There are so many brave heroes out there on the front lines keeping us safe…. and my heart is so full of gratitude for them.
And, to all you teachers out there, I think you are truly incredible too!
During these unprecedented times, teachers are living breathing models of compassion, resilience, vulnerability, community and a growth mindset.
What has continued to inspire me is how we, as educators, continue to come together to support each other as we figure out how to support our students and their families within this “new normal for now.”
I’d like to share a few things that I’m currently doing with my grade threes, that could easily be adapted for intermediate students as well.
The children’s family connections and wellness come first. During these unprecedented times, it is so important that as educators we take time to listen and connect with families.
I attempt to provide learning opportunities and supports that align with family’s needs (as best I can as I too am a beginner with this learning model!).
With my young students, I use a hyperlinked weekly checklist for several reasons which I have explained below.
I‘ve attached the Checklist Google Slides for you.
It includes 3 slides: the template, a sample week, and a template for an individualized learning plan.
Make a copy and then change it to fit your own community of learners
So, why a Weekly Checklist?
- It honours that different busy homes have different levels of support available to younger students at different times/days.
- When printed, it can guide the structure of the students’ one hour of school time. Many children love to “check off” the tasks they accomplish.
- Children love to have choice. The checklist allows them to make choices within their daily activities.
- Viewing it online allows students to access hyperlinks to our Google Classroom and commonly used sites. It’s my attempt at limiting the number of places students have to navigate to on their own.
- Some families want more work, some want less. Some want more tech, some want less. This provides options.
- The varied needs of learners that you saw in your classroom are still there. The checklist model honours that.
Additionally, students that have exceptional needs/circumstances could be provided with the “Design Your Own Learning Adventure” to be completed with the adult identified in their learning plan.
Within each week’s learning opportunities, I offer a “create” project and encourage fresh air time. RAZ Kids and Prodigy math allow for individualized programming at student’s “good fit” levels.
With projects, I try to offer options (low tech, medium tech, high tech).
#2. Tech Tips
I am, by no means, techie! But like the rest of you, I opened my arms to this experience and said, “Bring it on! Challenge Accepted!”
If my students can use that line to celebrate a growth mindset, then so can I!
There are many platforms out there and different districts and provinces are using different things. Be sure to use what is approved in your community.
EdTech Canada webinars and sessions are wonderful!
Things that have simplified my online teaching life have been
- Google Classroom with Classwork sorted by WEEK
- Google Site for extension activities for those looking for more
- Loom chrome extension for making videos (daily morning greeting videos & instructional videos)
- Mote chrome extension for providing audio feedback to students
- Zoom for live meetings
Collaboration with other educators and District Staff have been key in getting my classroom up and running.
#3. Social-Emotional Learning
Now, more than ever, we need to be supporting children and families with Social Emotional Learning.
What were you already doing in your classroom? How can you incorporate what the children are familiar with into this new platform?
Breath work practices can be made available through live sessions, pre-recorded videos, or if you are not comfortable making your own, find some online.
Practicing gratitude supports optimism and calms the body. Gratitude Circles and Journals are a great daily practice that, though take little time, can have a huge impact.
Kind Kids Club missions feel good, support us in looking beyond ourselves, and make us feel like we can make a difference in this world where, at this time, we might feel pretty helpless.
Send children forth with kindness missions to carry out. You can give them missions, or better yet, have them generate their own.
(See 35 ideas you can use for your Kind Kids Club here)
Continue to teach children about self-regulation, and allow them to continue to explore “Chill Skills” that they may wish to use to help them when they are not regulated.
I’ve made my Chill Skills available to you for free
>>Download the Poster + Card Deck (PDF)
Knowing about neuroplasticity is so empowering for children.
Resource recommendations, “Breathe Like a Bear,” Kira Willey, “Sitting Still Like a Frog,” Eline Snel.
(For more Mindfulness Resources, check out the Mindfulness for the Classroom program)
#4. Collaboratives & Connections
It is important to keep in close contact with parents.
In the classroom, we are moment by moment doing a “Temperature Check” of the room… the furrowed brow, the blank stare… we can no longer read the room in our current situation and I know it is hard on all of us.
We need our parents to read the room for us now.
Along with other frequent points of contact, every two weeks, I send a Google Form to parents to see how things are going.
Their feedback guides me as I move forward.
Older children are already connected through social media, younger students are not. With parent permission, I have created small groups of Study Buddies where children and families can virtually connect for social and academic opportunities.
Children love seeing photos of each other.
Whether on a slide deck or a photo carousel on a private website, having a chance for children to “see each other” helps them feel connected.
They still want to see us too. Each morning I greet the children with a brief morning check in video (done through loom).
Inside, out in the backyard, talking about learning, talking about life, these are informal chats. I do not try to make them “perfect” and by keeping them simple and just being my authentic silly, self, they take no time at all to create.
They love to see my bitmojis. They think they are hilarious. I have them on assignments, the website, the classroom. Silly, good fun!
#5. Reflections and BC’s Core Competencies
If we were in the classroom, we would have children self-reflecting, all the time, since that’s what good learners do. How can you incorporate what you were already doing into this current model?
In BC, different districts use different models to teach the core competencies (thinking, communicating, personal and social). Regardless of your method of instruction with the core competencies, we are all incorporating them into lessons and having students self-reflect on a final report card.
In the sample “Thoughtful Thursday” reflection page I’ve shared, I have incorporated the incredible model my local district (SD#73) in collaboration with the Aboriginal Education Council designed to honour our local area (coyote, swan, salmon and bear).
When students complete the “Thoughtful Thursday” reflection, I am encouraging them to reflect on their whole person, not just themselves as a “student.”
Their feedback has had them celebrate and consider themselves through the lens of sibling, student, daughter/son, dancer, baker, Kind Kids Club ambassador, Earth advocate, pet owner, etc...
Their feedback has had them honour their feelings and empower them to build a toolkit of personal “chill skills.” My hope is that their feedback promotes the growth of the whole self.
As we continue on this brand new journey, please remember to be gentle with yourself.
Roll up your sleeves and get messy. Reach out to others. Practice grace. Breathe. Keep pivoting.
And, if I may quote the incredible Dr. Bonnie Henry, “Be kind, be calm, be safe.”
Here’s to a joyful distance learning classroom,