Kindergarten students stay connected through remote learning

6 siblings all looking at an iPad looking at a remote learning lessonTukes Valley Primary School kindergarten teacher Meadowlark Clark holds up a series of cards, and one-by-one, demonstrates to her students how to phonetically pronounce the letter combinations written on them. Next, Clark leads the students through a practice of rhyming skills. Each student gives a thumbs up when a pair of words rhyme, and a thumbs down when they do not. If this sounds just like a typical kindergarten class, well, that’s exactly the point. The difference is that the instruction is happening via YouTube videos, as remote learning has become the new norm for all of Battle Ground Public Schools’ students.

“When we first learned that we wouldn’t be able to teach in the classroom for the rest of the year, everyone was a little worried about how we would move forward,” Clark said. “In a traditional kindergarten classroom, so much of the learning is active and can’t adequately be captured in worksheets.”

The transition from teaching and learning in a traditional classroom setting to remote learning has been challenging for everyone. Clark and fellow Tukes Valley kindergarten teacher Jenna Grace are both parents of their own primary school-aged children, so they know from experience that one of the biggest challenges of this new model is that children do not get to see their teachers, friends, and classmates every day, and the students aren’t able to talk and actively engage as they learn.

With this in mind, Tukes Valley’s kindergarten teachers Meadowlark Clark, Jenna Grace, Jane Blickenstaff, Ashley Seymour, and Jessica Eccleston teamed up to develop and record mini lessons that they could post online. The goal of the video resources is to mimic a typical kindergarten environment that allows these young students to actively engage with the content in as realistic a way as possible.

The kindergarten team at Tukes Valley quickly developed a system where each teacher tackles a subject and records their daily and weekly lessons on that week’s theme. Last week, the school’s kindergarten students learned about oviparous animals–animals that hatch from eggs. They watched videos of their teachers on YouTube and then sent in pictures about what they learned. Some students sent in photographs of their oviparous animals at home.

The videos not only help students learn and engage, but also help parents who are juggling working from home with teaching their children.

“We’re here to support parents and students alike,” said kindergarten teacher Jessica Eccleston. “This is uncharted territory for all of us, and we don’t want parents to put any undue pressure on themselves. If students are able to complete the online lessons, then great! But if not, it’s not the end of the world. We encourage parents to do what they can. Reading to their kids before bed, having them come up with a story or drawing a picture are all fantastic ways to engage with your child at home.”

a kindergartner raises her hand while looking at a computer in her houseIn addition to the recorded lessons that are posted to YouTube and on social media, the kindergarten team also started daily Zoom conferences to engage with students. Sometimes the Zoom calls are spent reading a book. Other times, the students complete a directed drawing together. Last week, for example, Jane Blikenstaff’s class received step-by-step directions for drawing a dinosaur, and then labeled the body parts and wrote dinosaur facts on the back of the paper.

“A lot of kids start off very shy, but they get comfortable very quickly,” Blickenstaff said. “We’re seeing more and more students joining the calls every week, and it’s been a great way for everyone to connect.”

The kindergarten teachers agree that more than anything, the Zoom calls are about connecting.

“There’s not much time for academics on the Zoom calls,” Clark said. “But kids are engaged the entire time. It’s very sweet seeing their faces light up when they get to interact with each other. They’re all very excited to share with each other, so much so that Fridays have become show-and-tell days.”

“Connecting through Zoom calls is all about the social-emotional aspects of learning,” Eccleston said. “It’s really important for young children to understand that everyone is going through the same thing right now, so seeing me and their classmates online is very beneficial.”

“Not all learning comes from academics,” Jenna Grace said. “Kids are learning countless lifeskills right now. Whether it’s helping with cooking, taking care of siblings, learning new computer skills, or even just being outside playing and observing the world. Parents are teaching their children a lot right now, even if they don’t realize it.”

“We always say that parents and teachers are a team,” teacher Ashley Seymour said. “Remote learning is proof that we can accomplish more in supporting children to learn and grow when we’re working together.”

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