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Chapter 59: Teaching with brain fog, Part 2

In my last post, I mentioned careful editing and giving students bonus points to catch my mistakes as strategies I use to deal with post-COVID brain fog.

Those strategies help when I accidentally type the wrong word on class materials, but what happens when I lose my train of thought mid-sentence, which is another annoying symptom of Long COVID?

It takes more time and more advance planning, but whenever possible, I backstop myself by making a Google Slides presentation and/or a handout to guide and reinforce my direct instruction. If I need to give the kids vocabulary words, explain a concept, or provide historical context for a lesson, I throw together a quick Google Slides presentation that hits the highlights so I don’t lose my place or forget something I meant to tell the students.

This has been a bit of an adjustment for me. Before COVID, I was accustomed to walking into class with a lesson plan and maybe a vocabulary list, glancing at it before class started, and then writing notes on the board while I discussed the day’s topic with the kids. I might look at the lesson once or twice during class to make sure we were staying on schedule, but most of the time, I just worked from memory, trusting my brain to keep me on track.

I can’t trust my brain to keep me on track these days, so I have to rely on Google to do it for me. It’s more work, but it’s not entirely a bad thing. My kids are used to checking Google Classroom at this point, and having the lecture/discussion topics condensed into a slide show makes it easy for students who are absent or working from home to keep up with the highlights, even if they miss some of the details. It’s also nice for the students who have trouble taking notes quickly to be able to go back and look at the lesson again to see what they missed.

Assuming I have some kind of notes to work from, I can usually create a presentation in an average of two to three minutes per slide, depending on how elaborate I make the slide, how many illustrations I use, and how much animation I decide to do. For note-taking purposes, I find it’s usually helpful to keep the animation relatively simple. I set my slides to advance on click, by paragraph, so the kids can’t see the next point until I’m finished talking about the first one. To speed up the process of building the slides, I pick (or design) my background style on the title slide, build a second slide with information on it, set up the animation the way I want it, and then just duplicate that slide to use as a template so I don’t have to redo the animation every time.

A good rule of thumb on slides: Confine yourself to one topic per slide, with no more than three or four points about that topic, and make sure the font is large enough and clear enough for kids to read from the back of the room. I’d rather make 20 slides that the kids will actually read and use than five overpacked slides that they ignore because they’re bored or intimidated by the sheer quantity of text in front of them.