. 

  • Left-side Navigation bar: This allows you to toggle between your 
    • Personal resources: Ones that you create or upload into Schoology. 
    • Public resources: Ones that are available to everyone. 
    • Group resources: Ones that are shared in one of the groups that you belong to.   

  • My Resources: Your personal or shared collection of resources. 

  • Home: This is your working area where you will allow you to search for materials depending upon which resource tab you are in. 
    • For example: if you are in public resources, you can search for a particular resource that you may need. 
    • In personal resources, you can create your own assignments or upload them from elsewhere on your computer.  

Profile:

    Who doesn't love creating their profile? Here you can personalize your experience. You can add a photo (I like to use my Bitmoji) and play around with the settings by clicking on your name to the far right. You will see a drop-down menu that includes: 
  • Your profile
  • Your school page
  • Settings
  • Subscriptions
  • Log Out

Creating and personalizing your Schoology profile

In profile, you will see options to:
  • Add a picture - Click and upload a picture on your computer or choose from one of Schoology's limited avatars
  • Add interests and activities
  • Write a bio - could include teaching background, certifications, and achievements
  • Include updates - only those who have access to your profile page will get the updates (depends on how your district sets this up)
  • Write a blog - This is meant for you to use (if you choose - I don't) as a personal blog to write about educational topics
  • Create a portfolio - (Only available for Enterprise members) - You can create, view, and share personal portfolios. 
  • Connections - other members of your community 

These are basic functions of Schoology. Follow my posts to learn more. Have you scheduled an assignment to Schoology yet? Learn how here

What else would you like to learn about Schoology? Let me know in the comments. 




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    Back to School Activities to Support SEL in a Digital Classroom

       

     With so many articles now coming out about the mental health ramifications of Coronavirus on our students, planning ahead to improve the social emotional health of your students is one of the best decisions that you can make for a positive 2020 - 2021 school year. With many districts still furiously putting together a plan, finding ways to connect, communicate, and get creative with your students will only help you to adapt to whatever situation is thrown at you. 

        My most recent post outlined what social emotional learning is, the importance of it especially after the pandemic and quick ways to connect, communicate, and get creative with your students. You can read more about it here. Below, I will outline specific activities that can be done remotely to help build personal relationships with your students while you are remote or distance learning. 

    Ways to Build Personal Relationships to Improve Student Social Emotional Health: 

        One of the key differences between school before the pandemic and opening in the 2020-2021 back to school season is that prior to Coronavirus, we had enough time in your classrooms to develop personal relationships with our students. We were already able to use our expertise to make connections and tap into our student's social emotional health. A concern for many teachers starting this back to school season is... how can I make connections with students I do not know. It is not an ideal situation and it can be difficult, however, utilizing the following suggestions will allow you to do your best to form a relationship with your students. 

    Making connections, communicating, and getting creative: 

        Students need to feel connected to your classroom, you as the teacher, and their classmates. The stronger their connection, the stronger their internal desire to want to try their best in the class. 

        Communication is important, and a two-way street. It is important as the teacher to be clear in your instructions and ways that you are communicating about academics. Students need to feel comfortable to communicate in return. Students should and need to feel comfortable to tell you when they do not understand something or if there are things in their personal life that inhibit them from completing assignments or doing well in school. 

        Students know when teachers care. They can tell when you WANT to be there and when you are trying your best for them. However, they may get bored at the same monotonous plan. Try to get creative every once in a while with a new activity or how it is presented. This will keep students engaged and motivated in your classroom. 

    Ways to Improve Student Social Emotional Learning in Your Classroom: 

    Below are specific ideas to use in the distance learning setting to build and improve your personal relationships with your students. 

        - Video biography: When the back to school season starts, our new students don't know anything about us. They don't know who our children are, pets, fun hobbies, favorite sports teams, or snack that we gotta have. These are usually things that we share at the beginning of the school year, as we are together in the classroom, or something students observe us doing in the classroom. Much of that is removed. Before the school year starts, create a video biography for your students. 


        In the biography, start with an introduction. Tell the students who you are, what you are teaching them (especially for upper elementary school teachers who may be departmentalized), and how you cannot wait to get to know them. Share about teaching experience, which college you attended, and degrees that you achieved.  

        After you have shared a bit about your professional side, get into some fun stuff. Share the fun facts. Since this is a video, you can even show them your house, pets, or family members. If you are comfortable, have family members give a quick hello. This aspect of the video will show students that you are human, just like them. You are their teacher but you also have a life outside of school. Creating these connections will allow students to understand you better as an educator, but also as a person. 

