How to Use AES for Teaching in the Classroom Post-COVID
If you use a digital curriculum system like AES, you’re likely worried about transitioning back to full-time in-person classes.
Can you use a digital curriculum for in-class teaching?
Is it going to be a good fit once you and your students are back in the classroom?
The AES digital curriculum has helped you navigate hybrid and distance learning, but did you know the system was designed for a blended learning classroom implementation?
In this article, you’ll discover best practices and examples of how teachers like you make the most of AES when teaching in-person.
Table of Contents
We’ll organize the tips in this article according to the four-phase structure of the curriculum.
Use the links below to jump to the phase you want to learn more about implementing:
- A Review of the Four Phases
- Phase 1: Explore
- Phase 2: Learn & Practice
- Phase 3: Reflect
- Phase 4: Reinforce
After reading this article, you’ll have a clearer idea of how you can use the AES digital curriculum in your classroom.
A Review of the Four Phases
The AES curriculum is made up of learning modules that each focus on an overarching topic.
These modules follow our unique learning plan called the Four Phases.
This learning plan acts as a framework to help you maximize student understanding, engagement, and information retention.
The four phases of the AES curriculum are:
- Explore: Teacher-led activities to hook students’ interest
- Learn & Practice: Student-directed eLearning within the system to learn new concepts and skills
- Reflect: Teacher-led activities to review and discuss key ideas
- Reinforce: Student-directed projects to enhance understanding of concepts and skills
These phases are our way of presenting learning content in a structure any teacher can follow to help students retain information for the long term.
Within the curriculum, you’ll find a combination of lecture materials, hands-on activities, projects, eLearning lessons, and various assessments.
Dive into each phase below to learn how you can use these blended learning resources in your classroom!
Phase 1: Explore
The Explore phase contains teacher-led activities designed to hook your students’ interest.
These activities get your students thinking and prime them for learning new concepts and skills.
The resources found in the Explore phase vary from module to module, depending on the topic being covered.
Some examples include role-playing scripts, equipment demonstrations, student fliers, and other activities to introduce topics and initiate classroom discussion.
There are two common ways teachers use the Explore phase in their classes:
- Introductory icebreakers
- Transitions between modules
Use an Explore Activity as an Icebreaker
The Explore activities’ original intent is to help you introduce a topic and get students interested in what they will encounter in the Learn & Practice phase.
For example, in the HealthCare Systems module, the Analyze Healthcare Facilities activity requires students to pair up and list facilities that employ healthcare workers. Afterward, you facilitate a class discussion on what your students listed and talk about different components of each facility.
In the Customer Service module, students act out real-world scenarios and identify examples of good and poor customer service. Afterward, your class will discuss the scenarios by answering guided questions.
The introductory aspect of these activities makes them an excellent icebreaker for kicking off a new topic in your class.
Use an Explore Activity to Transition Between Learning Modules
You can also use these activities as a transition between module topics.
When you end one learning module and plan to jump into a new module, it can be tempting to tell students to go straight into the next set of eLearning lessons.
However, getting your students away from their screens and doing an Explore activity from the next module is a great way to mix things up and indicate that you are moving on to a new topic.
Phase 2: Learn & Practice
The Learn & Practice phase has teacher resources and student-directed eLearning lessons to help students learn new concepts and skills.
This phase is the heart of the AES curriculum. It’s where most of the standards are covered, and the bulk of the learning takes place.
While the Learn & Practice phase contains various resources, the two main sources of curriculum are teacher presentations and eLearning lessons.
Teachers use the PowerPoint presentations in various ways, depending on the topic they’re teaching and their students’ needs.
Through the eLearning lessons, students examine the content and complete assessments. They may also practice skills associated with the content they are learning.
There are five common ways teachers use the Learn & Practice phase in their classes:
- Introduce key concepts with an in-class lecture
- Assign eLearning lessons as classwork
- Rotate groups between eLearning and hands-on skills work
- Assign eLearning lessons as homework
- Work through the lessons as a class
Depending on the topics you teach and how your students learn best, you may find one or more of these works well for you.
