Table of Contents
- 1 Click above to listen to this podcast episode. Below is the transcript for Student-Centered World Podcast Episode 18: “Structure in the Classroom with Bridget Burlage”
- 2 Structure in Classroom (in action)
- 3 Structure in Classroom Protocol
- 4 Meeting the Students where they Are
- 5 Making the Structure in Classroom Switch
- 6 Structure in Classroom Problem Solving
- 7 Structure in Classroom Relationships
- 8 Classroom Recommendations
- 9 Structure in Classroom Moving Forward
- 10 Structure in Classroom with the 4 Keys
Click above to listen to this podcast episode. Below is the transcript for Student-Centered World Podcast Episode 18: “Structure in the Classroom with Bridget Burlage”
In our very first interview of season three of the podcast, I was able to catch up with one of my former coworkers, Bridget Burlage, who is a high school English teacher and also teaches AP students. She has absolutely found her stride in a hybrid classroom and has some fantastic tips and tricks that she uses that are not only successful for the day-to-day, but it’s also fully preparing her students through consistent engagement and relationship building.
Her tips are not high school only. You can use them in any grade level, you just obviously have to change it a little bit for your content area and age appropriateness. But the stuff that Bridget has is fantastic and I hope you get a lot of great information out of it.
Welcome to the Student-Centered World podcast where we talk about all things hands-on teaching and keeping your energy and sanity in the classroom. This teacher turned consultant is making it her mission to help as many teachers as possible become the best version of themselves and keep their passion for teaching on fire. It’s her hope that we never forget why we desire to have a passion for educational progress. This is Student-Centered World, and this is Jenn Breisacher.
Jenn Breisacher: Why don’t you take a couple of minutes and kind of just introduce yourself, you know, who are you? Where are you from? What do you do, etc?
Bridget Burlage: So, my name is Bridget Burlage. I am from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, but now living in Marlton. And I teach mostly now seniors and AP Lang.
Structure in Classroom (in action)
Jenn Breisacher: Okay, so you teach AP students and one of the biggest issues that teachers are saying is that you can’t have the rigor, you can’t have the consistency, you can’t have the engagement with this digital format. But I just know from conversations that you and I have had prior to this, that you don’t seem like you are having an issue with that. I’d like to hear a little bit about how this works for you and talk a little bit about your AP course in regular times. What does it look like?
Bridget Burlage: So, AP Lang in regular times, it’s pretty much they come in, they’ve read the night before. We have a reading quiz, then we have a 14-minute discussion where they talk in their groups where they’ve already been set up by personality tests because I like to use my breaks, and then I like to break them into sorting houses with Harry Potter.
So, I enjoy all that. It gives me an idea of what they’re going to be like. So, they have those structure in classroom discussions first, and then we break out and we have a whole-class discussion. We focus on the rhetoric, what’s being used, anything confused, passages, or messages, or whatever that’s going on in the text, they have the opportunity to talk about it. That’s essentially the day-to-day.
Every once in a while I like to have pop quizzes, where we just like to pull something from rhetoric because the AP exam is coming and from what I know, the AP exam is not changing for May. They’re doing the questions, multiple-choice questions, and they are also doing the three essays, so I have to prep them. We have a very short semester.
So, I actually have to fit everything in until April because we have structure in classroom blended learning from February until April. So, I already have a little bit of experience with this, from the last three years of doing it. So, then when we stepped into the current situation, I was like, oh, this is a little stressful, but not too stressful, because I know how to do the asynchronous learning from that blended learning semester. But, so far, it’s like, not too terrible. It’s not bad. I’ll tell you it’s not bad.
Jenn Breisacher: So, in saying it’s not bad. I’m confident there are people listening to this saying, well, that can’t possibly… I’m drowning and I teach kids that are not AP kids or whatnot. What’s your protocol now? How does it work?
Structure in Classroom Protocol
Bridget Burlage: So, for me, my protocol, actually, I mean, I’ve been using Haiku Learning for the last four years. It’s now been taken over by PowerSchool but essentially it’s a free platform. It is set up as a structure in classroom college classroom. So, I have all my discussion boards on there. I have all of my links on there. I have all of my quizzes and tests on there. You can time them, you can do pretty much everything you need, and it works better than Google because you have complete control over everything.
