Joy + Accountability in COVID-19 Learning

For almost two years, I have been working on integrating STEM and social emotional learning in my inquiry-based collaborative math teams.  Some days have been more productive than others, but I have not been losing ground as far as content mastery…at least not until COVID-19 hit.

My first thought was to just post the videos and worksheets and cross my fingers, but I know my students well enough to believe only 10% of them would do the work. Thankfully, research and tips I learned from my edu-Twitter feed fueled some ideas that have been very helpful.

Curiosity:  Before posting any activities, my email updates to students and their families were designed to make them wonder what I was up to.  I hinted that I was working on something that could be fun.  My plan was to come up with a way for students to be able to learn remotely with their classroom teams which have become like micro-families that regroup after each unit.

Anticipation:  I told them they would want to be prepared for the action so they would be able to “play along.”  In order to be prepared, they needed to review with two videos and a practice page I provided.  Then they needed to upload their work to Google Classroom where I could quickly provide feedback.  They had a week to do that before the fun would begin.  One student was really nervous, so we worked one-on-one in Zoom, giving me valuable experience and practice.  I could see that all my students could all do the first problems correctly, but not the second.  I was a little disappointed because it was clear they didn’t watch the second video (and probably didn’t need the first).   But about 70% have completed the activity so far and 77% came to the first online meeting.

Nudges:  To be honest, the best curiosity and anticipation I can generate is unlikely to compete well with the social media and gaming options my students have.  I only got those percentages by holding them accountable.  Since grading students is on hold in my district for now, I put comments in the grade book.  In my emails to students and parents, I encourage them to view the comments to know if I can see progress is being made.

Learning and assessment:  We’re off to a good start.  In class meetings, my students have two tabs open:  Zoom and whatever we are working on.  I am currently using 2 options:

  1.  I create a lesson in Google Slides with a Peardeck or Nearpod add-on so they can write on the slides as I watch all of them in real time.  HERE  are my slides for Thurs-Friday.  Sorry that lesson is so procedural.  That’s not normal for me!  I explain what is happening HERE  I presented in Notebook with the same slide content because I can write along with my students.  When the lesson was done, Peardeck sent each student their notes in Google Classroom:


2.   I use a lesson already created in Desmos, where I can assess students’ understanding as they submit and give them feedback (both within Desmos and through Zoom).

 which I start by creating a class (one click)

from HERE
Summary page looks like this:

individual work in progress looks like this:


The best part, though, is assigning students to the same groups in Zoom “breakout rooms” as they have in our classroom.  They can share their screens and collaborate.  They were all so excited to be able to do that.  I popped into their groups to check on them (boo!).   One student brought her chicken to “school.” chicken2

Most of the students returned for the next Zoom class and some others joined in.  I have no doubt the learning would have been not nearly as successful with a video and worksheet.  My plan is to find new ways of doing things as interest wanes because the novelty has worn off.  So what are your your ideas?  What are your successes?


Kidd, Celeste, & Hayden, Benjamin Y. 2015. “The Psychology and Neuroscience of Curiosity.” Neuron88, no. 3, (November): 449–460.

‌Yuhas, D. 2014. “Curiosity Prepares the Brain for Better Learning.” Accessed February 11, 2020.

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