Groveport Madison teachers get creative with remote learning

Jack McLaughlin
ThisWeek

With COVID-19 coronavirus numbers rising and Groveport Madison students out of the classroom and home for a second round of remote learning, teachers are finding new ways to keep them engaged. 

Middle School North math teachers Amanda Hollis and Breanna Boffice got creative with computer programs, artwork and online games to pique their students’ interest. 

“The district has given us more room to teach what works for us while we’re remote,” said Hollis, who teaches sixth grade. “The No. 1 thing right now is keeping kids engaged. I work with a great team of teachers, and we’re always bouncing ideas off each other.” 

One of the lessons by Breanna Boffice, an eighth-grade math teacher, uses virtual escape rooms in which correct answers will unlock a door and allow the students to proceed to the next level.

One of those ideas relies on pixel art. 

Using the Google Sheets spreadsheet application, Hollis transcribes a picture that many of her students will recognize. By assigning chunks of the image into individual spreadsheet cells, a collective picture becomes clear. 

However, Hollis doesn’t let her students see it all – not right away, at least. 

To uncover the full image, students must correctly solve a list of math questions. After each correct answer, a cell is revealed, eventually leading to the full picture.  

Hollis said it’s a fun way to motivate students, and she relies on a variety of images she knows will excite kids, such as characters from the mobile game “Among Us,” which is a hit in her classroom. 

“All of the kids like to guess what the picture is going to be of, and that keeps them working,” she said. “They have fun and they don’t even realize they’re doing math problems.” 

Boffice, who teaches eighth-graders, also uses pixel art in lessons. She said the method is useful because it allows students to check their own work. 

“It’s very much self-checking, so students who have a strong grasp on things fly through, and I’m able to zone in and help the others more,” she said. 

Boffice uses many of her own remote-learning activities as well. 

One of these, using clip art, allows students to create seasonal pictures.  

For example, around Halloween, Boffice created what she dubbed a “build your own pumpkin” lesson: When students answered questions correctly, they were awarded a piece of clip art (such as a jack-o-lantern’s eyes, nose, or mouth), which they could use to decorate a picture of a pumpkin. 

Boffice said she also enjoys borrows from a hugely popular activity: escape rooms. 

For these lessons, students are given several multiple-choice questions. Correct answers net them a code that can be used on a separate screen to unlock a door to a virtual escape room and proceed to the next level. 

Boffice said this year has been rife with challenges, but she’s trying to find the upside and may use some of these activities when students return to the classrooms. 

“It just gives you more resources, more tools in your toolbox,” she said. “We’re going to start putting everything in binders to use later on.”

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