Lights, camera, action…..Virtual learning teachers captivate students’ interest online
It is hard enough for teachers to keep young students’ minds focused on curriculum for lengthy stretches of time in a controlled classroom setting, so you can imagine how difficult it is to keep their attention via a computer screen during remote learning from home when there are many more distractions.
With that in mind, teachers at Walker Early Learning Center have become somewhat theatrical in the performances they are delivering each day, in order to make the most of their online instruction to the youngest learners. They have worked hard creating customized pre-recorded videos, while delivering interactions of instruction to children’s homes that fill their day. They have managed to shrink colorful and kid-friendly decorated classrooms into software programs that children especially enjoy. The cartoon picture of the teacher on the screen even resembles their real life teacher in Google Classroom.
Their principal, Angela Ballinger has led the creative charge at her school using technology to create a mini cartoon character of herself reading a book that launched a unique summer reading program. Students were given reading packets on their individualized level with a list of ideas of fun places to read when they received their report cards last May. They had fun posting their picture with the "flat principal" on social media in all different places where they read books to her.
As virtual learning became more of a reality, more and more resources became available to perfect online learning. “Our teachers started preparing for this situation at the end of the school year last year, just in case we had to start back to school virtually. They spent several days recording instructional videos and giving each other constructive feedback,” said Ballinger. “I am honored and humbled to be the instructional leader of this amazing staff.”
Kindergarten teachers are now equipped with lighting rings and lapel microphones, resembling a mini-movie set when they are creating their productions on Friday afternoons. While all students are studying remotely on Fridays, the kindergarten teachers are busy with Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings in the mornings to perfect their instruction and movie making scheduled for the afternoon, with their daily performances rolled out over the next week.
These productions are a result of considerable work and a determination to educate kids so they do not fall behind. When it was obvious that the pandemic was not going away anytime soon, district administrators went to work making plans on how future instruction would be delivered.
“We knew we had to have a game plan for virtual learning,” said Kindergarten Curriculum Coach/Elementary Instructional Coach Amanda Beck. Google Classroom rose to the top and teachers across the district were trained to use it.
While the digital learning coaches at each school building were familiar with Google Classroom, and it had been introduced to some of the grade levels last year, it was now the software program of choice districtwide. Teachers were trained to use the digital tool, along with other video devices and it became a common hub of learning in the new virtual world for Wayne County School students. Administrators chose the popular program because it is so user-friendly for students and parents, alike.
“It lends itself to be used across grade levels,” noted Beck. “All of the students’ lessons for the day are linked inside Google Classroom. It’s like a one stop shop.”
“This was a learning curve for everyone,” said Beck. “We pushed out tutorials for parents that the teachers created” to help transition to remote learning.
Walker teachers sent home manipulatives (marker boards, magnetic letters, alphabet charts) to their students, as well as paper lessons to students who had trouble accessing the internet. On Fridays, they did student assessments by appointments, plus they offered sessions for parents who needed help learning to navigate Google Classroom.
Kindergarten Teachers Emily Upchurch and DeShay Dishman had been on the forefront of video production at their school. Now, other teachers have joined in and students are benefitting from videos produced by teams of teachers at Walker, as the work load is shifting and the learning curve is getting easier for the instructors.
Just recently, the rotating AB schedule brought some of the students back to school. So now teachers are juggling virtual and in-person instruction. With only one week into the latest schedule, teachers are doing a remarkable job monitoring students both at home and in-person, simultaneously.
“Our virtual learning has involved students watching pre-recorded lessons on Google Classroom. We met with our students daily on zoom in small groups (with five to eight children). On Monday and Wednesday Reading groups meet while Tuesday and Thursday Math groups work together. Fridays are set aside for review days and assessments. Students do make-up work, watch more pre-recorded videos, and we reach out to them if they are missing work,” explained Kindergarten Teacher DeShay Dishman.
Now, the table has turned and Dishman has a total of 20 in-person students that are split into two days and six virtual students. She is still posting videos online for her virtual students, while also meeting the needs of the children attending school two days a week Monday through Thursday.
“We post our lessons by 8 a.m. each morning. Our kids see us teaching live lessons,” said Dishman.
The students are benefitting from curriculum specific programs the teachers are well versed in at the elementary level like: Reading Horizon, Core Knowledge Language Arts (known as CKLA), and Engaged New York Math. The curriculum gives them a pacing guide for them to follow so they know what to be teaching. The pre-recorded videos of lessons last no longer than 15 minutes to keep their students’ attention.
“We try to make it fun and interactive….we can’t be too serious,” said Dishman.
She even has a joke of the day for her students. For example, “What’s orange and sounds like a parrot? (Answer) “A carrot,” which she used when they were talking about rhyming words. “Parents have sent me a message that they have enjoyed my joke of the day,” laughed Dishman.
She and fellow kindergarten teachers start their day online with calendar time. She delivers a morning message, the calendar, the month where they sing and dance, seasons, weather, money poems, review sight words/letters/two letter slides, and sorting activities.
“It’s a lot of information for a kindergartner,” she admitted.
She uses a Reading Horizons lesson for a letter they’ve learned, accompanied by a two letter consonant/vowel slide. She even has letters cut out that they sound out together that she pushes down a laminated paper slide to demonstrate saying the sound quickly. When they master the slide the next step is to add an ending sound to make a word.
“We want our students to succeed,’ said Dishman. “We strive to make sure they get what they need.”
Granted, in-person learning is the preferred method of instruction because children need the interaction with their peers and teacher. “They have been so excited to see each other on our zoom meetings,” added Dishman.
Regardless of where students are learning during this challenging time, the same rich curriculum and content is being offered to Walker Early Learning Center students both in-person and remotely.
“Our teachers are dedicated and focused on delivering high quality, differentiated instruction,” concluded Ballinger. “In addition to the academic needs of our students we are also working to provide solid social-emotional instruction and support to our students through our Second Steps program.”
Walker Early Learning Center provides children with unique educational opportunities
Kindergarten Teacher DeShay Dishman and fellow teachers use special lighting to enhance learning video
Dishman greeted her virtual students with morning announcements
Students spend time reviewing monthly calendar
Dishman uses slide to teach consonant vowel sounds
Instructional Assistant Leta Dishman worked on letters for children to learn to write
Kindergarten Teacher Beth Corder taught her students how to social distance in the hallway. Students included: (l-r) Cooper Brake, Jett Sexton, Raelynn Bowlin, Logan Parker
Kindergarten Teacher Alecia Parker teaching virtual students using an alphabet chart
PRINCIPAL'S SUMMER READING PROGRAM