Remote Learning A-Z

Remote Learning A-Z

26 tips for remote teaching
For 26 days, we will be bringing you tips, tricks, and freebies for remote teaching! Here is the list so far:

Follow us and never miss a tip!

Back to School Math Resources

Back to School Math Resources

Even though this back to school season is not exactly “normal,” we have some new resources to support your teaching! Whether you are back to in-person learning, teaching remotely, homeschooling, or a mix…we’ve got you covered!

As a bonus, these items and more will ALL be on sale at Teachers Pay Teachers August 31- and September 1!

Back to School Review Units in Math (Grades 1-5)

Each of our two-week units come complete with printables, digital student visual support, comprehensive lesson plans, and engaging activities that will help your students start the year with a math-packed review of previous year standards. For older students, most practice pages also come in a self-graded Google Form format just in case you have to do something remotely. It is also a fantastic set of lessons to use for intervention!

Check it out here:

Grade 1Grade 2Grade 3Grade 4Grade 5

Back to School Math Fun!

This is a perfect way to start the year with math! Included are two blackline master versions of a math poster to show students how numbers and math are all around us. Great for primary and upper grades! As a bonus, we’ve included a Back to School Math Survey to help you understand your students’ mindset towards math AND help each student set a math goal!

Get it on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Number of the Day (Grades 2-5)

This set of Number of the Day templates comes with a set of student blackline printables and PDF Google Slides! Each Number of the Day is open-ended and can be used with any number that fits student needs and what you’re teaching in math. Templates grow change in complexity as the year goes on and students are more confident working with numbers!

These templates are also found in our Daily Brain Boosts, 180 days of Spiral Math Review for the whole year (see below!)

Check out the Numbers of the Day here: Grades 2-3 | Grades 4-5

180 Days of Spiral Math Review (Grades 2-5)

These sets contain 180 days of engaging, standards-aligned spiral reviews for math. Each day has its own blackline master for students AND corresponding Google Slides. The year starts with a review of previous standards, and then progresses into a spiral review all year long of the current grade’s math skills and concepts.

Don’t just use our daily spiral reviews for math warmups: they are also great as an intervention tool, for formative assessment, centers work, games, and so much more!

Get our Daily Brain Boosts here:

Grade 2Grade 3Grade 4Grade 5

And…a Back to School Giveaway!

Who doesn’t love freebies? Click here to win a $50 giftcard to Amazon!

We hope you have a wonderful 2021-22 school year, however you are teaching!

Recommended Books Celebrating AAPI Heritage

Recommended Books Celebrating AAPI Heritage

May is Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month!

I’ve always been a reader. I used to get in trouble (nightly) for reading at the table. I have vivid memories of eating and simultaneously propping my book up against the bowl.

The thing is, with all those books I devoured and loved, there weren’t any books with kids that looked like me or had families like mine. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I vividly remember reading Blubber by Judy Blume and being flabbergasted that the main character’s best friend was named Tracy Wu. I mean, wow! A supporting role! Thank you, Judy Blume!

In doing research for our collection of AAPI Literature Activities, I found so many more stories, novels, and picture books for all ages that feature the kids and cultures of the AAPI community than were around when I was a kid. Below are the books we’ve highlighted in our newest unit, Literacy Activities for 13 AAPI Stories. These wonderful picture books teach lessons, provide positive representations of AAPI families, and are also at the heart, quality literature.

AAPI Traditional Tales

Mela and the Elephant

A Thai Tale by Dow Phumiruk

This sweet story about Mela teaches a lesson of kindness and giving without needing anything in return, even towards your little brother!

Dow Phumiruk is also an artist, and illustrated Titan and the Wild Boars and Maya Lin, both featured in our AAPI Unit for Grades 4-5.

Grades K-2

Two of Everything

A Chinese Fable by Lily Toy Hong

This classic tale is often used as an introduction to multiplication, but it’s also a hilarious story of a magical doubling pot that goes a little bonkers.

Grades K-3

The Green Frogs

A Korean Folktale by Yumi Heo

This silly story with adorable illustrations is about two naughty green frogs that always do the opposite of what they are told to do.

Yumi Heo also wrote other beautiful, simple stories such as One Afternoon and Ten Days and Ten Nights.

Note: Students may be sensitive to the death of the mother at the end. Like all books, read through before deciding to share it with your audience.

Grades K-2

AAPI Immigration Stories

The Lotus Seed

A Vietnamese Story by Sherry Garland

This gorgeous book tells the of the narrator’s grandmother, who escaped Vietnam and stole a lotus seed from the Imperial Garden to remember her native land. The language is simple but powerful and Tatsuro Kiuchi’s illustrations are beautiful.

Sherry Garland is the author of over thirty different books for children.

Grades 2-4

The Most Beautiful Thing

A Hmong Story by Kao Kalia Yang

This generational story has the narrator, Kalia, explaining the life of her grandmother in Laos and her journey to the United States. How much Kalia and her family love their grandmother is apparent on every page.

Kao Kalia Yang used her own experiences as a Hmong refugee to tell this story. Some of her other books for children are A Map into the World and The Shared Room.

Grades 1-4

Adjusting to a New Life

A Different Pond

A Vietnamese Story by Bao Phi

I love this one so much I put it in our AAPI units for both 2/3 and 4/5! In this story, the narrator gets up very early to accompany his father to fish for food. The story is told simply enough for younger readers to understand, but the ideas are complicated enough for older readers to consider.

Bao Phi is a spoken word artist as well as a writer.

Grades 2-4

The Name Jar

A Korean Story by Yangsook Choi

This story has been around since I was teaching (long, long ago) and still represents a complicated experience shared by many students. Unhei is new to the US from Korea, and no one in her class can pronounce her name. Her class makes her a name jar of suggestions for a new name, but in the end Unhei realizes she’d rather keep her own.

Yangsook Choi is a Korean-born author and illustrator. Some of her other books include Peach Heaven and New Cat.

