Giving Hyperdocs a Try

I got the urge this summer to try some new techniques and strategies in my classroom. With the released pressure of other things that I've done in summers past, this summer I'm trying to work on things that will add to my skill set that will directly impact my classroom. The last few summers I've helped with curriculum for our district, trainings, created resources for other staff to use (and of course worked on my physical classroom). Since I'm lucky and don't have to move classrooms (year 7 in the same room woot-woot), I'm excited to add some new tricks to my instruction and push myself out of my comfort zone... enter... Hyperdocs.

(p.s. this post got real long and I could break it up into two... or maybe even three... but I'm too lazy)

What is a Hypderdoc? 

To put it simply, it is a document, often times created in a Google Doc or a Google Slide that houses links to help carry students through the learning process... all in one place. Hyperdocs can follow different formats, include different types of links, and be used across content areas all while providing academic choice and differentiation.

Why Hyperdocs? 

When looking for new ideas to try, I wanted them to technology based, as I feel like I am lacking in this area. Our district doesn't have a lot of technology at our students' fingertips. Luckily, our school has earned awards the last two years that have come with $$ and we've used some of the money to buy computers for our classrooms- prior to that, we didn't have any computers that stayed in our room for our students to use. Access and reliability is a big thing- if you don't have easy access, and if the technology can't always be reliable, it's really hard to incorporate technology into your daily practice. Now that I have 10 computers that stay in my room (and still with 30+ kids, that's not nearly enough but it's not something I want to waste), I'm determined next year to get better use out of them while I also push my knowledge on how to use Google as a great tool in my classroom.

My husband's school district is 1:1 and uses Google for lots of things. Seeing him use apps to communicate and connect with students was intriguing. And makes me realize how far behind I am. As I looked for ideas on Pinterest, I came across the concept of Hyperdocs. After reading some blogs, I bought two books to help me better dive into Hyperdocs.

My Purpose and Goals

My goal was to make a few types of resources with these Hyperdocs to start:

1) Resources that would allow me to basically "teach" a small strategy group without having to be there. One of the hardest things about having 30+ students is trying to reach all of their needs in a small groups... there's just not enough time to do it.  Here's a snapshot that played out often last year:

  • I would give a formative assessment and get results that essentially I would need 8+ small groups to pinpoint students specific needs. I would have to combine students into group, because there is no way I could get to 8 groups. I would then try to see which types of groups I could combine a bit, but then the group was getting larger in size and my focus often did too, which made it go longer than it should have. Not to mention, my ability to give feedback dropped and thus, I was not as successful or getting the results I was hoping for. 
 However, with these Hyperdocs, I would be able to have students work through a strategy in almost a "flipped" style to help me better see what each student is able to do and provide better differentiation in more targeted ways in person afterwards.

2) Resources that would allow me to teach more of a "mini-lesson" more tied to specific standards.  These could be used on sub days, with EAs when they come in to support my room, in groups, for students who are absent and miss a lesson, or for students who may need more general practice. I envision using these more whole class by sending through Google Classroom to check on specific standards... not so much to give specific strategies, if that makes sense.

Creating Hypdocs

It can be overwhelming and I knew (based on my type of personality) is that I would "jump" in and try to create all the things. So I've narrowed down my choices for the time being on these apps in hopes that I explore their potentials fully. Also, for every app I learn, I'll have to teach my students how to use fluently so they don't rely on me, so I've stuck to 6. 

I've also made templates that I will use to keep things clear for students (and helps me for planning and preparing). I've started with reading and have done a few that I know I will need (based on past years).

Type 1: The Longer Lesson Type

Before I begin, all the clipart you see in these screenshots from my Google Slides is created by the amazing Sarah Pepcornio. Check out her store here... it's hard to resist what she creates!

Each one of these "mini-lesson" style hyperdocs starts with with an essential question. At the end, students will reflect on the answer back on this slide. I've included a quick reference circle with the focus (here it is setting) and the standard (since I'm really bad at tracking progress on specific standards and would like to improve here).

My learning model I went with for this type is the one suggested from the Hypderdoc Handbook Authors that includes essentially 7 parts. On this slide, students will engage with the focus or topic in some ways. In this example, I'm having students take a quiz that I made on Google forms. It shows them different locations, like Target, our school, a soccer game, a dentist's office and asks them to think if they behave the exact same way in all of these location and if they have the same feelings in all of these places. It gets them thinking about themselves first. My form is created in sections so after they finish this reflecting section, they wait to push next which will be more specific on other parts of the learning model like the application part. 

Students then explore the topic with a video from Youtube (it's a free Flocabulary video... if students like it, I may bite the bullet and buy a subscription because they are catchy). They reflect and type their reflection above the video when they are done.

