New School Year’s Day with Distance Learning

Happy New School Years Day (1)

Our first day of school, also known as New School Year's Day, is Monday, August 24, 2020. Due to high levels of Kern County residents testing positive for COVID, we will start the school year virtually.

I plan to use this space to share my plan to teach students and then reflect on whether that day's lesson was successful. Some lessons will be good while others will bomb. We live in a new world. As I reflect on successes and failures, I will grow as a teacher. It does not matter that I started teaching in 2000, 1) I can always get better and 2) this year is like no other. If other teachers can learn with me, then that is even better.

We are the largest K-8 school district in California. All of our students were given Chromebooks, tons of materials and books, and a hot spot if needed. Teams of teachers, admin, and parents have worked all summer to prepare for the new year. Our work can be found at (yea, you know me) and

Junior high students will attend three different periods a day. I teach three English Language Arts/History blocks (no yearbook this year). Each period is 90 minutes long, which means I will have 1st/2nd Period students for 180 minutes with a 15-minute break. Lunch is an hour and a half. Then I will see 3rd Period students for 90 minutes. On Tuesday, I will see periods 4, 5, and 6.

Like all New School Year's Day, we will have getting-to-know-you activities and a social contract. Nevertheless, we may also start an academic activity. I am in no hurry to rush through lessons. I just know that students will get bored doing the same thing for long periods of time.

One activity will be to create a new avatar. The idea comes from CreativeEdTech Ryan O'Donnell's Avatar Listicle. I checked the avatar sites that Ryan listed on my daughter's Chromebook to see which ones worked. My daughter then proceeded to tell me how to create an avatar. At age 8, she is an expert. In the end, we came up with this list for junior high school students.

I posted the assignment in Google Classroom using Alice Keeler's Reuse GC add-on and the Roster to Slides option. I did this on Friday. Already multiple students have completed the activity. They even private messaged me in Google Classroom. I am not upset. I am kind of proud. Those students have agreed to help other students or start their Google Site blog.

I will return Monday afternoon to let you know how the lesson went. Tomorrow will definitely be different.


I completed the avatar lesson on the first day of school with two classes. In the first class, we started the avatar lesson during attendance and took too long on the activity. In the second class, we did the avatar lesson after we completed the first phase of our social contract.

The reason I changed the order is part of an EduProtocol philosophy - students will take all the time you give them to complete the activity.


What I liked

I like using Roster to Slides, which is an option in Alice Keeler's Reuse GC. I could see who was absent and who needed help using the grid option in Google Slides.

I loved giving students time to create. We will do a great deal of creating this class. I am anti-consume and pro-creation when it comes to student learning.

Lastly, teaching the students to use CTRL + ALT + M to Make a comment on a classmate's slide is a skill students will need.

What I did not like

My 8-year-old and I checked each of the avatar sites on Friday using her school Chromebook. Over the weekend filter permissions were changed. We just went with the flow when Disney and Star Wars avatar sites did not work.

I did not like giving students too much time to complete the activity. Some students had a problem finding the slide with their name on it.

Stumbles but worth it

Some students did not understand how Roster to Slides works. This mix up allowed me to emphasize the procedure. We will use Roster to Slides multiple times a week in English and history class. The missteps students make now will teach them the procedure in future lessons. We fail forward.