Grades 2-4

Delicious Tales

I do have to say a little something about food books. As the pounds I’ve gained from quarantine can attest, I love food as much as the next person. So many cultural stories for kids are written around the central theme of eating together, because often that’s where all kinds of families gather and bond. Just a note of caution: if all the books you share with students are limited to food and cultural celebrations/holidays, it isn’t enough. For more about that, see my blog post on Teaching Responsively.

How My Parents Learned to Eat

A Japanese-American Story by Ina R. Friedman

This story is told from the point of view of a daughter, about how her parents met in Japan and tried to secretly learn how to eat (with chopsticks and knife and fork) to impress each other. The part at the end where the narrator explains why her family sometimes uses chopsticks and sometimes knife and fork is the best part.

Grades 1-2

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji

An Indian Tale by F. Zia

This is really two stories in one: the first is about Aneel and his grandfather, and the second is grandfather’s wild tale. This one is a lot of fun to read aloud.

This was the only book I could find by F. Zia, who is an elementary teacher also. I can imagine she might be a little busy right now!

Grades K-2

Cora Cooks Pancit

A Filipino Story by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore

This is a sweet story about little Cora who has been watching her mother and siblings cooking for a long time, but has always been stuck with the “kid jobs.” A recipe for Pancit is even included at the end.

This was the only book I could find by the author that was readily available. We hope she writes more!

Grades K-2

‘Ohana Means Family

An Hawaiian Tale by Ilima Loomis

This beautifully illustrated book is written in the style of “The House that Jack Built.” It tells the story of everything (and everyone) that contributes to preparing the poi for a luau.

Ilima Loomis is a freelance writer and journalist based in Hawaii. Her other children’s books can be found here.

Grades K-2

Obviously, there are so many more examples of wonderful AAPI literature that were not featured in this set of curriculum. Some titles will be featured in our next curriculum unit for upper grade students. In the meantime, check out our latest unit on Japanese-American Internment for 4th-5th focusing on the book Fred Korematsu Speaks Up.

Students should see their faces and experiences reflected in the world around them as often as possible, including in the books we share with them. We’ve come a long way since Tracy Wu, but we still have much further to go.

Remote Learning A-Z: Z is for Zoom

Remote Learning A-Z: Z is for Zoom

In a matter of months, the pandemic has made Zoom one of our primary means of communication for work, school, and even happy hours. I mean, you know it’s getting real when even Hogwarts is using it for remote learning.

In preparation for this post I conducted a research-validated, longitudinal study on the effects of Zoom from the student perspective. (More accurately, I sent a mass email to all my friends and begged them to respond). In this email, I asked kids what their teacher does on Zoom that they like, do not like, and wish for or would change.

Not surprisingly, the student opinions were illuminating! Also as expected, the feedback about Zoom varied with grade level. Here are some common threads:

Games and Routines Win

From TK to High School, students appreciated a predictable daily routine. From our intern’s post about remote learning, even college students feel this way.

Daily activities like a morning warm-up, Calendar, and games are big hits with students. One first grader specifically called out games like Simon Says, Mystery Kid, and Charades as her favorite thing.


Think about ways to set daily or weekly routines, and infuse a little fun into some of your regular activities. Check out our Yay! post for ideas on little ways to celebrate with kids remotely, and How are you doing? post for ideas on checking in with students.

More Breaks and More Snacks!

Even students are feeling the fatigue from too much onscreen time. Many students appreciated when teachers notice the wiggles setting in and give students a quick break.

In all student surveys I’ve given and reviewed over the years, it really all just comes down to snacks. As educators we have to just accept it: snacks are paramount. All of our young learners would like more time to eat their snacks and their lunch.


Being online all the time is exhausting. Work in brief breaks off screen, as well as breaks to stretch, breathe, and jump around together. Try some of these stretches from Web MD. (And you’ll never hear me arguing about time for snacks.)

To Mute or Not to Mute?

Most students did not like the tyrannical power of the teacher to mute and unmute.

While the teacher in me defaults to saying: “Those are the breaks,” it does give us educators a little food for thought. In a traditional classroom, students talk to each other all the time. They ask questions, turn and talk, discuss, and make comments. In a Zoom environment, the chatter is far more distracting than in a classroom, leaving students without those little moments to dialogue with their peers.


Class management over Zoom is different from face-to-face instruction. Consider the systems and expectations you have in place to maintain mutual respect and still allow for discussion and sharing of ideas. Talk with your students about problems and brainstorm solutions together.

Zoom Cameras: On or Off?

For younger students (who primarily always have their cameras on) this didn’t come up. With older students, the camera preference varied, though some preferred when everyone’s camera is on.

Video conferencing does hinder our ability to read the physical and social cues we used to in a classroom. When cameras are on, at least we get more information about student wellness and attentiveness than a name on a black screen.

On the other hand, read our intern’s opinion on this. She reminds us there are many legitimate reasons students may not want to be on camera, and that we should be respectful of that.


For secondary students, consider a compromise to hard and fast camera rules. Even better, discuss this issue with students and come up with a solution together.

Breakout Rooms are a Bummer

The biggest complaint from secondary students was their overwhelming dislike of the Zoom breakout rooms, which were repeatedly described as “awkward,” “horrible,” and “unproductive.”

Many students reported sitting in silence in these rooms for the first few minutes before resorting to hastily dividing up the work, turning off cameras, and then hoping everyone did their part.

Argh…this is the exact opposite of what we want from groupwork!

As educators, it makes perfect sense to use breakouts for small group instruction and collaboration activities. However, student feedback makes it clear our classroom structures don’t always translate well to remote learning. Today, students haven’t established the connections they would have formed in a traditional classroom. In addition, teachers are unable to circulate as before during collaborative time to observe, facilitate, and redirect.