On the explain section, I am more direct with our focus. For this one, I've created a Thinglink that has prompts that they hover and reflect on. Then they come back and type responses here.

Now they apply their learning. I added 3 digital read alouds for students to have choice on. They pick one to enjoy. Then they go back to Google Form from early and share their responses. In the "pay attention box" I will add reminders from the Thinglink.

The last steps have students reflect on their learning and plan for extending. Here I ask them prompts and they respond by typing their reflection. In other lessons, they may use Flipgrid to share their reflection, which allows them to record up to a 90 second reflection of them talking instead of typing/writing. To extend, I give them a graphic organizer idea on how they could do this in their own books.

These are definitely longer than a traditional "mini-lesson." It may take students up to 30 minutes to complete all of it, so it's not something we will use everyday, or even every week. I'm curious to test them out next year, so I'm not making a ton of them incase I need to make changes. 

Type 2: The Targeted Strategy Group

A second type I am making (which I will probably keep making more of because they are less intense and more focused) is for strategy groups. These take what a student is doing now and gives them a next step to grow.

For these, I use the app Screencastify. It's less interactive for students. It's more of me talking and showing, but it's done through me recording it and then I can share it with students for them to watch in class (or at home if they really want). I start by sharing what they are doing and why it's great. Then I share what we are going to try to improve on. For this one, it is about determining importance. I start with a picture that seems unrelated to reading. For this one, I included a picture of a part of our classroom. I share that some people might notice a few things: this lady loves to color coordinate, there's different chair options, and there's a lot of books. If I had to say which of those details is most important to our classroom, which would I say and why? This gets students to think about determining importance based on the question and the topic. We then connect and launch to the strategy. 

Side note: I record just this file which is saved as a pdf. Screencastify allows you to pick what part of your screen you record. So I scroll and point and talk while I record. You can record 50 videos a month. Ok... back to the layout.

I offer again a graphic organizer students could recreate and talk the through it with examples from our mentor text. I also provide a premade chart that I used in my "face to face" small groups. I go through the little mini strategy group (which is usually about 10 minutes). My call to action then is for them to try it on their own either with a common short text/passage or their own book. I typically do a small passage first that I know well before I have them try in their own book. They then could share it in old school way on paper and turning it into my table, record using the SeeSaw app to their portfolio for me to reference or use Flipgrid to record them talking about their work... I haven't decided what I want yet. 

Something I need to still include is a rubric to show students where they are. This says "Character Traits [3]" at the top because I have 3 different strategy groups on character traits so far: strong trait word usage, provided multiple pieces of evidence for a trait, determining what is important in a character's traits. 

So... this turned into a colossal post. Sorry bout that! But that's the latest of what I've been working on for my classroom. If you've created or used any Hyperdocs, I'd love to hear about your experience!



The Hiatus (and if it will continue)

Oh my little blog...

At one point, I devoted so much time and effort into you. And now, you have sat silent for 8 months. Why? What changed?

Well I don't know for sure. But I'm going to "think out loud" in hopes that I come back to you on a regular basis.
Why did I choose to blog to begin with?

At first, it was a record for me to keep track of what I was doing- to look back on what I've done in my career.  It was also a great tool for reflection. I was able to process what I had done, what went well, what I would I do differently. It was very therapeutic actually.

Later, I found a great community of other teacher bloggers- people who understood my passion to create things and I just so happen decided to create mainly for my classroom. Other people, especially in my "real world" would sneer at what I did for my classroom, make negative comments about how much time I devoted to my work, and made me feel bad for the energy I put into my work. These people in "internet world" though got it. They understood. They inspired me. They motivated me. I could share not only for my own record (my blog has come to my rescue when I'm at school and forgot the wording or a chart idea from an activity from the previous year- so it served it's original purpose), but I could share with others and essentially get the positive feedback that was lacking in my real world. Let's face it- it feels good to get positive feedback (or really feedback of any kind that lights a fire under your butt and helps you improve). It feels good to hear from other people who do similar things validate what you've done, suggest things you could add/change, or make you question. I loved that about blogging and sharing what was happening in my small classroom. I loved also when others shared what was happening in their rooms and giving me inspiration or motivation to question and change some of my practices.

So what changed?

One thing I loved about blogging was making things look a certain way. I liked playing around with fonts and colors and design. It was a creative outlet for me. I began to spend a lot of time on this... and I liked spending the time. As I was working on this, I was also still working on creating resources for my own classroom. This interest of design also fell into this type of work too. As I created and shared things for my room based on my needs, people would ask for access to them as well. Which is fine and dandy! Until the requests for things to become editable all the time became common expectations. It takes a lot of extra time to make things editable for others, when you are using fonts and clip art. I'm all for sharing and want things to work well for others too, but the demand and expectations to make things perfect for everyone else started to take its toll on me. One piece of defensive I often used when people scoffed at my excessive work was this: "I do it because I like to do it. When I don't like doing it anymore, I'll stop." I unfortunately reached that point I think and that is one of the reasons I began to share less on the blog.  I used my blog as a way to share and since I was stepping away from creating for others temporarily, I had less content to share (or so I thought).

