This is such a surreal time for teachers. We suddenly find ourselves forced out of the brick and mortar classrooms and into a distance learning set up that we are making up as we go along. Most of us were not at all prepared for remote learning for kindergarten and even those who were likely were not anticipating this. So how can we engage families in a meaningful way without adding stress? Here are things that are working for me and my kinders in this new normal of online learning.
1. Pick an online platform and stick with it.
Don't reinvent the wheel. If you've been using SeeSaw all year in the classroom don't switch to Google Classroom now. Do what works for you but remember that parents likely have more than one student so streamlining to what your school is using will probably be helpful. We are currently using SeeSaw for our distance learning model and so far it's going pretty well. I love being able to send videos, assignments, and more. Commenting on assignments with my voice lets my students hear me and gives them instant feedback. It's been great! Seesaw is offering free accounts through June so if you're interested, be sure to check them out. I talk more about Seesaw in a blog post here.
2. Record yourself.
Some districts are requiring their teachers to teach live using Zoom or something similar, but many are not. If you are not interacting with your students live on video (no judgment here!), then it is important that they get to see or hear you somehow. It feels silly at first, but your students want to see you. Jack Hartmann is great for number videos and other practice but he isn't you. I'm certainly not suggesting that you do not use all the awesome videos available on Youtube, but you should record yourself reading or teaching something.
3. Don't overdo it.
It's easy to get lost in the world of possibilities of online learning and want to do it all. But remember, most parents are not teachers and many parents have more than one student they are currently helping to do school work from home. This is a challenge for a lot of reasons. If families share one computer, it's no possible for all the kids to be online at one time. Parents may be juggling working from home (like us) with helping their kids work from home. It's a balancing act to be sure so you'll want to temper your expectations. Give families (and yourself!) some grace and try not to send too much home each day.
4. Stick to a schedule.
I send out this schedule daily. I send it as a PDF in SeeSaw so parents can click the links from there. This schedule keeps things predictable for parents and kids. It also helps me to keep things simple for parents and helps me to stay on track and not add too much. It is a free template in my TPT store, so feel free to use it. Before you send it to parents, you can save it as a PDF. If you are using a PC, choose save as – and choose PDF. On a Mac, export as and choose PDF. Sending it as a PDF helps to keep your fonts and formatting in place and prevents parents from accidentally deleting things. You could also save as an image or take a screenshot to share with parents. Whatever works best for you.
5. Offer “device-less” options.
This is important. 5 and 6-year-olds should not be in front of a screen all day. And remember they may be sharing devices with all of their siblings. Give kids things they can do without a device. Things like read a book, a scavenger hunt for sight words, practice adding with their cereal or writing numbers in shaving cream. There are lots of options out there! We send home these choice menu boards that can be done paper and pencil and there are quite a few options that only require thins that kids have at home. You can send the choice board and worksheets home on SeeSaw for kids to complete, give parents the option to print it out or just use paper they have at home. Giving kids options keeps things flexible for families. This post talks all about assigning kindergarten homework.
6. Keep Communicating.
One of the hardest things about all of this is missing being able to interact with our students. It's so hard to be on the other side of a computer screen. It's important to remember to keep checking in on your students. Send them a note in the mail or record a little video just to check-in. I sent each of my students a handwritten note and a class photo so they have it at home. They really appreciated it and it was fun to do. These little gestures go a long way. The notes above are editable so you can use them any time of year (not just during this distance learning time!).
What else are you doing for your distance learning model? I'd love to hear about it!