Students are returning to school after nearly a year of virtual instruction, and teachers at all levels of Falls Church City schools are bringing some of the new tricks they’ve learned while away back into the classroom.
One major skill that’s come about is editing and distributing their own video content.
Nicole Guimaraes teaches music at Mount Daniel Elementary, and has seen how much it helps her students when she compresses her lessons down into short videos.
“There’s a lot of value in creating video lessons because [students] can go home and practice the song or do the lesson multiple times rather than just having to remember all of it from the classroom,” Guimaraes said. “Continuing to make video lessons for them is definitely something that I’m going to keep. It may not be as frequent, but definitely giving a video option I think is really important.”
Her ability to navigate video editing and bring some rave-like energy to the blue screen even landed Guimaraes as the executive producer for a virtual assembly at Mount Daniel.
Principal Tim Kasik was seeking someone to get people excited for the return to class late last month, so the talented music teacher put together a 30 minute video showcasing the school’s community and students.
But it hasn’t been Guimaraes doing all the work herself.
Another adaptation she tasked her students with is making their own music videos as a substitute for in-class performances.
They could play their instruments to stuffed animals or toys, and then submit the recording to the class so everyone could watch it.
That’s taken one step further with second graders finishing a group music video project that they did in collaboration with a professional singer.
While Guimaraes wasn’t sure if these practices would become part of her curriculum once a full return to school does happen, it’s been a helpful tool to have since specials teachers (such as art or music) haven’t been able to have in-person classes as of yet.
Science teacher Kish Rafique at the City’s high school has also used video content in her own classroom work, albeit a bit differently than Guimaraes. While researching for parts of her virtual instruction she found various songs about biological processes and voiced over them during her class period. It acted as her “virtual whiteboard,” in her own words where she could give students a preview of the day’s work ahead.
But that was when schooling was purely online and Rafique said she had to break the ice each day with her class. Now her biggest adaptation is finding ways for the students who’ve returned to class to interact with those who’ve opted to stay virtual. It’s a combination of using the school system’s software so classmates can share videos while talking over Zoom.
“Rather than just having them partner up in the classroom, I would have them find someone in the classroom and someone virtual, and they would make their own little breakout Zoom Room,” Rafique said. “And they would talk to each other and you know, have the camera on and the mic on. And then I would show videos that were embedded into our software that we use.”
Streamlining all of her classroom materials has been helpful for Kelsey Lietzen, who teaches English and is the adviser for the high school’s newspaper, The Lasso. Over the past year she’s mainly focused on having her students collaborate on Google’s software to complete quick activities at the start of class. So while she has them use Google Slides to see what their assignment is, they then hop over to Google Docs to do their work and share it with her.
Lietzen admitted that what she’s doing isn’t “anything revolutionary,” but some familiarity with technology has made the progression of her lessons easier.
Rafique echoed that when she said students would discuss how other teachers were having trouble just getting the technology to do what they wanted, so her more cohesive classes were a welcome break.
Despite all the nifty new techniques the teachers have learned, there really hasn’t been a replacement for seeing their students in the flesh again.
Rafique, who was worried about how the hybrid model would play out at first, has said it’s been great to “feel like I finally have my superpower of teaching back.”
Lietzen, meanwhile, mentioned that the transition back to the class has been overwhelming — since she’ll go from talking with students in class to chatting with others on three different platforms after that — and is taking some getting used to. But all in all, “being with students has been awesome. I forgot how energized I was being in a classroom with them.”