The only thing now that they took away is the analytics. You can’t see who logs in and when they log in, but you still have everything else you still have access to everything else.
If you decide to get a paid feature for it you could have more space to save things for the kids. But I mean, I have a whole calendar up there, and they know exactly what’s coming. I also have a whole reading schedule per unit. So, the kids know exactly what they’re reading every single day, there’s no question about that.
What else have I been doing? I also have created a remote structure in classroom, this is because I’m crazy organized with it. I’ve created in a Google Excel sheet, a remote schedule, essentially, for all of my classes. So, I have them laid out in front of me Monday through Friday, I have the day that it is for the rotating schedule and then I just put in a little blurb of what is the assignment and I have it set up.
So, for the AP kids, I might have my reading quiz for 20 minutes, group discussions for 14 minutes and then we end on a class discussion. Remotely, you’re probably thinking how is that because I have a hybrid structure in classroom. So, I’ve got two kids in my classroom plus I’ve got all the kids online and my seniors, I got 28. So, sometimes I have two kids in my room and the rest is online.
So, how do I do it? I’ve literally been trying to figure out stuff. Google’s supposed to be coming out with break rooms, which I’m really happy about. So, what I’ve been actually doing to facilitate discussion is I actually create ahead of time.
I’ve made four breakout rooms and what I do is I put those four breakout rooms up in the group or in the Google Chat so when I say hey, you have 14 minutes to discuss, they already know what groups they’re in because they’ve already been assigned. So, they go into the Google Chat, they talk a little bit, they come back, and then they’re ready for full class discussion.
So, that’s what I’ve been using for the AP for the discussion. I don’t record it. They have to come prepared. This is the kicker; they have to come prepared with questions. So, I show them how to create discussion questions, and then what I do is roll a die.
So, I go one through six, they get two rolls again and then I put the groups randomly and then I roll the die and then whoever gets chosen will either do a Socratic Seminar, where they run the discussion, I sit there and listen, I take notes, or we do a fishbowl where we all sit and listen to them have a discussion and then we talk about the discussion afterward.
So, it’s still can be incredibly rigorous. There are definitely ways that you can keep things turning for them.
Meeting the Students where they Are
The best I would say is just making sure that you give the kids everything, everything that they need with structure in classroom. Calendars, a way to get in contact with you, not just your Gmail account if you’re using Gmail or your school email, but Remind. I love remind.com. They know when my office hours are. I shut off around seven o’clock, but they’ll message me if they’re having issues with any attachments. Then worksheets. So, I have found this amazing source.
So, our school has a person or a tech person who comes in with a bunch of stuff and we’ve been getting a lot of things. But oh, my God, this Teacher Made. Teacher Made is so amazing. All you do is you download your PDF file into it, you upload it, and the kids can just write on it and that’s it.
You don’t have to do DocHub anymore, as an extension to Chrome. So, I’ve been putting all of my structure in classroom worksheets in there for the seniors and also for my AP kids, and oh my god, it just makes things so much easier. There are no extra steps. So…
Jenn Breisacher: I did not know about that program. What is it called, again?
Bridget Burlage: Teacher Made.
Jenn Breisacher: Teacher Made.
Bridget Burlage: I am plugging for you. Teacher Made is so much more accessible for teachers who have PDF worksheets. The only issue is you have to have a PDF, but it doesn’t have just to be PDFs. It can be JPEGs. They can be PNGs, like different images. So, you can even bring up an image of a worksheet you’ve done, and they can write in it and draw on it. It’s like Seesaw but it’s different though because it’s…
Jenn Breisacher: For upper grades.
Bridget Burlage: Yes. It’s for upper grades.
Jenn Breisacher: So, that’s a good point because I think I had told you about using Seesaw. You can take the things and put them in there and then they can draw all over them. But Seesaw is designed for younger kids so that’s perfect. If your students are giving you a hard time because you’re using something structure in classroom that seems like it’s too young for them. That’s an awesome, awesome opportunity.