I can’t imagine teaching without small groups, but I recognize the struggle for our students is real. So consider some of these takeaways to make breakout rooms more effective and less painful:


  • Kids need explicit instruction: presenting the assignment and sending kids off in groups doesn’t always work over Zoom. Students need modeling and guidance on your expectations for working in a remote group. Consider collecting feedback from your own students and defining these norms together. This article from Forbes is about ground rules for remote business teams, but still has a lot of applicable advice.
  • Roles might make things less awkward: I’ve never been a big fan of group roles jobs like Timekeeper and Notetaker. However, in the Zoom environment, I’m reconsidering. Until students are more comfortable, it may also help to provide them with a defined structure: task, time frame, deliverable, facilitator. For teens, where everything is a profound embarrassment, having set parameters can dissipate some of the awkwardness.
  • Consider group size: One student commented he felt breakout rooms work better when only two students are together. Until students feel more comfortable, perhaps rotating partners won’t be quite as awkward or intimidating. You might even consider some collaboration activities solely focused on connecting with others. See our post on Interviews for more ideas.
  • Timing is important: Several students mentioned breakout rooms lasted far too long, reporting the longer they went on, the more counterproductive they became. Overall, it seems smaller chunks of breakout time are better.
  • It always comes down to the design: I believe I’ve now said this in four separate posts: In a true collaborative task, the task itself cannot be completed without the thinking and work of everyone on the team. Make sure your activities require group thinking, discussion, and analysis and not merely proximity. Tasks that students can slice into four equal parts and never interact are not collaboration. (And if that hasn’t convinced you, additional rants on collaboration are available for you here.)

Ask Your Students about Zoom

If you got this far, you might have discovered a common theme running through this post. If you’re thinking about making changes to your Zoom world, think about making them with your students. I highly suggest posing these three questions to your own class and problem solving the results together!

Follow Complete Curriculum on

Remote Learning A-Z: Y is for Yay!

Remote Learning A-Z: Y is for Yay!

Some of us are reaching the two month mark of remote learning. In my world, the fatigue is definitely setting in: for students, teachers, and parents. So first of all, Yay us! We got here! That means it’s definitely time to find ways to give yourself a break and have some remote fun with your students. In this post, we’ll explore ways to infuse a little balance into your life and your classroom.

Give Yourself a Break (You Deserve It!)


These days every teacher I know, whether they are new to teaching or have decades of experience under their belts, is exhausted. Reinventing lessons, learning new programs, and trying to keep students engaged every single day takes a staggering amount of time and energy. And that’s assuming the WiFi will be working!

Just remember, you can’t be as effective of a teacher when you’re stressed and exhausted. Read this article from ACSA that explains what happens to your brain when you’re stressed. Here are some tips for infusing a little perspective into your daily life.

Tips for Teachers

  • Temper expectations: this means for everyone, including yourself! You don’t need to answer emails and texts minutes after they are received. And while there certainly are emergencies through the course of teaching, most communications can wait a day. Set an auto-reply on your email that lets families and others know you’ve received the email and you will return with a reply within a certain time period.
  • Take time for yourself: You need boundaries! Working from home makes it all too easy to work constantly. But remember, just because you can log in all the time, does not mean you have to. Set a timer on your phone for regular reminders to get up, take a walk, sit outside, or do anything that doesn’t involve a screen. And remember, it will all be there when you get back, but even ten minutes can change your stress level and outlook.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others: Yes, that first grade teacher next door whose classroom looked like a magazine probably has the equivalent remote classroom up on Pinterest. Who cares? Most of us teachers are also Type As, (guilty) but remember, no one ever pins the unflattering stuff. Pretty is great, but solid teaching and attention to students’ social emotional well being is far better.
  • Ask for and accept help: We need to lean on each other more than ever these days. It’s perfectly acceptable to throw up a hand and ask someone to help. And, don’t forget to accept help when people are offering. Most people don’t ask unless they want to support. Team up with your families and work together to get through.


Yup, having school at home is hard. Education is my career and it’s still hard.

Parents, you also can’t be as effective when you’re stressed and exhausted. Guess what? The tips for teachers above apply to you too!

Teach Thought has a great post on the basics of remote learning at home, but chances are you’ve already done many of these things. Here are some additional tips for surviving the next leg of this journey with your children.

Additional Tips for Parents

  • See Above: Temper expectations, take time for yourself, stop comparing yourself to others, and ask for help! Those tips are important for parents also!
  • Check in a Lot: Make it a point to check in often with yourself and with your children. No one can learn (or teach) when there are other, more pressing emotions at play. Give yourself permission to take a break when needed.
  • Focus on the Essentials: No one believes parents will be able to replace traditional classroom instruction. So don’t try! A constant home-child battle doesn’t serve anyone in the long run. Ask your child’s teacher what the essential outcomes are for the unit, and focus on those things only.
  • Communicate (with empathy): Definitely ask your child’s teacher for guidance, and share what you are comfortable with about your home situation. Try to remember teachers aren’t mind readers; they need to know if there is something at home that could be affecting your child’s learning. If the homework took two hours and three tantrums last night, share that with your child’s teacher and ask for support.
  • Give Constructive Feedback: Teachers are operating under a schedule set by state and district guidelines. Remember these guidelines were set with the best intentions and NOT with full understanding of what remote teaching should look like, since no one really knew how it would look. Give solution-focused feedback where you can, and bear in mind there isn’t a playbook for this kind of instruction. All educators everywhere are doing the very best they know how. See more in our post on Working Together!
  • Have a Little (un) Remote Fun: Unlike our classroom teachers, you and your child can have offscreen fun together. Dance it out, play a game, take a walk, go on a 5 minute scavenger hunt in the house. Find ways to infuse tiny fun breaks during the day.

Have Some Remote Fun with Students

A former student of mine (from 2000! Please don’t do the math) recently contacted me on Facebook. She wanted to tell me how she still remembers making origami cranes in class. She also mentioned a cultural exchange trip she took to Japan, and how she was able to explain the reason for all the cranes at the Nagasaki museum. And while she didn’t remember the title of the book we read with that activity (Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes) but she vividly remembered the experience.

We all got into teaching because we love lesson planning and grading. Not. We got into teaching because of moments like that, where we connect and make an impression on our students. Every teacher I know misses those little wins, moments, and sparks that ultimately keep us going.