Which brings me to another possible reason for a lack of blogging: content. When I started to get into blogging, there was already a huge resource of blogs to follow. They had the most amazing content. It didn't always look "pinteresty" but it was great info and ideas, which is what I liked. What I really loved about blogging wasn't always the resources people created, but the ideas and pedagogy. The type of blogging (buy resources, please) started to consume my Bloglovin' feed. As this happened, I found fewer bloggers actually blogging, but rather posting on other social media about resources in their room and then having a blog post about the resource before it sent you to their TpT store. I missed the link-ups that people had, the weekly/monthly series people hosted, and the sharing of ideas. I started to read fewer blogs myself and I distanced myself from blogging since I felt defeated. I missed the "old" blogging. And since people didn't seem as interested in the "old" type of blogging, I didn't feel as inspired to blog myself.

Maybe it is my distance, but it appears that in general, blogs have become a less popular media choice for educators to connect and share with over the last 6 years. Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, and professional, actual, websites have replaced the "blog" that I joined at the beginning of my career. That may be what some people are looking for now- heck it must be because that is what people are choosing to devote their time to instead of their blogs- but personally, it's not what I prefer at this point. I miss sitting down and reading about other teachers and their experiences. Again, this could be a warped perception due to my removal and what I chose to look at.  I shut down all things teacher related on social media (with the exception of this blog) as a way to balance the demands of my job and also take care of myself. It was scary at first to delete and say goodbye to all of my posts on Instagram and my FB followers, but I also knew that if I was going to start it back up again, it would be different than what it had become. I don't regret it. Although sometimes I wish I saved some of the photos to reference. Again though, life goes on. I've slowly started to refollow teachers on my personal Instagram, but I'm not sure if I am ready to go back yet. I'm starting here.

Lastly, one other reason that maybe led towards stepping away, was my personal teaching journey. I've had a lot of things in my career that have stayed the same: same school, same classroom, many of the same colleagues, same curriculum. I've had a few changes: new grade level, new administration, new teammates, new students. I had been giving my whole life to teaching because it made me happy. This year, I've found myself just in more pits and valleys than peaks, both in my teaching career and personal life. I feel like the cards are stacked against teachers often. The large class size I have this year (31) is making me realize how amazing it was to have 21, 24, or even 26 students in a class. Looking back at a video I made for one of my classes two years ago, I realized all the fun things we did then as a class that I haven't done this year with this group. I asked myself why.

Class size often came into play. There's so many of them. Transitions take longer. The sheer number of bodies takes up too much room for other things. When I would buy things, it costs quite a bit more. Trying to manage that many kids in activities that are more hands-on has proven to be a challenge. Expectations to teach so many of them and meet them at their individual level and help them have adequate growth is constantly on my shoulders. Our school has beaten the odds and has won awards from the community for our amazing test scores, and that pressure to continue to climb and not stumble has put an immense amount of pressure on me. I know I put a lot of the pressure on myself. But when you see success and know it is possible, it is hard to accept anything less, even though we don't take into account the things that have changed that made that success tangible in the first place. As one of my colleagues said,  "Our students are coming to us with less and we are having to provide them more. They can't change. They often don't have the option to. But we as adults can change."

However, in education, we are often not given what we need to do that. It makes me sad that I've become so cynical about my profession.  I know though, that I am not alone in this feeling. I wonder if things will break while I'm still teaching and true change will come, or if I will let the broken system break me first. All I know is I want to love my job again. And there's been times this year where I haven't. And it's not because of my students or my team. It's because this work is hard and not getting easier.

There have been times when I wanted to return and share something, but I wouldn't. I'd like to share again, if for nothing else, myself. We are in the process of selling our home and moving closer to my husband's schools. Next year my team should all be back (One of my teammates was on maternity leave the whole year and I really miss having her around. Luckily we got along with the long term sub well and my other teammate and I got closer so I can only look forward to next year being back together). I'm in the same grade and this year, we piloted a new math version of our curriculum so I won't need to spend as much time learning the ropes like I did this year. I will have a class size in the 30s again, but now I will know a bit of what to expect after doing it this year. And if the stresses of this year subside, perhaps my husband and I will get to start the family we've been hoping and praying for, for over two years. I'm trying to get my anxiety under control, find a balance with work and life, build better, healthy habits, and find more joy in my work again. So short answer- I don't know where this blog will go next. If it brings me joy, I will do it. If it brings me stress, I won't.

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