Bridget Burlage: My kids, my seniors love the Seesaw by the way.
Jenn Breisacher: Do they?
Bridget Burlage: They love it because I used to do the portfolios and Google Slides and then they were like, “Burlage, it sucks. Please don’t do this anymore.” So, since we’ve gone to the Seesaw structure in classroom, they love it. I love it and it’s so easy. Even just for me because we’re doing running portfolios for them. It’s just so much easier to go through and see what they’re writing every day instead of having to go through each individual slide in the Google classroom and having to scroll down. It’s just extra clicks.
So, when I look at it, it’s like how can I get remove as many clicks as possible from my setup. So that way it’s more efficient for me and it’s more effective for them because no one wants to sit there and click I hate clicking things.
Making the Structure in Classroom Switch
Jenn Breisacher: Yeah, I mean, it seems like you have a completely well-oiled machine put together and you guys have only been in school for a couple of weeks, did you find that it was really hard for the kids to adapt? Or were they sort of already used to it from the spring or how did that go?
Bridget Burlage: They were a little scared, actually, the kids who had to come to school. The kids online, they’re adjusting, I think they’re more adjusted now. But in the beginning, just getting up to go to class and being there. I mean, we had some incidents with the Google Classroom, keeping it secure.
So, I think that now, they are a little bit better. My seniors, know what the drill is. So, this is the other thing, too, you have to have a structure, you have to figure out how much time you have, and you can break it into chunks. So, like, for my seniors, they have Seesaw or a NoRedInk. So, they get grammar or they writing for 20 minutes, then they have an activity where I teach them.
I do this in Nearpod, or I’ll just tell them we’ll bring it up in presentation mode in Google Meet and I’ll actually sit and take notes with them and explain things. Then I give them time to get stuff done. So, I don’t sit there and teach the whole time. I do have independent activity at the very end of the period so they can work on stuff and then I give them until 11:59 every night to turn the assignments in.
What I’ve done now is like Monday, Tuesday, everything is due by Tuesday, Thursday, or Wednesday, Thursday, everything is due by Thursday, and then on Friday, it’s a flex day where any assignments that they haven’t done, they can makeup and quizzes I usually give on Friday too.
So, I keep that schedule and when you get that schedule going, they keep to it, because now they’re comfortable and as soon as you break away from the schedule, they’re the first one to tell you in the Google Meet like “hey, Mrs. Burlage you forgot to do blah, blah, blah, blah, blah”, and I’m like, “oh, thank you for reminding me. I’ll just put that in.”
But they are so with the routine now that it’s barely like, I have to do anything. I can actually step aside and work on something else, while they’re doing their work and I keep the Google Meet up the whole time so if they have questions they can ask.
Jenn Breisacher: I was actually going to mention how routine it does need to be because there are so many teachers that I’m sure are listening right now that we’re like, “well if you give them such flexibility with deadlines, you know, that’s not going to work. It should be due at the end of the day, or the end of the time you’re teaching” for structure in classroom, but as you said, it’s on at this time of night or it’s on this day.
Even though they might have flexibility where you’re not on their case, saying it needs to be done while we’re working on it right now, you’re probably getting more out of them having a little bit of an extended deadline as part of your structure in classroom, especially with the socio-emotional aspect of all of it. Maybe they just need more time. Maybe they just need to not think. It’s a very difficult time and are you finding that you’re able to connect with the students a little bit because of how you have things structured?
Bridget Burlage: Well, yeah. So, again, another one that you showed me, this is when you were working with me, Quizizz, I’ve been using Quizizz for my seniors the entire time and they love it. Last Friday, we had our vocab two quizzes for our seniors, and they began to freak out, literally yelling at each other. So, I have it up so it’s a game.
So, I told them what time we’re going to go live but I had my students all turning on their mics like, “I’m going to get you, I’m number one”, and like, “No, I’m going to get you out from number two”, and they made it a competition. So, yeah, we have fun. When we have discussions, I have kids who participate. I’ve never had to ask for them to participate. They just volunteer.