        Another good idea to do after you have shared your video biography with the students is to have them respond. Their responses could be done in a FlipGrid format. Allow them to share about their personal lives. If you have your students do this, be sure to take the time to watch and respond. Watching their videos will allow you to learn more about who they are as a human being. 


    back to school getting to know you social emotional learning video project


        - Theme Weeks! In my school district, every few months we have theme weeks. They are weeks when we can show our school spirit. Often the teachers get into it more than the students. Bring the theme weeks to your eLearning classroom. Theme weeks can take the anxiety out of what to wear when they are seeing their classmates and it is a fun way to get the students to come to the meeting. Some ideas for a theme week can include: 
                - Pajama Week (This is easy enough when we are working from home!)
                - School Spirit - wear school colors or any spirit gear
                - Dress for the Decade - choose a decade and dress like they did
                - Favorite sport team
                - Choose a color (blackout, neon, etc)
                - Dress to Impress - sometimes dressing up even when you are at home feels good for the body and spirit
                - Dress for the future - dress for the profession you want to become (I dressed as an FBI agent once! 😂 )


                                                 increase student mental health in your classroom through communication and connections

        - Tutorials - When introducing something new to your students, it is a good idea to create a tutorial to walk them through the steps. In the classroom, you would most likely be doing this as a whole class activity allowing the students to observe you. In remote learning, the video can serve the same purpose and allow students to rewatch it several times if they are having trouble. While it may seem more time-consuming, it may actually save you time in the long run as you can refer to the tutorial if there are questions and share it with parents. 

        A tutorial will also allow students to see and hear what you are doing. This hits several modalities that allow for better comprehension. Tutorials are very important at the beginning of the year as you set up your digital classroom procedures. Students need to understand your routines so they can fit into them. Tutorials can be created for concepts but should also be created for classroom procedures such as: 
                - How to take assessments
                - Course expectations
                - How to submit work
                - How and where to ask questions or get in touch


        - A safe place to share - Think about creating a safe place or an outlet for students to share about their lives. Discussion boards can be created in some learning management systems such as Schoology where students can respond to questions asked by a teacher or student response. The more places a student has to share, the more comfortable they will feel opening up to you. 

        Another option is an activity like, "Three Things I Want My Teacher to Know". This allows students to write down three things they want to share with you. Some students take assignments like this seriously and will divulge information about their personal life that can make their classroom behavior more understandable. Read more about it here. You can access the material to implement this assignment into your classroom TODAY below. 

        Also, an activity that I absolutely LOVE... having students share what their bedroom looks like. Initially, this activity was completed as a companion to a book but it gave me so much insight into the life of my student that I also include this as a back to school activity. Get the assignment and read more about it here


        - Remind! - This is an app that allows you to safely communicate with parents or students through text messaging in a safe way. The app ensures that your personal number is not given out. Communication is key in any relationship. When we are distance teaching, aspects of communication can be lost. The more ways you can communicate with students and families, the easier your life will be. Being able to remind parents and students of new assignments posted, due dates, assessments, etc may seem like a lot of work on the forefront but it will save you time on the backend. Think of when grades are due and you won't have to chase anyone down because you already have all quarter. Your future self will thank you! 


    I hope these activities provide you with a starting point as you enter the new school year. It is important to keep in mind the fragile social emotional state of our students and doing our best to support them as we transition back into an unknown situation. If you have comments or questions, please share them below! 

    Other ready-made lessons and activities to get to know your students.  

    Three Things I Want My Teacher to Know

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      How to Support SEL during Remote Learning


      supporting the social emotional health of your grade 4 5 6 students while teaching remotely

       Remote or distance learning was something that was mentioned but not really thought out until we were thrown into it in the spring of 2020. While academics always play a role in the learning process, one area that was severely neglected was the social - emotional learning of our students. It is no wonder why as millions of schools worldwide closed down without any notice and with good reason, as we needed to protect the physical well-being of all human beings. However, now that we have time to look back and reflect on our practices, this is an area that needs to be addressed and nurtured as we look to the future of what distance learning might look like. 

          Across the United States, one of the biggest complaints I heard from fellow educators was the lack of engagement from the students and how it waned as the school year went on. This happened despite having time in the classroom to make connections and form relationships with our students. So if we start the fall of 2020 eLearning, how can we engage students with whom we have no relationship at all? 