Remote Fun

Celebrating, connecting, and having a little fun with your students goes a long way to diffuse frustration and fatigue.

If you haven’t already, here are some remote fun and celebration ideas to infuse yin your classroom daily or weekly.

Remote Fun and Celebration Ideas

  • Questions of the Day: Remember there’s a lot less student-to-student connection happening these days. Start the day with a silly question to help students get to know one another, and you! Older students can also interview each other. See our post on Interviews for more tips.
  • Appreciate each other: When things are so busy, it’s hard to remember to say thank you. Make time for class appreciations, and create a virtual appreciation board (see our post on Jamboard) so students can see them.
  • Dance it out: A teacher I know used to have “Dance Party” breaks during class. When students were squirrely, she would stop everything and put on a song for a minute or two so they could get the wiggles out. In remote classrooms, boy do we need that still!
  • Play games: Simple games like Simon Says, I Spy, or Twenty Questions are great for little learners. For older students, try Mad Libs, scavenger hunts, charades, and popular games like Taboo, Scrabble, or Scattergories. You can also try your hand at making some online games, or check out ours.
  • Infuse art and music: We all know art and music stimulate important parts of the brain. Unfortunately, these subject can be left aside during remote learning. Doodle with Mo Willems, make your own instruments and play them, or try some of these art activities.
  • Have Spirit Days: Every Friday, have a different themed day: Superheroes, Crazy Hair, Pajama Day, Rainbow Day, Sports Day, etc.
  • Eat together: Have lunch with a few students once a week to get to know each other in a more relaxed, non-classroom environment.

As trying as these times are, I remain so impressed with how hard educators, parents, and students are working to make the best of this situation with positivity and grace. When it’s all over, I believe that’s what our children will remember about their time in remote learning.

So please, take a break and congratulate yourself for making it this far! You deserve it!

Remote Learning A-Z: X is for eXams

Remote Learning A-Z: X is for eXams

Remote learning has turned the traditional structure for exams on its ear. It used to be far easier to walk around the room and ensure everyone was on task and had phones put away. In this new era, all of that has gone out the window. Yet the need to assess hasn’t gone anywhere. How can we still get the student data we need in a remote classroom?

The Soapbox

I just can’t talk about exams and assessment without a little preaching. But since I’ve done a lot of that already (see our previous posts on Assessments and Quizzes), I’ll only gently remind you of a few key points:


  • is meant to give teachers actionable feedback. If you don’t act on the data you get, it’s far less useful.
  • should provide students with multiple ways to demonstrate mastery.
  • can and should take on many forms: anecdotal data collected each day, formative assessment to check understanding along the way, and summative assessment to show what you know.
  • should be rigorous and incorporate real-world application: The easiest test to give (and take) is the multiple choice exam, and sometimes its what does the trick. Just remember even in a remote world, “When in Doubt, Choose C” tests don’t always give a true picture of student understanding.

Make it UnGoogleAble

(I’m sure that’s not a word, but I’ve been told that when you’re a writer you get to make up words). Long before remote teaching began, the need for teachers to rethink how we ask questions has been critical.

When we have so much information available to us in seconds, the need for students to answer purely fact-based, “Googleable” information loses its importance in favor of questions that promote critical thinking, analysis, comparison, and synthesis of multiple sources. This places the emphasis on the application and understanding of information, and less on rote memorization.

Creating Better Questions

Instead of: What year was the March on Washington? Ask: What effect did the March on Washington have on the nation?

Instead of: Who are the main characters in The Phantom Tollbooth? Ask: Compare Milo and Tock’s friendship to Opal and Winn-Dixie‘s.

See this useful PDF from the Ohio Department of Ed for DOK 3 and 4 Question stems.

Another Perk

The other benefit of these type of exams is what I like to call Turkey-proofing. Sometimes kids can be turkeys. In a remote environment, it’s too easy to screenshot your exam in Period 1 and pass it along to your turkey pal in Period 3. The unGoogleable question not only forces critical thinking, but puts the focus on true understanding rather than hurriedly looking up quickly-forgotten facts. For more turkey-proofing strategies, see our post on Quizzes.

Remote Assessment Ideas

Here are some alternatives to the traditional exam format. While they might take more time to grade, you’ll end up with a deeper understanding of what students truly know and can apply.

Bonus: these work in a remote or a traditional classroom!

Little Tweaks

Exam Series: A series of quizzes or lower stakes exams over a longer period of time gives you the ability to adjust teaching along the way. It also helps students who may suffer from test anxiety.

Open Book/Open Notes: If make unGoogleable questions, suddenly open book/note tests take on a different feel. This builds important skills in identifying important information, synthesizing information, and analysis.

Bigger Tweaks (with Bigger Results)

Turn the Tables: Have students create the test questions and provide the answers. You’ll be surprised at what they can come up with!

Annotated Bibliography: Ask students to compile a list of multiple sources on a topic and provide a summary of each viewpoint. This supports students to compare, evaluate bias and perspectives, and seek multiple perspectives.

Wrong Answers: Give students the “wrong” answer, one with a mistake or flaw. Have them identify the errors and fix them, as well as explain why they are incorrect.

Peer Review: Peer feedback can be a far greater motivator than feedback from old people like us. Provide rubrics for students and have them assess each other and provide constructive feedback. This is also a great opportunity to support a positive, solutions-focused mindset!

Game Creation: Anything you can gamify is instantly more engaging. Task students to create a game version of the subject you are studying.

Ways to Utilize Digital Tools

e-Portfolio: have students compile their learning for the unit (or all throughout the year in an e-Portfolio.) Include work samples and images, and a reflection on their learning. Most Learning Management Systems already have this feature built in. If you don’t have an LMS in your district, Google Sites is a clean and easy alternative.

Discussion Board: ask thought-provoking questions via your LMS and require students to respond to peer contributions with evidence. Put students on two (or more) sides of an argument, but don’t tell them their side until you open the discussion. This will force students to research all sides of an issue and provide evidence to support their claims.