So, that’s been really nice, too, because some teachers have been really struggling about them participating. They have to participate. And I’m if you participate because you want you. As long as you’re in the class, you’re doing your work. To me, that’s participation. You signed in this morning, you were supposed to come in and do something. That’s your participation. If I find that you are lacking, then I have a system set up for parents.
So, this is the other thing too. At the very beginning of August, I created a letter. It got put on my website, it got sent to all of the parents and it pretty much had a Google Form that said, hey, if you have a child who you think is going to struggle through this, would you like me to send you emails and so I have about five or six parents who get weekly notifications on Friday through Google Classroom and through our progress book.
That has also been helpful for communication. So, it keeps everyone on top. Everyone’s communicating with each other, excuse me. So, that also helps, because now we’re engaging the parents alongside the kids. Some of the kids will ask me in class like, hey, Mrs. Burlage can you send me a list of things I’m missing because I think I’m missing something.
It’s just so easy because in Google Classroom you can do that for the seniors. I don’t use it for the AP kids because they are college-level, so we use an entirely different system.
But for my regular kids, Google Classroom has been very helpful. So yeah, I think the routine really helps and definitely, they do share. Totally. As I said, I get kids reading and I’m like, I can’t believe I got them reading because most of the time they’re sitting there in silence. I think the hardest thing right now is getting them to turn their icons off. That’s the hardest. So, Google was supposed to release the background blur. I think it’s a background blur.
Jenn Breisacher: That makes sense.
Bridget Burlage: Just to keep things in the background of my structure in classroom, and we’re not seeing stuff and they’re very self-conscious about it. So, that’s the one thing that is hard about teaching is that when I’m teaching a student, if I’m teaching a class of 28 all I see are letters. How is M today? Who’s M? There are five Js right next to each other, which J is who? So, that has been the only issue. I can’t really get them to turn off their icons yet.
Structure in Classroom Problem Solving
Jenn Breisacher: Yeah, and I mean, that’s an issue all around. It’s almost like a big debate too. There are a lot of people that require you to have the camera on in order to be marked present. On one hand, I understand because you can’t see that they’re sitting there or that they’re doing the things and I get that.
As Bridget had said, we used to teach together and one of the hybrid classes that I taught before was at the same school. I had kids a couple of times that turn their cameras off, and then I realized they weren’t there. So, how do you manage that? As a teacher in this environment, do you do anything to try to, I don’t want to say catch them, but make sure that they are actively still there?
Bridget Burlage: Yeah, I use this app that the school sent us. It’s like a Google Meet attendance and what you do is you add it to your Chrome and so when you go into Google Meet, it will automatically come up with an attendance list. What it does is record every time a kid enters or leaves the classroom.
So, that’s the first thing to add structure in classroom. I’ve noticed that some of the kids, get there in the first 10 minutes and then they’re leaving, and they’ve gone for a really long time. So, according to our attendance, that’s a cut.
So, I put that in, and then I actually email that kid and let them know, hey, this is what’s going on, this is what I’m noticing. If you do this again, I’m going to have to email parents and get the admin involved or your guidance counselor involved. But I feel like policing it, making sure that they’re working.
To me, it’s like that whole day, they only get an hour with me, and then they have office hours in the afternoon if they need to talk to me. Just by getting the work done, I feel like, as long as they’re getting it done. I know that some of my kids, they’ll be making breakfast, and they’re just listening along to whatever we’re learning, almost like a podcast essentially.
I mean, of course, you’re going to have some kids who are struggling with the structure in classroom, but you’ll know who are the kids who are struggling based on how they’re turning stuff in and how they’re participating in things. There’s that formative assessment that you can just do by looking at what they’re turning in, how many missing assignments they have that kind of stuff.
So, I understand where teachers are coming from wanting to make sure they’re doing the work, but they have the whole day to get stuff done and they only have you for an hour. So, just make sure that in that hour, you utilize it and make it as efficient as possible so that they can get the information from you so that they can get things done. Unless you’re in a school where they want things done by a certain time, at the end of the day, then like I would say still try to get them engaged as much as possible through my structure in classroom.