In some cases, we recommend switching it up and using multiple strategies to keep your students engaged throughout your course!
Introduce Key Concepts with an In-Class Lecture
Many of the eLearning lessons come with an accompanying teacher presentation.
One of the most common ways teachers use the presentation is to introduce what students will learn once they dive into the eLearning lessons.
This strategy is a perfect example of using blended learning to teach your students in multiple ways:
“I pretty much always start with the PowerPoints, then students go into the program, put headphones on, and listen. They hear me talk about the information, and then they have a backup for going over the material in a different way.”
Holcomb Bridge Middle School, GA
If your students already have a good understanding of the topic, we recommend you forego using the presentation.
On the flip side, if you’re diving into a more difficult concept, an introductory lecture can help your students grasp the information better!
For more tips on using the teacher presentations in your classroom, check out this article: How to Use the AES Teacher Presentations Effectively
Assign eLearning Lessons as Classwork
Many teachers instruct students to work through the eLearning lessons during class time.
This allows students to work independently while you answer questions that come up - without interrupting the entire class.
“I have more time to monitor and circulate throughout the classroom to ensure students don’t get left behind. I can stop and help a student and then start moving around the class again. I have much more time to give feedback to the students during class. I think it’s helped me be a superhero. With AES, I’m doing a better job. I’m able to be there for the students more.”
Coconut Creek High School, FL
For a variation on assigning the eLearning lessons as classwork, read the next idea!
Rotate Groups Between eLearning and Hands-On Skills Work
If you teach health science courses, you know it can be tricky to juggle your standard classroom instruction with hands-on skills or lab work.
Teachers often tackle this situation by putting students into two groups and rotating them between digital and hands-on work.
“In the setting that I teach, there is a lot of potential downtime during the times where students are performing hands-on skills practice and/or testing. During the time-consuming assessment process these skills take to master and complete, it’s important that the remaining students have something productive that allows their learning to be consistent.
AES allows me the flexibility to conduct these check-offs while not worrying that the other students in the class are not being productive.”
Thompson High School, AL
To run your classroom like Andy, split your class into two groups. Instruct half of your students to sign into their AES classes and complete the digital lessons while the other students do hands-on work with you.
Halfway through the class period, switch the groups so everyone spends time on both skills work and the eLearning lessons.
Assign eLearning Lessons as Homework
Some teachers find using a flipped learning method works best for their students. When flipping your classroom with AES, you can assign the Learn & Practice lessons as homework.
This allows your students to work through the self-directed information before your class. Then your in-class time can be spent answering questions, having in-depth discussions, and practicing skills.
Though a flipped teaching method isn’t right for everyone, some teachers find it makes a world of difference in their students’ learning experience:
“The students are more engaged when I am doing a lecture because I have them go through the modules prior to me lecturing. They’re more interested in everything. They already have in their head what questions they want to ask. Flipping the instruction gets them thinking more once they are in the classroom.”
Bartow High School, FL
New to the idea of flipping your classroom? This article will help you get started: Best Practices for Flipping the CTE Classroom
Work Through the eLearning Lessons as a Class
Another way teachers use the Learn & Practice phase is by projecting the lessons at the front of the classroom.
This method is useful when covering topics that your students traditionally struggle with or if you want to mix up your teaching style to engage your students as a group better.
While going through the lessons in this way, you can provide additional information, answer questions, and clarify anything your students seem unsure of.
As you go over the material, your students can follow along and fill out the accompanying worksheets to hand in for a completion grade. That way, you can be sure they are paying attention to what you’re teaching!
To mix things up, some teachers invite students to lead the class through the lesson.
Allowing students to lead the lesson empowers them to be leaders in the classroom while increasing engagement and interaction.
Phase 3: Reflect
The Reflect phase includes teacher-led activities designed to review and discuss key ideas from the module lessons.
This review helps your students connect the new concepts they just learned to their existing knowledge and experiences. These connections help students form long-lasting memories and result in better information retention.
In the Reflect phase, you’ll find lesson plans with 4-5 question prompts you can use to help students see the big picture.