Presentations: The best way to demonstrate learning is to teach it to someone else. See our post on presentations and on creative ways to use video for tips and ideas.

Hope this is helpful as you design (and redesign) your exams! Leave us a comment and let us know how it goes!

Follow Complete Curriculum on

Remote Learning A-Z: W is for Working Together

Remote Learning A-Z: W is for Working Together

Working together is even more important than it used to be. We have been on this Fall Remote Learning adventure for almost two months. With a teacher spouse and a distance learning son, I’ve seen it from all perspectives. I am continually impressed with the effort and perseverance of all Derek’s teachers. I am also appreciative of the kindness and support my husband is receiving from the families of his students.

Is the Honeymoon Ending?

My son’s teachers are trying so hard to provide engaging content. Even so, I’m seeing the fatigue of remote learning set in with my son. Every teacher I know is finding their groove, yet also feeling the strain of continually revamping even the simplest activities. Parents with kids of all ages are finding some of the initial Honeymoon feelings have worn off.

As a school and as a nation, we are all in this together. So let’s figure out ways to help each other make the best of it! below are tips for working together remotely.

Assume Positive Intent

This is a generally sound mindset in most any situation. I think we’re all a bit on edge today. Even so, it’s important to remember we don’t know all situations, and everyone is doing the very best job they can.

Take a look at the post from our intern, Emeline Tu. Among other things, she does an excellent job in reminding all of us to approach this situation with empathy.


As a former school administrator, one lesson I learned was that even if you think you’ve communicated often and clearly, you haven’t. Never assume that because you posted an announcement once or said it over a video meeting that anyone heard it (or will remember it).

Set a Communication Schedule

One strategy for ensuring consistent and clear communication is to have a schedule. Set a routine, communicate that routing, and then keep to it. As a teacher I created many systems that ended up being more maintenance than useful. So take it from me, remember to keep it simple (see below). Don’t create an overly demanding or complicated routine you will regret having to keep up in a few weeks.

Involve Students

Consider involving students in writing or recording updates for parents. Here’s a sample newsletter on a Google Doc, with more explanation in our Collaboration post.

Speak Up

Now that we aren’t physically together, we lose out on the little social moments we used to have at drop off and pick up. It’s more important than ever for teachers to communicate succinctly, clearly, and often. And parents, don’t let things sit until they grow into a problem. For some addition ideas, read this Edutopia article: 12 Conversation Starters on What Parents Want You to Know. It is from 2013, but still great ideas for communication applicable to remote learning.

Keep it Simple

We are all overwhelmed with the amount of links, emails, and texts from multiple sources. Think about families with multiple children, from primary students who need more support with daily class activities, to secondary students who need to juggle the assignments and systems of multiple classrooms daily.

Two Streamlining Tips

Having a central place for all your links, announcements, and assignments helps your families wade through all the information. See our post on Links for ideas on how to keep your virtual information organized for students and parents.

Try this formula for each day: What We’re Learning, Ask Your Child, and How You Can Help. Post it in a continuous slide presentation so people can look back at it as needed.

Ask for Feedback

I’ve seen this in so many environments: the most persistent voices will often get the most attention. The unfortunate byproduct is we often don’t get the full picture of a situation: a few loud voices seem to represent the whole.

Teachers, frequent feedback from students and parents is one way to get off that hamster wheel. You will be surprised at all the things going well, as pick up a few tips for tweaks to make.

Our Exit Tickets are a quick and easy way to check in each day.

Ask for feedback from all your families regularly, and you will soon find it isn’t intimidating. Send out a simple Google Form survey monthly or weekly to take a pulse of your entire class. Approach your survey positively, keeping in mind the goal is working together more productively. Ask questions from the perspective of students’ needs and social-emotional health. Ask how you can improve, but don’t forget to ask what is going well, too!

Give Feedback

How many times have you looked up reviews on websites like Yelp and Amazon? How many times have you written a review yourself, either positive or negative? People in general tend to only give feedback when it’s astoundingly negative.

Positive Feedback Goes a Long Way

Don’t fall into the Yelp trap with your classroom community! Parents, your two-sentence email of encouragement or thanks goes a long way in supporting your teacher’s efforts. And teachers, taking some time to appreciate each student goes exponentially further in building connections and inclusivity. See this post for more information.

Parents, when giving feedback, approach it positive, solutions-focused mindset. Also temper expectations: some things we wish are unrealistic in a remote environment with a large class load. Teachers may not respond immediately, since they are teaching online all day. Also remember, while your child’s teacher is your direct conduit to the school, they have far less control over the policies and laws governing wider district decisions.

Forge Connections

My good friend has a daughter in first grade. The other day she said to her mother, “It’s hard to make friends on Zoom.” Ugh!

This is not true only for our youngest learners. Working together (student to student) is also a challenge right now. Remote students are missing many daily, physical interactions that used to be the norm.

Build in Time to Connect

While content instruction is always front and center, think about little ways to build in connection time among students. When students feel more connected to you and to each other, their learning benefits.

Check out our post on Interviews for ideas to forge meaningful connections between school, home, and each other. Consider ways for students to ask questions of each other to get to know their classmates. In our Interviews, we include over fifty silly questions you can ask your class. Students can also ask the questions of each other. Try one today!

Take Advantage of Tech

Even though remote learning is a challenge, there are some perks inherent in technology that teachers can use to their advantage.

Some posts you may find helpful:

Now that many lessons are being recorded, take advantage and post those videos for review. Read more about using video here. All learners benefit from hearing something more than once, and parents welcome videos they can review for support. Another perk – you might escape the, “That’s not how my teacher said to do it!” lament. (Parents, don’t feel badly about this: I have advanced degrees in education and this happens to me frequently.)

Work Together, Stay Positive

The most powerful strategy for student success and well-being is a connected team that is working together. We hope these tips help you forge virtual connections with your school community!