There’s a bunch of stuff that’s out there that you can make sure that they’re engaging in things. If you haven’t tried Nearpod yet, Mentimeter is also really good. It’s kind of like a poll everywhere and the kids like that, but that makes them have to engage and you can also see how many people are engaging with the assignment or with the questions that you have for them.
Also making sure that you have different types of formative assessment during your teaching assessment, or during your teaching instruction is really important to structure in classroom I find, because that will tell you what they’ve learned, what they haven’t learned, or what they’re struggling with, and making sure you have those little stop signs or little stop posts throughout your lesson. Just be like, hey, is everyone on the same page right now, and you will usually get some kids who are like I’m kind of confused.
It’s nice to know that they’re confused because sometimes it’s like you don’t get any response from them. The new meme is what is it the séance? I really do feel like I’m at a séance. I’m like is anybody there? So, it’s nice to have like little stop posts for them. It’s not just you asking them but other ways for them to engage with your lesson.
Jenn Breisacher: Yeah, and I think those are the two key points of having success in all this. Number one, having multiple ways to see what the kids are doing. They shouldn’t be participating with an app or a program where you can’t be seeing exactly what they’re doing or seeing their progress. That’s why a lot of the ones that we’ve put out like in our mastermind group, you can see exactly where they are if they’ve finished if they’ve stopped if they’ve struggled and I think that’s so important to follow up.
Then the other piece of that is the sense of community within your classroom. I know how your classroom is because it’s exactly how my classroom was where you learn way too much about the students.
Bridget Burlage: Oh, my God, so much.
Structure in Classroom Relationships
Jenn Breisacher: They are oh, so comfortable with my environment and especially right now. I mean, have you had any kids come to you during your office hours to just talk?
Bridget Burlage: No.
Jenn Breisacher: Really?
Bridget Burlage: Actually, they tell me during class.
Jenn Breisacher: Okay.
Bridget Burlage: So, in office hours you know what…my seniors, most of them are working. So, I got a couple of kids who decide that it’s time to share all the personal information right in the middle class. I’m like oh, this is not…I feel uncomfortable now. So, how do I…
Jenn Breisacher: You and I have had our share of uncomfortable conversations with certain students, we don’t need to mention.
Bridget Burlage: Don’t need to mention it at all.
Jenn Breisacher: Who may or may not be listening at some juncture in their lifetime. But in a way, though, that’s good. Because I mean, I know you and I are very much the same in every student needs to have an adult that they feel like they can confide in, and especially during this time where things are so crazy. It’s nothing like any of us have ever lived through. We’re dealing with everybody whose frontal lobe is not yet completely formed.
I mean, and I keep saying over and over again like it’s “Maslow before Bloom.” They’ll get the content, they’ll get the information, and they’ll engage more if they’re comfortable enough with you to get whatever it is off their chest if they need to or to know that you’re okay if they need to take some time to get whatever it is together before they move forward.
I mean, we saw that in the structure in classroom. I used to have a bulletin board. I talk about this a lot in my course. But I had a bulletin board that was a coloring bulletin board and other teachers used to come in and say, oh, you know, do you give them a timer? How much time do you allow them to have up there? I say they can go up there, however often they want for as long as they want.
Never once did anybody takes more than a few minutes. It was just enough time for them to color in a flower or frog or whatever was there, clear their head, and then by themselves, they went back, and I didn’t have necessarily the easiest population at that point. But they just regulated themselves and I know you took that and started doing it in your classroom too and it was just such a…
Bridget Burlage: Yes, some kids just need a break. This is the problem is that we forget that especially high school students are kids still. I don’t care what anyone likes what you’ve been raised, or told, or conditioned to believe. They’re still kids, no matter what. Even at 18, their prefrontal cortex is not completely developed yet.
So, they’re going to pop off, and if they’re not learning those coping mechanisms at home where they should be learning it from parents. The idea is that parents are supposed to unconditionally love you. They might not be getting that at home. It depends on the population.
This again goes back to trauma-informed care and social-emotional learning, but you just have to be aware that your biases in the classroom can’t interfere. You have to remove yourself and be like, okay, this kid, their tank needs to be filled. Have they eaten breakfast this morning? Were they able to take some time for themselves?
