Virtual Learning: Round 2

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

As you all know, I'm on round two of virtual learning.  It has definitely proven not to be my favorite way to teach kindergarten, but we are making the best of it!  I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful class of students and supportive parents and get to see most of my kiddos during our live sessions each day.  I really think that helps me to feel like I'm really teaching because I'm getting to have that interaction with them.

I have learned so much while teaching virtually and have had a lot of time to reflect on things.  I've decided to share some of my takeaways with you and hopefully you will share with me!  We can learn so much from each other and become the best versions of ourself!

1. Create a routine.  I try to keep things in a very similar fashion for each day.  This has really helped not only my students, but also my parents!  They all know what to expect each day and are mentally prepared to work.  I have also found it so helpful to give my students similar assignments each day so they know what to expect. While the content changes, they know that there is going to be a reading assignment, a math assignment, work to do on our computer programs, a read aloud each day to listen and respond to, and sometimes a special assignment or project.  I try to pull the other content areas into those assignments so there aren't a lot of extras for them to be overwhelmed.  If we do a special project or assignment, this is always something I let them know about ahead of time so they can be prepared.

2. Connect with your families.  Teaching is so much more than just getting to know your students, and getting to know the rest of their family is more important than ever during this time.  I have gotten to know their families during my weeks of teaching virtually.  When I say their families, I mean immediate family and people beyond the parents or primary caregivers.  I have parents that are working, attending college, or have other prior engagements and can't be home to help their child get online for these live sessions and make sure they complete their work.  So, this duty has fallen on grandparents and other people in their families, which is perfectly fine.  I have really connected with them and done whatever I can to help them so they can help their child!  We all want the same thing--student success!  So it has been very important for me to connect with them so they can help in the best ways and make sure the student is able to attend live sessions and complete the work.  Reach out to them to check in via email, phone call, Zoom or Google Meet, or whatever other platform you are using in your classroom.  The world never expected to be in this situation, but it's such a good feeling to have families that care and want to do what's best for their child no matter the situation!

This shirt has gotten a lot of laughs from other staff members!  Thank you to Lulu's Vinyl & Gifts for another awesome shirt!  Use code "kindercrazy" to get 10% off your order!

3. Keep it simple.  I have seen some amazing technology out there!  There are so many awesome apps and programs and it all looks so exciting.  However, it's also important to know your families and understand who is helping the child at home.  My students are kindergarteners, so obviously they can't complete their work 100% on their own and need some assistance and support to navigate.  It's important to take into consideration the family and their knowledge of technology to know what they can do to support their child.  I have so many grandparents that are taking a part in their child's education and just don't understand everything technology has to offer.  Some of them are in their 70s, so it's quite amazing to me to see what they have accomplished so far!  I have LIVE Google Meet sessions daily, which I also record in case they need to go back and watch later.  I also send paper packets of work home to supplement my live sessions, which is what we would normally do in class at this time.  We are still learning letters and sounds, so the students need this sort of work so they are getting the practice they need, as well as working with various handwriting utensils (crayons, pencils, highlighters, etc.) and scissors!  This work is also easy for anyone in the family to assist with if the child needs it.  To submit their work, they take pictures and attach to the assignments on Google Classroom.  Simple and beneficial!  We don't always need the extra bells and whistles that come with fancy technology.

4. Utilize your computer programs.  We have some wonderful programs that we use such as Lexia Core 5, Symphony Math, Happy Numbers, Zearn, Epic Books, and Teach Your Monster to Read.  You can access Zearn, Epic Books, and Teach Your Monster to read for free online, so check them out!  Most of the programs have weekly goals for the students, so I can assign them a program to work on for a few minutes each day and it gives them some skills practice and helps them reach their weekly goals!  This is also an activity they can do completely on their own, so it provides some relief to the adults at home.

5. Schedule your assignments.  There are so many amazing platforms out there, but my district is using Google Classroom.  I always have my week planned ahead, so my assignments are ready to put into Google Classroom.  When loading an assignment, I can schedule a day and time for it to show up on our Class Feed and the Classwork section.  This is one of my favorite features so that I spend 30 minutes on Sunday evening loading all my assignments for the week and not have to stress about it!  It's also great for the parents so they can check Google in the morning and see what assignments are due for the day.  Many are working in addition to holding a household together, so they don't have time to check Google several times a day to see if I've put up any new assignments (who has time for that?!).  They know exactly what is due for that day and can plan accordingly.

6. Be EARLY for live sessions.  I have to open the room up for our Google Meets before students can enter, so it's important for me to be early.  It can be frustrating for a student to try and get on for the live session, but keep getting an error message because I don't have the room open yet.  To prevent issues, I always log on 10-15 minutes early and play some music for my class to listen to as they join the room (you can do this on Google or Zoom).  It allows everyone time to get on, sets the tone for the meeting (I play fun, upbeat songs), and gives everyone time to get settled in so I can start right on time.  My kindergarteners have been loving Super Simple Songs on YouTube, so I just share my screen so they can watch the videos and sing along to the music!

Virtual learning has definitely been a "learn as you go" type of experience.  Along the way, you'll find what works best for you and your class.  My biggest piece of advice is to be organized.  Create yourself an agenda for any live sessions to help keep you on track.  If you plan to screen share anything with your class, have your slides, documents, and links ready and loaded so you can click and go straight to it.  Try to think and plan ahead so you can hopefully prevent as many technology issues as possible.  

What are some things you have learned during virtual learning this year?

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