Follow Complete Curriculum on
Remote Learning A-Z: V is for Video

Remote Learning A-Z: V is for Video

Instructional videos have been around for a long time, but they are rapidly becoming the norm in our remote classrooms. Because there are so many tutorials and articles out there on teaching with video, this post is focused instead on some ways to spice up your instructional videos, and offering up some ideas for getting students involved in the process.

Benefits of Video

Engagement: With visuals, music, and animation, videos can provide can be a more immersive experience for the audience.

Access: visuals, narration, and closed-captioning features expand access for all learners. The ability to watch or listen to something you missed is another added resource.

Time Savings: Make a video once, and you have it forever. (If you’re like me, you make it twenty times to get the camera angle right and hair in order.) But theoretically, make it video once and show it to all your sections or groups, then post it for later help and review.

Family Support: With many parents doing greater home support than before, your posted videos can be a huge tool for them as well.

Teaching Tips

FlipGrid and SeeSaw are incredibly popular right now for classroom videos. Also,click here for a helpful list of general tips for teaching with video.

Of course I can’t write a blog post without getting a little pedagogically preachy. Just remember, video is like every single teaching tool in your arsenal: when used thoughtfully and with intention, it’s powerful. When it’s used without a clear objective, it’s the opposite.

Know Your Goals

The most important thing, as always, is to know your lesson objective. Once you know, it will be much easier to determine if video is your solution. If it is, ask yourself what type of video would work best. Would a straightforward video work quickly and efficiently to get your point across? Or would a screencast, picture-in-picture lecture, whiteboard demo, or Tasty-style video be more engaging and also worth the time?

More and more, we’re asking students to film videos and upload or post them, but the same questions apply. When designing your task, ask: What type of response helps me know the student has achieved the objective? If it is a video response, what type would provide the most student and be the most rigorous at the same time?

Ideas for Instruction with Video

Each of the ideas below are ways to make your own video lessons more engaging for students. But don’t forget how powerful they can be when students are in the driver’s seat too!


A screencast is a digital video recording of your screen. It usually includes audio narration.

TEACHER USE: When the visual (slideshow, document, etc.) is center stage, you may need to highlight or call attention to text on the page, and you only need narration. Screencasts are great for modeling and think-alouds.

STUDENT USE: Have students create their own screencasts to demonstrate their understanding of a topic. Record a tutorial on a topic to teach others or demonstrate your approach to a problem. (Bonus: save these teaching videos to use for other classes or next year!)

Programs like Screencastify are user-friendly and make this process much easier. Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything will literally give you everything you need to know about screencasts in the classroom.

Picture in Picture

Don’t we all want to feel like a meteorologist sometimes? You can do that with picture-in-picture!

TEACHER USE: When students need to see your face but also need the support of student visuals.

STUDENT USE: Have students demonstrate learning by creating a newscast or sports-announcer type broadcast over a video.

Clipchamp is just one of the programs out there to help make this process easier.

White Board Videos

I just love those cool whiteboard videos with the elaborate illustrations and writing. They’re so aesthetically pleasing, and addicting to watch.

TEACHER USE: When you want to to convey complex information such as explain timelines, historical events, or highlight cause and effect.

STUDENT USE: There is so much knowledge transfer when learners have to teach. Have student create whiteboard videos for retelling a story or creating a virtual mind map of a concept or event.

Programs like Doodly and Powtoon make these videos far less intimidating and easy to create. Powtoon even has this video to help you!

Ideas for Student Tasks

Make Movies

That’s what we used to use videos for, back in the day. While students may not be able to get together in a room and act in a play like before, they can still write screenplays and do a virtual table read, create a newscast from a time period and edit their snippets together, make a commercial, or perform a solo.

As with student writing, it’s always more powerful when you have a real audience. Show students a few Ted Talks and analyze what makes them compelling. Then have students to make their own Ted Talk on a topic or a claim: for other students, for other teachers, or to convince a group of people.

Stop Motion Animation

I made a bunch of Harry Potter peg people (I promise – it’s a thing) for my sister. My youngest niece took the people and recreated all the Harry Potter movies using a stop motion animation app on her iPad. In the classroom, you don’t even need clay – you can do these videos with paper and pen only.

I love this tool for the classroom because the process requires meticulous attention to detail, sort of like drawing that ball bouncing on the corners of a notebook page. It also encourages design thinking, problem solving, and attention to precision.

Stop Motion Studio is a great app for making these videos.

Tasty Videos

Don’t deny it, when you see the video of the cake being decorated on Facebook, you’re mesmerized. I recently discovered it isn’t that difficult to make amateur tasty videos. Usually these videos have no narration, and tell their stories using only fast-moving images and a little text. When you have students show what they know in this format, it requires them to synthesize information and retell using symbols and key ideas. Very UDL!

Animoto is a great classroom tool, and has a tutorial for making tasty-style videos.

Screen Recording

I know, I know. It makes absolutely NO sense to me why anyone would want to watch someone play a video game rather than play it themselves. It also makes no sense why you want to watch someone taking something out of an Amazon box. But kids these days…

You don’t need to understand it either, but why not capitalize on that inherent love for walkthroughs and unboxings and use it in the classroom? Have students create videos to teach a concept or show how they know, TikTok or YouTube style.

While gamers use some fancy screen reording software for this (believe me, I live it every day), you can get by in a classroom with something like Screencast-O-Matic.

Hope these tips are useful! Let us know what your kids create!

Follow Complete Curriculum on
Remote Learning A-Z: U is for UDL

Remote Learning A-Z: U is for UDL

What Is It?

The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework was created by research organization CAST. UDL helps educators approach their teaching to meet the needs of all learners. The idea is that while the classroom environment may be the same, the learning experience of each student within the classroom should not be.

There are three fundamental guidelines in UDL, and the key idea behind each of the three big umbrellas is designing for multiple means.

Multiple Means Of:

  • Engagement: capitalizing on student interests and motivations
  • Representation: presenting and providing content to promote higher-level thinking
  • Action & Expression: allowing students to demonstrate and apply learning actively

Why Do It?

