Planning for Virtual Learning

I had started writing a blog post a month ago about intentionally writing lesson plans that easily convert to virtual substitute during flu season, since nothing is worse than having to write sub plans while feeling horrible. Obviously it feels like the entire world has been turned upside down since that. For the past two weeks my district has been evaluating and designing virtual learning opportunities. Today I start teaching through Canvas and Zoom. 

This blog post is mostly for my own benefit. By writing down my plans and anticipated problems, I hope to be as prepared as possible for this week. This is not my first time teaching virtually; I have the benefit of having taught an educational technology grad class virtually for 3 semesters, but I know it will be a vastly different experience because of the age of learners and levels of motivation. 


I used to have a daily Announcement with directions and necessary links on our LMS Canvas; now I will post a detailed weekly Announcement with directions and necessary links. It will be familiar to the students, but allow them the freedom to work at their own pace. Last night I posted the Announcement for students, emailed parents with a PDF of the Announcement and directions on how to become an Observer on Canvas, and emailed learning support students/guardians about the built in modifications available and my recommendations for the assignment choices. 

2For communication about assignments, I will host brief check in meetings with my classes on Zoom the first day. They can see me and hear me explain the expectations. It will give them a chance to ask questions if necessary. I have two types of office hours – virtual on Zoom and guaranteed email checks. Side note: I use Canva to create beautiful images for Canvas and Zoom. 

Once students start turning in assignments, I will be able to send messages from the Canvas grade book – for students who score below a certain score or who have not turned in an assignment. I need to remind them where to check for messages – both Canvas inbox and email. On Twitter, @TheiTeamHawk shared a digital task tracker, I am providing that as an option for students.  

Task Tracker

I pre-wrote my script on Notes. That way it is out of view when I share my Chrome screen on Zoom. As I get more comfortable, I might just write the big ideas and bullet points for what I need to remember to mention. However, right now, the script makes me feel more confident. Since I can’t record sessions with students, but need to post the communication on Canvas, I practiced with the platform over the weekend. I only did it twice, opting for authenticity instead of perfection. At the top of my script I include all the links for websites I plan on referencing while teaching. I have them open before recording, but in case they are accidentally closed, it is easy to access with little stress. This is something I learned while teaching the online grad class. You cannot be overprepared. 

4For the Zoom sessions with students, I have an image that will be shared on the screen when they log in. I like that Zoom allows features to manage people joining – like muting entrants automatically, controlling video, and the waiting room. This is the opening slide before we get started. 

I will ask a check in question and have every student respond in the chat box, which will allow me to take attendance afterwards, yes I know there is an option for that through Zoom reports, but this is more personable. “While we are waiting for people to join and to make sure you can hear the audio – I want you to respond in the chat box with 3 emojis: 1. How are you? 2. How many people are learning/working in your house? 3. What is something fun you did recently? 😏 / 4️⃣ / 📦🎢 “ My experience of being in high school and college during the zenith of AIM chats are definitely an advantage for managing reading/responding to text while doing other things. 


For me, I am maximizing GoogleDrive, including features I didn’t use previously. With priorities, GoogleDrive will allow you to create a Workspace with up to 25 files. This keeps everything in one space without having to search through the chaos of hundreds of subfolders. I created a schedule for myself; there are school scheduled obligations/teaching blocks, but I also wanted to have enough time to leave feedback and check in with students who are not completing assignments. It was also important to communicate to my husband and kids that there are certain hours I will not be available. I am lucky to have a dedicated home office. It was for my husband’s catering business, but unfortunately that has been suspended right now, so I took over the space. 


This was a huge adjustment. Initially we could only provide enrichment opportunities, then we could provide scaled back learning. So our PLC decided on three levels of content requirements, communicated with three different colors in the directions: Must Do, Pick One, and Choice Board. The names are self-explanatory. 

Must Do is either reading the text or going through the Nearpod. I created the Nearpod to include audio reading the slides to support the learning support and English Language Learners I have. A new feature on Nearpod will allow students to record audio back in the Open Response Question. This is awesome! I will be taking advantage of this next week. 

Our assessments had to change. Big ideas will be assessed, and not just in traditional ways. Students will Pick One: an open note quiz (because we can’t stop them, so might as well allow for all students), creating original artwork, or a Zoom conversation. I will not be lecturing for 90 minutes, twice a week that is scheduled. I will have 15-30 minute directions for students with the remaining portions being asynchronous. If students cannot attend synchronously, I do have the recordings posted on Canvas. Our 1:1 classroom was already set up in this blended way, so it will not be too different to plan and deliver. 

Screen Shot 2020-03-30 at 6.55.28 AM

The Choice Board allows flexibility and plenty of choices to extend their knowledge. Some of these tools were specifically selected because they have features to benefit learning support students, like Quizizz has an option to read the questions aloud. All of the options – from the Must Do to Pick One to the Choice Board – will have associated assignments on Canvas to turn in for feedback. It has yet to be determined the grading aspect of this virtual experiment/experience. I am ready. 

I will teach you on Zoom

Unknown original creator – I tried to find them – but it’s widely shared online without attribution


About Lisa Butler

Middle school geography teacher, tech trainer, Flocabulary MC, Nearpod PioNear, and Edcamp Hershey Founder. I have embraced the power of purposeful technology and am creative with their application. If I am not doing something with ed or tech, I am probably reading children's books, baking with a toddler sidekick, running around, or dreaming of traveling.
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