Teachers use these Reflect phase activities in three ways:
- Assign student journals
- Host a classroom discussion
- Create short essay questions for an assessment
When using these activities, keep in mind that you don’t have to use them for every module.
Teachers often pick and choose when they include the Reflect phase, based on how well their students understood the lesson material.
Because of this, your students do not see the Reflect phase resources from their view in the AES system. These materials only live as lesson plans you see in your teacher account.
Assign Student Journals
Many teachers use the reflection questions as prompts for student journal entries.
When concluding a module, instruct your students to fill out a notebook or electronic journal with their answers to the reflection questions.
You can assign grades to your students’ journals either by tracking progress throughout the course or collecting them at the end of each marking period.
Host a Classroom Discussion
Another common way teachers use the Reflect questions is by holding a class discussion.
When doing so, write one or two questions on the board and open the floor for discussion. Encourage your students to have a conversation about their answers and why they feel that way.
This is a great way to hear your students’ perspectives on what they learned and how it applies to them.
Create Short Essay Questions for an Assessment
Teachers also use the questions from the Reflect phase to generate essay questions to include on assessments.
You can hand out a separate sheet of paper with the additional questions, or post them in your school LMS to have your students answer the questions to turn in for points on a test or exam.
This adds another question type to change it up from the multiple choice and true/false questions within the AES assessments.
Phase 4: Reinforce
The Reinforce phase includes student-directed projects that enhance understanding and expand on concepts and skills.
Students can work individually or in groups to complete projects that require them to apply what they have learned and expand on concepts.
These projects often cover additional topics and educational standards not found in the other phases of the curriculum.
Depending on the module, you’ll see a variety of activities and projects in the Reinforce phase, such as current event reports, role-playing exercises, and research projects.
For example, in the Digital Citizenship module, the Ethical Issues with Intellectual Property Rights is a research project that requires students to research a topic, answer questions, and present about it.
In the Medical Terminology module, you’ll find a crossword puzzle activity that reinforces definitions and spelling of medical terms for students.
Even with the variety of projects and activities in the Reinforce phase, there are two common ways teachers use them:
- Use the Reinforce activities to break up eLearning lessons
- Assign activities as individual or group classwork
When reviewing the Reinforce phase, keep in mind that you don’t have to use every single activity listed. We find it’s best to pick one or two that will work best for your needs.
Use the Reinforce Activities to Break Up the eLearning Lessons
Though the Reinforce phase is below the others in the AES curriculum structure, that doesn’t mean you need to use them in that order.
Some teachers like to break things up by incorporating reinforcement activities in conjunction with the Learn & Practice phase.
To do this, look at the Reinforce activities for a module and see which one relates to the unit your students just completed.
Then have your students complete that activity before moving onto the next eLearning unit!
Assign Activities as Individual or Group Classwork
Do you plan to implement a flipped classroom where students will complete the eLearning lessons at home? If so, assigning the Reinforce activities as classwork is an excellent complement to that strategy.
You’ll find that some activities are more appropriate for students to work on individually, such as filling out a questionnaire, completing an activity sheet, or practicing skills.
Others can be assigned as group work, such as those that involve role-play scenarios or creating posters.
For example, the Professionalism and Teamwork activity in the Professionalism module notes that students should do the work in groups.
Whereas the Reinforce activities in the Medical Mathematics module are more appropriate for students to complete individually.
To determine whether to assign an activity as individual or group work, review the activity’s description and lesson plan as they often indicate the intended implementation.
How Do Other Teachers Use AES in the Classroom?
While it may feel overwhelming to implement these ideas as you go back to the classroom, you don’t have to do it alone.
Thousands of teachers just like you are figuring out how to get back into the swing of things and use AES for in-person instruction.
To connect with other teachers and hear how they’re using AES in the classroom, join the AES Educator Community:
About Laura Posey
Laura empathizes with teachers daily and communicates pain points to the AES team to consider how they can be addressed. She also creates content for how-tos, use cases, and the Facebook community. In addition, Laura conducts training sessions on how AES can help teachers succeed.