Outcomes of UDL

UDL done well benefits everyone. In a UDL classroom:

  • All students are clear on the learning outcomes
  • Multiple options for learning are available to all (through intentional planning)
  • Students have access to supports and resources throughout their learning (not only at the beginning, or at test time)
  • Students build their own knowledge, internalize it, and are able apply learning and see its applications to the real world

You can read more at CAST, and with a post from Understood. Below are tips for applying those principles in the design of your remote classroom.


Capitalize on Student Interests and Motivation

We know when students are connected to the content, they are more engaged learners. In UDL, engagement involves capturing student interests, clearly defining learning outcomes, fostering collaboration, and self-assessment. See our posts Teaching Responsively and How are You Doing? for more on connecting with students.

Remote Engagement Tools for Synchronous Instruction

There are absolutely times when you need to be face-to-face with your students. There are times when direct instruction is needed. Even so, be cautious your online instruction isn’t always active teacher lecture and passive student learning. Try some of these tools to spice up your direct instruction and keep engagement high:

  • Games: Games just make everything more fun! Reading a nonfiction text becomes more engaging when it’s a scavenger hunt. Learning multiplication facts is more fun as a card game. And a little healthy competition with the teacher is always a engaging! See our post on Games for more ideas.
  • Interactive Slide Presentations: Student visuals are key, and it isn’t just because you can’t always count on your sparkly personality to hold the room. Visuals provide students with something to connect with as they are learning. Ask questions, play games, involve students in the teaching. See our posts on Presentations and Student Visuals for more tips.
  • Access: This would make me cringe too. But when you do present in real time, think about recording your lessons. This allows kids to go back and watch anything confusing. Did you know Google has a closed-captioning feature? Turn this on help support the processing of new information.
Remote Engagement Tools for Asynchronous Instruction

One benefit of asynchronous learning is that it allows students to move at their own pace. This frees you up to support and challenge individual students throughout. Many parent and educators are reticent about this form of instruction because it feels like without a teacher, how can students be learning?

Intentional Planning

But the beauty of asynchronous learning is that the teacher is very much still there. They just aren’t using precious time to stare at kids working independently. The teacher has designed lessons allowing students to show what they know, is giving individual guidance, AND collecting assessment data to plan and refine future teaching.

  • Screencastify: This is an incredibly easy to use tool to create narrated demonstrations and videos to accompany your slide presentations. It works with Google Chrome and the free version is solid. (More on that in the V is for Video post coming soon!)
  • KWL Charts: One of our favorite standbys, the KWL Chart, can easily be done in remotely. See our KWL post for ideas and tips.
  • Google Slides: We’ve sung the praises and versatility of slides in many of our posts, but one tip we haven’t mentioned is the ability to add videos (yours or someone else’s). You can even share these slides in present mode to students, building in pauses to solicit responses or give a task along the way.
  • Hyperdocs: These online tools have the principles of UDL built in. With Hyperdocs, students move at their own pace. They also explore material designed specifically to move them through the learning process. See our post on Explorations for more tips.
  • EdPuzzle: This is a nifty tool for using video for self-paced learning that also allows teachers to track views, narrate, and add questions. (Again, you’ll have to wait for V for more!)
  • Wonderopolis: This amazing program builds on students’ natural curiosity and is an excellent lesson starter to get students asking questions and seeking answers.


Provide Content to Promote Higher-level Thinking

Now students are thoroughly hooked, but we still have to teach them something! Research tells us this involves a combination of varied content, opportunities for inquiry, and student choice to construct knowledge. (See our post on Rigor for more information.) The UDL framework emphasizes rich content and rigorous tasks that encourage choice, critical thinking and comprehension, as well as ensuring access for all.

Remote Representation:
  • Student Choice: Student Menus and Choice Boards have been around for a long time. We like to use the Google Gameboard (pictured above) for a visually appealing option.
  • Real World Connections: Many websites have been stepping up to provide students with a ways to connect with the real world. The Smithsonian provides amazing virtual tours, and apps like Google Expeditions even incorporate VR into the mix. Here’s a roundup of 25 Ideas from We Are Teachers.
  • Newsela: If you don’t know about Newsela, stop reading and go there now! (Just kidding, go there after!) Newsela has tons of student-friendly, current event articles and ability to vary by grade/Lexile level within an article. It’s amazing!
  • Listenwise: Similar idea as Newela, but Listenwise adds the component of auditory comprehension. They offer podcasts and narration, as well as listening assessments.
  • Infographics: There so much learning in teaching students to read infographics. There’s even more learning in students creating them! (Think about how much synthesis, data, and visual representation goes into making one.) Programs like Canva, Easelly, and Venngage can help.

Action & Expression

Demonstrate and Apply Learning Actively

Even in a remote classroom, we can still provide students with ways to apply learning and show what they know. In UDL, we want students to communicate their learning, apply it, and reflect on it strategically.

  • Multimedia Presentations: Presentations are a natural tool for demonstrating learning in this environment. Be careful: without explicit parameters, the learning can be lost. See our post for how to support both the presenter and the audience for maximum learning.
  • Kahoot! I love the quiz program Kahoot! for all ages. It’s engaging, easy to use, and students can respond using any device.
  • Video Response: While I do suspect we’re going to see a little video fatigue soon, in this environment video is another way to everyone to connect. Programs like Flipgrid and SeeSaw are really useful for this.
  • Peardeck: This program works with Google Slides and also allows for videos, narration, and creation of formative assessment.
  • Socrative: Secondary teachers love this program for quick assessments and feedback.

In a remote world, teacher time is an even greater commodity that it used to be. In the end, designing UDL lessons can free you up to support the needs of your individual students. Time well spent!

Follow Complete Curriculum on

Remote Learning A-Z: T is for Teaching Responsively

Remote Learning A-Z: T is for Teaching Responsively

Culturally responsive teaching was not the norm when I was in school.