If I find a kid who’s sleeping in class, I don’t always like to write them up. I actually will tap and be like, hey, what’s going on. I usually give them a piece of gum or a mint and encourage them to get their work done and try to say, hey, maybe go to bed a little bit earlier. Maybe you should detach from your phone a little bit today, so you don’t have so much blue screen.
There are things that you have to remind them of because they might not be getting that at home. Even though we’re remote school is still considered the safest space, even if it’s digital because I’ve got kids who are still telling me their personal information about their whole backstory and you’re like, oh my gosh, and they’re doing it right over like a digital space. So, it’s so important to remind yourself that a high school kid, it doesn’t matter what age they are. They’re still kids in development and you have to approach them with structure in classroom.
Are they getting their needs met and if they’re getting their needs met in your classroom, you’ve made it safe? If you can’t make a classroom safe, you’re not going to get kids to learn. That’s just going back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You need to make sure that your classroom is safe and secure before you can do any kind of learning.
Jenn Breisacher: And that’s in any time, let alone right now where so much is uncertain in so many ways.
Bridget Burlage: It’s so true because just because we’re in COVID doesn’t mean this just disappears. This should be implemented no matter what. You need it more right now because COVID is happening. But this should just be your basic stone. The basic core stone in your classroom is to make sure that your students feel safe and secure so that they can learn.
Jenn Breisacher: And unfortunately, so many teachers don’t think they have the time to do that because they have to get to all of this other content. But it’s really just a mindset shift, where if you just spend a little bit of time building those relationships, then everything else will fall into place. Everything.
Bridget Burlage: Yeah, just by staying outside your door, I have a kid, we do a handshake. We’ve done a handshake every single year since he was a freshman and that’s our rapport. When you get a handshake, right there it’s like, okay, we have a handshake. We know each other.
So, I’m not saying that we’re best friends because we’re not. He also knows that that’s the thing. I have boundaries and they know, once they’ve tread over the boundary, we’re not in a good place and I’m going to let them know that we’re not in a good place.
I’m not going to tell them like they’re a horrible person, I’ll just like, hey, you know, this is what I’m noticing you’re doing, and I need you to be doing this right now. You’ve kind of stepped over doing something that we’re not doing. So, it’s so important to create that space.
Jenn Breisacher: For teachers who are trying to still piecemeal this together or who might be moving into a hybrid model of going from a full distance or whatever. What advice would you give them, you know, being as you are having such success with the students that you do have in so many different leveling environments?
Bridget Burlage: So, the one thing I would recommend is making sure that you have synchronous lessons that you can teach if you’re doing hybrid because if you can have everybody on the same page in the Google Meet and they sign into Nearpod, you can see who has seen it and who hasn’t.
Then afterward, if kids didn’t see it because they’re absent or you know, they weren’t paying attention, you can create a student-paced one, or you can leave it up on Google Classroom for them to go in on their own time to kind of revisit the lesson. The other thing I would say is definitely, definitely create a calendar and create a form in a structure that you can work with.
I only have 60 minutes, so I break them into 20-minute intervals. In that way, I know I’m spending 20 minutes on this, 20 minutes on this, and 20 minutes on this, and I have three blocks, and then I rotate. The one thing I know I still need practice with is just transitioning from one assignment to the other and in doing that, SEL, a social-emotional learning activity would be perfect there.
They could do a little activity where they add something, or they have a little bit of mindfulness or they have chatted a little bit in-between. That’s okay, I still think the transitions are a little iffy in digital spaces but creating a calendar, having a structure, and just take a breath because it’s going to work out. I will tell you, the first day that I was in class…
I have anxiety about stuff and my health too because I’ve been very sick this year. So, I just have a lot of health issues. So, I found out that I was immuno-suppressed, which I guess is the word I want to use. I think it’s immuno-suppressed. So, I have all these really terrible allergies and once the season hits, I’m already low in my immune system. So, the last thing I need is to be hit with COVID.
So, on top of all of that, you just have to make sure that you come in that first day with structure in classroom. You’re going to be anxious; you’re going to be stressed out and just acknowledge that you’re going to be stressed that first day because you don’t know what’s happening.
