What's Working in Pandemic Teaching: An Open Up Community Round-Up

Educators from across the country engage students in active learning as they navigate teaching during a pandemic.

As the Teacher Leader in Residence for Open Up Resources, I have the opportunity to work with districts from Arizona to Maine—and many states in between. Some educators are working with students at-a-distance in a school building, some are completely facilitating learning virtually, and others are doing both at the same time! But there is a common thread as we problem-solve through challenges and celebrate successes: educators are passionate about engaging their learners in active learning and supporting them through the process. 

Featured here are ideas around student engagement and what’s working in pandemic teaching with Open Up Resources curricula.


Cathy Dickson, 6 & 7th Grade Math Teacher, Lake Zurich CUSD 95
Open Up Resources 6-8 Math Community Coach

This year, more than ever, I’ve found it essential to focus on the 3 R’s with learners: relationships, routines, and recreation! Building relationships while remote learning the first four weeks of school was challenging. Carrying on two traditions I did pre-pandemic proved to be the right move. 

One was having students create Culture Circles. Students express what is important to them in terms of home, hopes, heritage, and hobbies. Daily, a student has the opportunity to share one thing in the first 5 minutes. The second tradition is Praise Cheers. Celebrating leadership and participation with quick cheers builds community. I wasn’t sure how this would work in remote/hybrid environments but it does. 

Routines, both with the structure and sequence of how we do class as well as the routines in Open Up Resources 6–8 Math, are non-negotiables. The lesson warmup routines, specifically, are how we provide entry points for all students and how we excite and engage them. This year, we can be creative in doing them in unexpected ways. My favorite routine this year has been Number Talks. They provide the perfect blend of highlighting student thinking and filling in the gaps present since the pandemic. 

Finally, the extra finesse of late has been a dose of FUN (recreation)! Today, it was a “Would You Rather” Halloween edition YouTube video. Students were up and moving and smiling. Earlier this week in my literature class, we were listening to another teacher’s recorded reading of Mr. Shocky. We all turned out the lights at home and tried to make Zoomland as spooky as possible. At dismissal, they were begging for more.

Follow Cathy on Twitter.


Lixy Alcorta, 2nd Grade Teacher, Two Rivers Community School

It's my first year teaching 2nd Grade EL Education from Open Up Resources. At first, everything was overwhelming, but I have found that the Google Slides for each lesson in the Community Resources have helped a ton! My teaching partner and I heavily rely on the slides to teach the lessons every day.  We have the freedom to tweak the lessons as we see fit for our students. Due to Covid this year, we're not able to do some of the protocols or assignments as instructed, but teachers are some of the most creative and flexible thinkers I know, so we've made changes and adjustments as needed. My advice is to use the curriculum as a guide for instruction, but use your professional knowledge to make it your own!


Ali Amberg, 6th Grade Teacher, Big Pine Unified School District

Kiddom has provided a platform that is ideal for feedback. When we started the year in remote learning, students submitted their Cool Downs on Kiddom and could respond via video, audio or text. One student chose to explain with his whiteboard and walk through his reasoning in finding the area of a parallelogram, and another with just audio. I could give them video feedback on their work as well as hints to get them on the right track. It was a great way to establish a connection with my students. As we are back in-seat, I have continued using Kiddom for feedback, posting photos of their Cool Downs and allowing them a chance to redo work that has not yet met the learning target. 

Learn more about Kiddom.


Justin Endicott, 4th Grade Teacher, Man Elementary School, Open Up Resources K–5 ELA Community Coach 

One of the most trying aspects of teaching during the pandemic is ensuring that you have each child and family engaged. During this time, teachers are juggling more than ever, and we have to spend a large amount of time reaching out to those students who aren't engaged. 

The first method I use is old fashioned phone calls, texts, and emails. I call as much as I possibly can and have conversations with families. I am blessed to have a counselor and admin that check in with me often to offer help here also.  

In addition, I work to try and ensure my lessons are as engaging as possible. The protocols offered from EL Education from Open Up Resources are excellent in ensuring students are discussing and engaging with others in a safe manner. I am hybrid, so in class my students stay in their socially distanced seats and talk to each other for protocols.  

I also think breakout rooms are amazing and have found that once I teach the protocols and expectations of the breakouts, students rise to the challenge. I love that I can randomly pop in and out of each room and catch the discussions live.  

Follow Justin on Twitter.


Nathan Charlton, Middle School Math Teacher, Griffiths Middle School

We're having a lot of fun using OneNote with our new district iPads. Using the pre-loaded Open Up Resources 6–8 Math curriculum, we're able to push out all content digitally. Every student is using the Open Up curriculum, "doing math" on their iPads and interacting with the digital text. We're able to share the work students have done and provide support, all while being 100% distance learning.


Danita Forbes, 7/8 Math Teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District

I love Open Up Resources! I love seeing the students discover concepts and skills on their own. In the classroom setting, it is much easier to see the learning take place, but I have found some tools that have really helped me during this time.

I rely on the slides that were created by Morgan Stipe for Open Up Resources 6–8 Math. I take them and input them into Desmos slides that have already been created by so many wonderful people. Desmos has allowed me to be able to see all my students' work. I can pace the lesson, so we all are on the same page. It makes it easier to do the activity synthesis. I can pause them when I want them to focus on my screen. It is wonderful. Desmos also allows for feedback.

I use Zoom to conduct class and the private chat feature allows for students who would not normally ask questions in class to ask questions in class because no one knows it is them.

I also rely on the Facebook Groups. It is my PD.


Jill Besler, 3rd Grade Teacher, Maquoketa Valley Community School District

This school year has presented so many new challenges for teachers and families. I am a third grade teacher who is navigating the K–8 EL Education curriculum from Open Up Resources for the first time. I love the higher-order thinking skills that my students are engaged in during EL lessons. Since we have in-person and virtual learners, we are utilizing a variety of digital tools to reach all of our learners. 

My favorite digital resources are the lesson slides developed by Open Up Resources and available for download on their website. These colorful presentations help guide my teaching and provide a wonderful visual for online learners. I have created Google Slides presentations to guide independent work time during ALL Block. This has allowed all students to participate in center type work without having to have paper copies of all the materials. I record read aloud for some of the research reading in order to provide access for students who are learning remotely. Our students also use the Kami extension in Google Classroom to annotate pdf documents that accompany the lessons. I have utilized other digital resources such as EPIC! books, Newsela, Screencast-O-Matic, and Pear Deck when appropriate in the curriculum.


Morgan Stipe, recently named Open Up Resources first Teacher Leader in Residence, combines her experience in teaching and school leadership and brings it to the OUR team. The team at OUR refers to her as our “Resources Whiz” as she is always creating and developing resources to support students that use Open Up Resources 6–8 Math and EL Education, and is willing to share them with other teachers from around the country. Morgan also documents her classroom experiences on many social media platforms including #OpenUpMath and the Open Up Math Facebook Group.

Check out upcoming Open Up Resources 6–8 Math Professional Learning events from our Teacher Leader in Residence, Morgan Stipe, here