Back in the dark ages, I was one of a handful of Asian students in my entire elementary school. When Chinese New Year came around, my teachers would get my classmate Monica and me involved in a project related to the holiday.

This project was inevitable coloring the Chinese characters for Happy New Year, or making paper lanterns. We would also teach the class how to say Gung Hay Fat Choy, even though that phrase is Cantonese and I spoke Mandarin at home. (Poor Monica had even less investment in these projects; she’s Japanese and her family didn’t celebrate Lunar New Year!) Eventually, Monica and I learned that these projects were our cultural contributions to our classroom. Yet we did it, because we didn’t want to disappoint our teachers.

Yay! We’ve Evolved!

Thankfully, teaching has evolved considerably since I was in school. In addition, the research and resources available around anti-bias education, culturally responsive teaching, and inclusion in schools is abundant and readily available.

Reflecting today, all my elementary school teachers were kind, well-meaning, hard working educators. I believe they truly wanted to include my culture and background into the classroom. They just weren’t entirely able to do it as sensitively and responsively as I now would have hoped, and I didn’t have the language to ask for it.

Luckily, today I do have that language, and I want to share it with you.

It Starts with YOUR Mindset

A responsive classroom in any environment (virtual or traditional) starts with teacher mindset. Culturally responsive educators embrace and value student backgrounds, interests, and experiences. They see what students bring to the table as assets and not deficits.

Responsive teachers understand the importance of including student lives and perspectives in teaching–not only in certain months or around certain holidays–but every single day. They recognize that this attention to students fosters inclusion, respect, and empowerment.

YOU Make a Difference

First and foremost, I hope you never lose sight of just how much power and influence you have on a young mind, even if at times it may seem like none of your little minds are paying attention. (Believe me, my son is fourteen. I know how it feels.)

One teacher can change the course of a person’s life. If you don’t believe me, this Ted Talk from my good friend and hero, Dr. Victor Rios, will convince you. Dr. Rios dedicated his career to prevent society from labeling students as “at-risk,” and instead to see all young people as “at-promise.” Why? Because one special teacher did it for him.

Ms. Russ listened to my story, welcomed it into the classroom and said, “Victor, this is your power. This is your potential. Your family, your culture, your community have taught you a hard-work ethic and you will use it to empower yourself in the academic world so you can come back and empower your community.” 

Dr. Victor Rios
Help for Kids the Education System Ignores

I’ve included a transcript excerpt below, but you truly have to listen. It is a must-watch for any educator. Trust me, it is well worth 12 minutes of your life.

From: Help for Kids the Education System Ignores

The reason I’m here today is because a teacher that cared reached out and managed to tap into my soul. This teacher, Ms. Russ … she was the kind of teacher that was always in your business. 

She was the kind of teacher that was like, “Victor, I’m here for you whenever you’re ready.” 

I wasn’t ready. But she understood one basic principle about young people like me. We’re like oysters. We’re only going to open up when we’re ready, and if you’re not there when we’re ready, we’re going to clam back up. Ms. Russ was there for me. She was culturally relevant, she respected my community, my people, my family. 

I told her a story about my Uncle Ruben. He would take me to work with him because I was broke, and he knew I needed some money. He collected glass bottles for a living. Four in the morning on a school day, we’d throw the glass bottles in the back of his van, and the bottles would break. And my hands and arms would start to bleed and my tennis shoes and pants would get all bloody. I was terrified and in pain, and I would stop working. 

My uncle, he would look me in the eyes and he would say to me, “Mijo, estamos buscando vida.”

 “We’re searching for a better life, we’re trying to make something out of nothing.” 

Ms. Russ listened to my story, welcomed it into the classroom and said, “Victor, this is your power. This is your potential. Your family, your culture, your community have taught you a hard-work ethic and you will use it to empower yourself in the academic world so you can come back and empower your community.” 

(reprinted with permission from the author)

In Your Classroom

There is so much research on diversity, inclusion, and culturally relevant teaching available. So much, it cannot be contained in a single post. But I did want to get you thinking, so I’ve culled and summarized some of the important points.

Food for Thought

This list isn’t meant to be a checklist, because that implies at some point you can be finished with an item and cross it off your list. Instead, these are reminders for your planning at all times. When you ask yourself these questions, consider your classroom environment, your daily routines and structures, and even your individual lessons and tasks.

How am I creating a structure in my classroom that…

  • Builds relationships: Get to know your students, and let them get to know you. (See our How are You Doing? post for more resources). Conduct interest surveys and interviews. Use the information you learn to incorporate student interests and lives.
  • Makes problems relevant & provides context: Consider and explain how your lessons apply directly to student interests and experiences. Encourage discussion, analysis of bias, and sharing of multiple perspectives (see our post on Rigor for more examples.)
  • Allows for more than one way to achieve: Remember, there is never one singular right way to teach or learn something. Allow students to demonstrate understanding and mastery in multiple ways. Try projects that incorporate art, multimedia, games, physical expression. You may just discover hidden talents you wouldn’t have through traditional assessment methods!
  • Is student-centered: We say student-centered a lot these days, but in a true student-centered classroom tasks are designed to allow maximum choice and access to content. Provide students with many opportunities to explore and express their values. Also, when finding and creating content (text, videos, articles, even story problems), let your students see themselves reflected in that content.
  • Teaches and fosters true collaboration: In true collaboration activities, tasks cannot be completed without the work of every member. (See more in our Collaboration post). Avoid those activities that let one or two students do all the work while the rest of the team is on the sidelines. Instead, offer tasks that encourage students to grapple with multiple perspectives and seek consensus for their team projects, rather than .
  • Involves families and community voices: Think about your most and least engaged families. Consider the barriers that your least engaged families may face in connecting fully with the school system. What ways you can chip away at those barriers? Bring in guest speakers that represent your students and your community.

Resources for Culturally Responsive Practices

To learn more, here are a few places to get you started:

We hope this is helpful! If you have a website or resource recommendation, please leave us a comment so we can add it to our list!

Want some freebies?