The remote learning format that has dominated K-12 education for the past year has posed many unique challenges to educators everywhere. At HHES, our teachers have remained dedicated to their students’ education and have continued to find new and exciting ways to engage with students by adapting a well-known, commonly used teaching technique called the Workshop Model to their online learning platforms.
The model has three steps and is designed to engage students and help students think creatively to come up with solutions to problems. First, the teacher presents a learning strategy to the class. For example, this could be a new math concept, or a reading strategy like how to infer the meaning of a word by using context clues. Next, students work together in small groups, or individually, to tackle a task that employs the new strategy. Finally, the students rejoin together as a class to “debrief,” during which the teacher facilitates a discussion in which students describe successes, any obstacles that were overcome, and then reinstating the strategy being presented.
Adapting this teaching method to a remote setting may have seemed challenging at first but has been met with lots of positive feedback. Anna Hoffman, a fifth-grade teacher at HHES, has been able to utilize the capabilities of the virtual classroom format to employ the Workshop Model in a way that not only guides her students through academic material, but also keeps them engaged in the subject matter.
According to Hoffman, each morning, the students can expect to check-in with each other, “taking time at the beginning to create a classroom community.” From there, she delves into the first learning strategy of the day. After a short lesson, she divides the class into breakout rooms where students collaborate on a specific task. After checking in with each group, the students are brought back into the online classroom and Hoffman leads them through a discussion that reviews the strategy and solidifies the lesson. Hoffman says that she has successfully applied this teaching technique to math, reading, mini-research projects, and other areas of instruction.
Hoffman admits that there have been challenges, but she’s been able to find ways around them for the most part. For example, students, and therefore teachers, are competing with multiple background distractions on a daily basis. Hoffman has learned that being structured in her class activities while also allowing for creativity and flexibility (i.e., through breakout rooms) helps make space for most students' needs. As Hoffman explains, “students thrive from structure and routine but there are multiple opportunities for variety. This way, we get to make sure that each student gets what they need to from class.”