          My passion for this area has had me to research and brainstorm several ways that I can hone in on the social emotional needs of my future students. The three areas I need to cover with my students to have the best outcome of participation and engagement are making connections, communication, and creativity. Covering these three areas will set a solid foundation in having invested learners. 

      Feeling connected: 

          The ability to make social connections with one another is an area that can sometimes be overlooked when the curriculum is always on our mind. Feeling connected has many positive effects including: 
      • improving your quality of life
      • boost mental health
      • live a longer life
      • decrease suicide risk
      Students need to feel connected to their classmates, teacher, and as an integral part of the classroom environment. 

      making students feel connected to their grade 4 5 6 classroom fosters healthy social emotional learning skills


      Communication: 

          Being able to communicate with one another is an important life skill to have. Much has been written on the importance of parent - teacher communication but communication between the student and teacher is just as, if not more, important. Communication is not limited to how an assignment should be completed. Communication should also include: 
          The way you communicate with a student is just as important as the words you use. Students are attuned to know which teachers like them and which teachers may not be fond of them. Avoid letting them know. Be sure to make eye contact, engage in a few minutes of personal communication to build relationships, and avoid power struggles. Try to respectfully talk about negative behaviors 1:1 or without other classmates watching and listening. 

      Creativity: 

          It may not sound like it but being creative will also help build a relationship and engage your students. For a teacher new to the digital world, I can understand the feelings of overwhelm as you struggle to not only develop relationships with your new students but understand a new digital platform and then vary what you are using the increase student interest.

      I get it! 

          When I talk about varying your teaching style and the tools that you use, just know that because you are distance teaching does not mean everything HAS to be digital. Sometimes a minor switch like that can reinspire a student. Even though we are on a digital platform, it is still vital to try to incorporate the different learning styles of our students. Simple modifications to assignments like having a student draw their response or make something to take on a kinesthetic/ STEM-like approach can reel in students who may otherwise be disengaged. It can inspire curiosity and keep them wanting more from your classroom. 

      Ways to support SEL needs for grade 4 5 6 students in the distance learning classroom


      Ways to develop a social - emotional relationship while distance teaching: 

      It can be a struggle to develop a relationship with your students in the classroom, nevermind over the internet but the following ways are some ideas that I plan to implement to make my students feel comfortable and connected to my classroom, improve and open the lines of communication as well as demonstrate a level of creativity that will engage and motivate my students. 

      Live sessions:

      This is not voluntary, but was a requirement for my school district however, holding the live meetings with my students was a way for me to connect with them face to face. While not entirely ideal, I did like the fact that the live meetings allowed me into my students' homes. During the meetings, we were able to connect in a different way than in school. Students were able to have an eye into my personal life, seeing my home, my pets, the mugs that I drink my tea in. It also gave me a lens into their homes. These connections helped to strengthen our bond and gave me ideas on what to talk to my students about in future sessions. During the live meetings, you can vary what you do:

          • Before tackling the curriculum, spend a few minutes checking in with the students. Instead, start with questions about the weekend or have a random poll to spark the interest of your students. 
          • Think of different SEL activities that you can do with your students. 
          • Group mindfulness activity: Mindfulness is linked to self - regulation and self - awareness, two areas I think most people I know can improve, especially young adults. Check out these ideas here

      Recorded sessions: Live sessions are so much fun but another way to build upon the social emotional health of your students is to make recorded videos. Quick recorded video clips help to better communicate with your students. Students would love to have a video of their teacher saying happy birthday to them for the whole class to see. Another idea is to make a recording for any important class announcements. The more the students see you, the better connected they will feel to learning. 

      recorded videos help communication in your remote learning  grade 4 5 6 classroom

      Updates: This is especially important if you are not allowed to hold live sessions through your district. Including updates weekly or daily is a good option to help stay better connected with the students. Many learning management systems like Google Classroom or Schoology include an area for announcements or discussion threads. To keep it manageable, you can use these features to quickly communicate with your classes. 

      Learning Management System: Many schools will hold a requirement of which LMS you need to use. You can still spice it up to make it fun. Bitmoji classrooms are all the rage right now. Think about spending the time to create one, it doesn't have to be anything crazy but getting creative and having your digital avatar in your digital classroom is something that kids enjoy seeing. 

      bitmoji classrooms are a popular way to engage students and personalize the learning experience

      This is a lot of information to take in and digest. Think about the different ways that you can open up your digital classroom to make students feel connected, open the lines of communication, and be creative. Next week I will give explicit ideas on fun ways to improve the social - emotional health of your classroom. 

      Supporting the mental health of our students in a digital classroom

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