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Best Practices for Educators

Learning at home: best practices for educators

High Impact Instruction in Diverse Learning Settings

When CDE describes best, first instruction, it is assumed that instruction is occurring in a traditional environment: teachers and students gather together in a classroom, working in small groups, large groups, and individually, and that there are no safety risks posed by having people in close proximity of each other or touching shared objects.  Due to the COVID-19, we can no longer assume that this traditional environment is possible or preferable under the current circumstances.  Districts and schools have had to consider other options.  For educators, this has created challenging teaching conditions- not only is teaching under these non-traditional settings challenging compared to the classroom environments teachers are accustomed to, but the uncertainty of the moment makes long-term planning and preparation especially difficult.

The purpose of these documents is to provide some guidance for each of the content areas addressed by the Colorado Academic Standards.  While some compromises are inevitable when shifting instruction to non-traditional settings,maintaining high-impact instruction (or the highest-impact instruction under the circumstances) requires adherence to certain principles, practices, and strategies.  Teaching is a very complex endeavor and while it isn't possible to cover every approach, tool, practice for every situation, these documents aim to inform educators about what instruction should ideally look like given a variety of instructional settings. 

NOTE: It is important that educators fully understand the specific safety considerations for their content area as described by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.  For specific guidance on health and safety see the "Protocols for Protecting the Health of Educators and Students" section of the "Reopening Schools Toolkit."


Complete Document (all content areas)



Formative Assessment

Formative assessment is instructional and should be used to guide and adjust instruction. This type of assessment used by teachers for the purpose of guiding student learning: 

Look ahead to provide just-in-time information to help teachers identify how to help each student access grade level learning.

Look behind at the complete set of lost learning, with the intention of remediating all prior content before allowing the student to begin learning at the current grade level.

Take an approach specific to each content area and grade band and provide information that is instructionally relevant.
For instructional purposes, assess every standard from the previous grade to provide an overarching assessment score or report.
Embed within the local curriculum, to the maximum extent possible, to assess specific skills, language, and knowledge that should have been learned from the unit just taught and to understand students’ assets to support the upcoming learning.
Be disconnected from the specific grade-level curriculum, and lead a teacher to break the coherence of what they are teaching in order to remediate unnecessarily.
Provide teachers with an understanding of what students know so teachers understand the assets students will bring to the upcoming unit.
Use assessments to generate a list of the concepts and skills students do not yet know, which leads to a remediation mindset.
Use assessment to identify and build on students' assets. 
Use assessments to simply map students’ deficits.






















*Adapted from CCSSO’s “Restart and Recovery” guidance.


Integration of Technology

There are various ways to assess either the ways to integrate technology or the need to integrate technology into instruction.  These two sites provide frameworks to assist in making decisions around technology.

SAMR Model A framework that categorizes four different degrees of classroom technology integration. The letters "SAMR" stand for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. 

Technology Integration Matrix  A framework for describing and targeting the use of technology to enhance learning. The TIM incorporates five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments: active, collaborative, constructive, authentic, and goal-directed. 


Integration of the Colorado Essential Skills

Colorado Essential Skills are divided into four categories: Personal, Entrepreneurial, Civic/Interpersonal, and Professional.  Within these categories are skills like problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, etc. Developmentally appropriate support for these skills should occur in all subject areas throughout students’ academic careers. Understanding the importance of these skills is the first step in achieving life-long success for all students.


Attending to Equity Across Learning Settings 

  • Ensure that learning recommendations are not limited by access to technology. Student learning should not be solely dependent on access to devices and the internet. Encourage approaches that can be pursued without technology and/or asynchronously to set students up for success.
  • Recognize that students and family members may be available to play different roles in learning when at home. Students and families may need to juggle home, care-taking, school, and work responsibilities. Consider a menu of options for learning experiences that allow for different types and levels of engagement during remote learning.
  • Students in poverty and students in special populations may be especially vulnerable during this time. Families in poverty may be experiencing several of the considerations described above, along with additional concerns including regular access to meals, utilities, health services, or shelter. Undocumented students and students receiving special education services may face challenges in accessing resources that they need. Encourage educators to prioritize the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of all students.
  • Learning recommendations should leverage student interest, identity, and agency. Equitable learning experiences should be both responsive to the current need as well as meaningful to learners.
  • Student home languages should be valued as an asset to learning. Take steps to bridge the gap in access to bilingual and native language resources that support learning for students and their families.


Definitions of Diverse Learning Settings

  • In-person learning: Face to face instruction within a brick and mortar structure. 

  • Hybrid/Blended learning: A combination of in-person learning and remote learning.

  • Online only learning: Online learning in Colorado refers to schools that are providing online course offerings on a full or part-time basis. Students who engage in online learning in this context are enrolled in an approved school or program or may be taking an online course to supplement. 

  • Remote Learning: Education that occurs away from a school building in response to emergency situations such as COVID-19 or natural disaster. Remote learning seeks to offer continuous educational opportunities that may or may not build upon previously taught content. Remote learning is both a temporary and longer-term option. Remote learning may include digital resources and/or hard copy resources and may include synchronous or asynchronous instruction and/or self-paced independent study work.


2020 Summer CASE Presentation - Conditions for Learning: Individualizing Responses for Students Needs


 Best Practices for Educators Teaching in Remote Settings


Communicating with Students and Families

Specify expectations for students and parents.

Be clear throughout communications around what students should be doing and what parents could do to support their child in meeting coursework and class expectations.

Be empathetic and flexible.

Remote learning may be new to many students, parents, and teachers, so patience and flexibility are paramount.

Communicate consistently and constantly.

Typically, the first order of business when classes are cancelled but must carry on virtually would be communicating your plan to your students.

You and Your Students

Schedule online "office hours."

Having a consistent time for students and parents to reach you adds a level of certainty in uncertain times.

Focus on what works best.

Teachers understand what works for their students based on age, content, needs, and technology access.

Less is more.

The quantity of assignments and instruction should focus on bigger ideas and less on discrete content.

Offer a variety of options and experiences.

Having options allows for personalization of the learning. Some ideas include simulations, project-based learning, or gaming.

Give explicit instructions and time expectations.

Create a plan for instruction based on your courses with explicit instructions, as well as the amount of time students should be working on specific tasks for each course, is important.

Encourage collaboration among your students.

Collaboration should occur through an online learning platform or through email or chats rather than in-person conversations.

Take care of yourself.

Teachers are the most important part of the system. Students need you, parents need you, and schools need you, so take care of yourself.


Become familiar with technology and tools.

Remote teaching and learning may demand the use of technology and unfamiliar tools. Engage with the unfamiliar and do your best.

Create distance learning experiences.

If you need to hold a lecture from a distance, there are synchronous (live/interactive) and asynchronous (pre-recorded) options to do so. Both options allow you to show the computer screen or other materials displayed on the screen. Check with your district/school for options.

Connect with other educators and the CDE for support.

Options for connection with educators include Facebook groups, Twitter, and Teacher to Teacher sites. Check the CDE website often for important updates on support that is offered.