I would say give yourself two weeks because you’re going to hate this. You’re going to hate this in the beginning, because you’re already freaking out. You’re not supposed to be in a classroom. They’ve been telling you this, you’re going to get COVID. You’re going to not like the situation but give it some time. Give yourself two weeks and in two weeks, if you’re still not liking it, at least you gave yourself two weeks to figure out why you’re not liking it.
Jenn Breisacher: That’s an excellent point.
Bridget Burlage: That way you can start fixing things because you have to reflect on this process. You have to know what’s working in your structure in classroom and not what’s not working and your admin might throw a ton of different potential tech tools and tech toys for you to use visually. Some things are going to work better than others. I’m an English teacher so Jamboard doesn’t work for me.
But if you are a career major teacher, or you’re a math or science teacher Jamboard might be amazing for you. So, it all depends on what tools you need in the classroom that fit your needs. Once the two weeks go by, you go, okay, let me readjust, let me find out what’s working and what’s not working.
That’s where after that two-week period, I finally realized, like, oh, I don’t need all this stuff as part of my structure in classroom, I don’t need all the extra like things. I just need three solid things that I’m doing every single day and by doing that, I structure my classroom. Now the kids know what to do. They know what programs to go to every single day because I’ve created a schedule for them.
So, that would be the other thing I would recommend for hybrid. I have a Google Site. Our whole school has transformed or went from Blackboard to Google site. So, what I’ve done is I’ve created a Google website page for each of my classes.
That has my schedule, the learning schedule for the week. I also have all of the websites that I use, all the platforms that I use, ways to get a hold of me. I even post their homework every day and I post reminds every day on the website, just so that they have access to it, and they don’t have to go into the classroom looking for it. It’s just somewhere easy to go to.
Having all those things up, it’s a little extra for me to have to copy and paste stuff at the end of the day or at the end of every two days but it still creates structure in classroom for them so that they know exactly what’s coming. They can’t make any excuses about it. As I said after that two-week period, I figured out okay, I’m in I’m now in a flow. I know it’s working for me and now I’m just going to tweak things. So, that would be my recommendation for people who are going into hybrid.
Structure in Classroom Moving Forward
Jenn Breisacher: And how much of this do you think that you’re going to still keep up with once everybody’s back in the classroom?
Bridget Burlage: Probably like, let’s see. I want to say 100% but maybe two-thirds of it because I definitely have been posting in three different places for homework and that’s been a thing. So, as soon as we are done with hybrid, and we go back 100%, I’m definitely getting rid of that.
But for right now, just because I know that having to click into Google Classroom takes a click, it’s just so much easier to go see it right there. on my site. This is what you have for work. Here are all the reminds of all the homework you have to do. It’s just so much easier to see than having to click in.
Jenn Breisacher: Do you think you’ve found more ways to streamline that in-person instruction through having to do this via structure in classroom?
Bridget Burlage: Yeah. I think Nearpod…man, I love Nearpod now that our school just got it. But now that I know that I can pretty much take any of my Google Slide presentations and transform it into a Nearpod presentation just by adding a few couple slides and that’s it. Yeah, definitely. It’s made it so much easier.
Jenn Breisacher: Yeah. I mean, I’ve mentioned this so many times that it’s hard and it’s a rough season, but I think there’s so much good that is going to come out of it because there are people that were resistant to learning any type of technology. Now they were forced to and they’re finding these programs that they didn’t know existed. They’re like, this is going to make my life so much easier once things go back to whatever we’re going to define as normal.
Bridget Burlage: Yeah, whatever normal is because, yeah, I don’t know what that is.
Jenn Breisacher: We’ll get there. We’ll get there. Hopefully, by the time some of you are listening to this podcast, we are back in normal and you were just listening to hear some digital ideas for structure in classroom.
Bridget Burlage: Teacher Made.
Jenn Breisacher: Right.
Bridget Burlage: Teacher Made has made my life so much easier. It’s so much easier than having to upload it into classroom. Oh my god, but you can also add a link. So, it has that Google Classroom thing where you can export to Google Classroom, it’s awesome.
