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Adding an agenda to Google Meets helps kids

Although not ideal, remote learning has made me a stronger teacher in a number of different aspects. It has forced me to find different technology and ways to connect with students, and it has forced me to find ways to keep students more connected to the class when they miss out on a Google Meet session.

One of the ways that I have been doing this is through a simple agenda that I bring to each Meet. I use the meets as both a way to take attendance for class and as a way to review previous concepts, hold class discussions, and review assignments for the coming week. Given the circumstances that some kids are unable to come to Meets for various reasons, however, I compile an agenda with all of our talking points and post it immediately after our meeting on Classroom, usually with a note that says, "It was great seeing you all in class today. Here is the agenda from today's Meet."

During the meeting itself, I set my screen to presentation mode so that the students can follow along with my agenda. I normally start asking how the students are feeling for the day, how their classes are going, etc. and then I'll jump right into the review from the lesson before. From there, I normally have students follow along as I annotate a passage from a book or play a short clip that we discuss afterwards.

While there are no more distractions in class, i.e. bathroom breaks, passes at the doorway, sharpening pencils, etc., it is much more difficult to get students to participate in discussion. In junior English, for example, we are reading Unwind, a book about a dystopian society that doesn't believe in abortion but parents or guardians get to decide to unwind their children between the ages of 13-18. This process involves sending them off to 'harvest camp' and from there, their organs are donated to more respectable people in society. The story follows three main teenagers who are on the run, and I thought this would be the perfect book to discuss issues of abortion, the death penalty, morality, etc., but am met with mostly silence on the other end. I know that if I were in class with them, I would get more discussion out of them. There is a little discussion flowing, as I say that if someone says something of value, I will award them points, but it's few and far between.

But, it does seem that they appreciate the agendas and the class structure. As teachers during this pandemic, we were forced to totally rehaul our normal curriculum and learn to teach entirely online. Our lesson plans changed to e-lesson plans, our way of taking attendance changed, our way of communicating with students entirely changed. Our class schedule changed. I knew I needed to make some kind of structure for my kids who are lacking it right now. My seniors will be missing their prom and their graduation, and I know that at the very least, they need someone who knows that they care about that at their school. They need someone there, with an agenda to get them through.

A copy my AP Lit agenda attached. Feel free to copy it, and share your successes and struggles so far. I applaud all of you in the education field for what you are doing. It hasn't always been easy, but we do it because we have to.

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