Jenn Breisacher: Okay.
Bridget Burlage: So, I love that. Teacher Made.
Jenn Breisacher: Teacher Made, there you go. If you know nothing else out of this podcast. Teacher Made.
Bridget Burlage: Yes. You’ll never have to make another worksheet. Convert it from Google Classroom or from Google Drive. Just download it as a PDF, upload it, you’re done.
Jenn Breisacher: Then for our friends that are like what when things go back to normal, I can just print things. I’ll bet you your copier breaks a lot, and this will be a great way to not have to make those copies.
Bridget Burlage: I haven’t had to touch the copier at all. I had an observation and they’re like you’re not printing any paper for the kids in class. I went, why? They all have laptops that they bring every day. Why would I have them switch out? That doesn’t make any sense to me. Also, very germy, and also having to clean all this stuff down with Lysol or alcohol wipes or whatever you have, that’s actually going to take more time out of your teaching.
So, I think actually, they’re better seamless transitions for structure in classroom in a digital classroom using these tools than it would be in a regular classroom without them because there’s too much downtime in-between. Now, there are fewer excuses for the downtime or the dead time in-between transition time.
Jenn Breisacher: And even when people do go back to school, say like, they don’t have enough technology, you can certainly make that a station. So, you still don’t have to touch the paper, you can make the station and you can have some Lysol wipes there to wipe down the computer in-between, which I think from now on we will all be wiping down the computers in-between because I like to think about how many times computers in my classroom ever got wiped down. I’m sure the answer was never.
Bridget Burlage: So, this is I know off-topic. However, that is disgusting, and I remember one time one of my students is like, “Mrs. Burlage do you see these keys?” I did and disgusting. We got my wipes out and we got them out and started cleaning them down and oh my god, they never cleaned them. I wipe down my keyboard as much as possible.
Jenn Breisacher: The things you don’t think about. I mean, I created a whole e-book on social distancing in the classroom and like what you can do and one of the key pieces of it is yeah, right now it’s because of COVID but let’s just think about cold and flu season. If we can have ideas in our head on how to make the germs spread just a little bit less during those seasons, life will be much better for everybody.
Bridget Burlage: I have a tip for that. So, flu/cold season. If you have a trashcan, that’s by you, and the kids are coming to it, put that trashcan to the furthest side of the classroom towards the door and that way, the germs aren’t near you when they drop the tissues in it. So, you keep a trash can for yourself underneath your desk that’s just for you and those kids go to the farthest corner of the classroom to dump their stuff.
I learned that in Catholic school when I taught. My co-teacher told me about it and I’ve never stopped doing that. I make sure that the trashcan is the furthest away from me, the furthest away from the kids and I keep track into myself where the kids can touch
Jenn Breisacher: One of those things that’s so simple but if you didn’t know it, why would you ever think of it.
Bridget Burlage: Exactly. Just keep the tissues away from you.
Bridget Burlage: Yes.
Jenn Breisacher: So, thank you so much for coming out today and talking with us. If teachers want to reach out to you somehow or find out a little bit more about what you’re doing or whatnot, what would be the best way for them to find you.
Jenn Breisacher: Right. Right. Let’s just stop spreading germs. Stop it! Stop it!
Bridget Burlage: I would say Twitter. I don’t use my Twitter account very often. I should probably be doing that. Twitter’s one way and that’s @theburlage. So, little at sign t h e b u r l a g e. The other way you can find me is just by emailing me firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions, definitely message me because I can definitely help you out.
Jenn Breisacher: Awesome. Well, thanks again for being on the show today.
Bridget Burlage: Yeah, thank you for having me. This is awesome.
Structure in Classroom with the 4 Keys
Creating structure in classroom that will work for your students isn’t difficult, it just needs to ebb and flow with the students and where they are (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Being flexible is the key to making all of this work. The key is engagement. There are four keys to student engagement that I discuss in my video training challenge called “Finding Your Student Engagement Formula” and it walks you through those four keys and how to implement them in the classroom.
If you are interested in registering (it’s totally free), visit the Finding Your Student Engagement Formula Challenge registration page and you will be notified the next time the series is available.