Transitioning From In Person Learning to Remote Learning

Remote instruction is not ideal, and we all need to figure out how to make things work. Check out this post for ideas.

Hello Friends,

Once again, I begin my post with.... "It has been a long time since I have written..." I cannot say enough how hard teaching has been in 2020. I am cautiously optimistic for a calmer, healthier 2021. 

In my previous post written many months ago, I shared how we started our school year with in-person learning. A few things had to be tweaked with how we began, but for the most part, we had a very successful mid-August through mid-November. 

In mid-November, we went to full remote learning for many reasons with the strongest being the health of our staff and students. With the holidays looming, our Diocese feared that traveling and visiting might cause transmission of the Covid-19 virus, so we were told on Friday, November 20 that we would transition to remote learning until mid-January. It is now the end of December and we are looking at another week of remote learning with the hope to start in-person learning the week of January 11. 

This is a photo of what my classroom presently looks like.... Still socially distanced... as we will be until the end of the year, I am sure.... It's definitely missing my kinders....

This round of remote learning was totally different from our last round in the spring of 2020. One BIG change was that we (teachers) have been allowed to teach from our classrooms. This has made a huge difference in how I teach. First of all, everything that I need is there with me. I do not have to improvise or create a classroom in my home. I can leave my house, do my job, and come home without seeing all my teaching supplies scattered throughout my home. We are also VERY safe in our classrooms. There have been many days when I enter my classroom through my fire door, teach/record my lessons, and leave at the end of the day through the same fire door. Obviously, this is not possible for every school. I am simply sharing what is working for me... :) 

We use Seesaw for our remote learning platform. In the spring, when I really had no idea how to teach remotely, I posted mostly pre-made interactive activities for my students to complete at home. The activities were based on choice which made it difficult for parents/students to know what they should do and for me to figure out how to see academic growth.  So, when we were told that we would be doing remote teaching for 5-6 weeks, I knew that I had to make a big change. These are the changes I made....

1.  I still use Seesaw, but instead of a choice board filled with various types of activities, I record myself teaching several lessons and post them on Seesaw. I use the paid version of Screencastify to record. I chose the paid subscription because my lessons are often longer than 5 minutes. (The free version only allows 5 minute recordings.) I then post the Screencastify link onto Seesaw. 

These photos are different views of my teaching "studio." I place my laptop upon the small black table desk. This is actually a fancy lap desk. :) 

Here is a screenshot from one of my recorded videos. Everything that I need to teach the lesson is under or next to the little black table so that I have the items available when I am recording. 

I also use my Ipad storage cabinet to place my laptop upon so that I can teach from my Smart board. It takes a little maneuvering of my laptop to keep away the glare of the Smart board. This is a downside, but one that I am willing to take because of how amazing it is to be able to use my board!

Here is a screenshot of a recording from the Smart board. I LOVE that I am able to "show and tell" as I do when my classroom is full of students. 

2.  We create "at-home learning" packets for our parents to pick up once a week. My TA (who is amazing by the way) works all week printing, cutting, and organizing everything the kids will need for the week. The activities in the learning packets follow along with my recorded videos. We organize them by day and we even add the pieces that they will need to create a craft or other hands-on activity. In our very first packet, we included 20 Unifix cubes, a dice, ten 2 sided counters, markers, crayons, a glue stick, scissors, a ten frame, watercolor paints, white glue, a pack of different colors of construction paper..... 

The papers are organized by days of the week and attached together with a paper clip. We put the daily papers inside a gallon plastic bag. We insert this gallon bag inside a two-gallon plastic bag. 

Then we add them to a large plastic tub. Each child's name is labeled on the outside of the tubs. Parents find the tub with their child's name and take out their packet. Here is a photo of the boxes BUT..... on pick-up day, they are placed outside our fire doors. Parents are not allowed inside the school. 

We have another tub available for parents to return their child's plastic bags to be reused for the next week.

We ask that our parents (or students) take a photo of their finished work and post on Seesaw. Our kids can show us everything in one post, in separate posts, or in a video. We are not picky about how they show us their work. 

3. I have a "live" Zoom morning meeting with all my students on Monday - Thursday. These last between 30 and 45 minutes. I meet in small groups with my students once a week on Zoom for about 30 minutes. The papers that they need for their small group is sent home in their weekly packet. We do morning meeting and writer's workshop during our morning Zoom meeting. I also use this time to talk to the kids about their required activities.  I  include the reading group activities that the kids will need when they see me on Zoom. I have found that differentiating during remote learning is difficult, so I send the same general activities home. Then when they come to me for reading group, I can differentiate how they do their reading papers. 

4.  I do not post any "have-to" activities on Fridays. Instead, I post a recorded check-in activity on Seesaw and tell parents/students to use Friday to catch up and/or complete activities that they could not finish during the week. My parents love, love, love having Friday as a "catch-up" day. 

5.  I use pre-made Seesaw games/activities as "centers." I post 3 or 4 of them a week. They are not required. By the way, I use Babbling Abbey's Seesaw/Google Slides packet on TPT as well as the free community based activities. Also, I should add that our school purchased the paid version of Seesaw, so we are able to use the awesome extra features found on the platform. :) 

6.  Another change I made was to give parents a weekly schedule of required activities. I include a copy of this in their child's at-home learning packet. I also post it on my class web page. I schedule my recorded Seesaw activities daily rather than weekly so that parents/students are not overwhelmed. My parents love being able to clearly see what is required and what is optional. 

Here is an example of one of my weekly schedules for students. To create the schedule, I simply inserted a rectangle shape and text boxes into a Keynote slide and saved the template. 

I had to REALLY scale down what I wanted my kids to complete during remote learning. Parents just do not have six hours to help their kids do their schoolwork and I had to adjust my expectations. Basically, I schedule four daily required Seesaw activities and 3 weekly centers. 

So that's it..... I am looking forward to seeing my students again in-person, but after this recent stint with remote learning, I feel much more confident teaching my students remotely. And.... perhaps..... something that I am doing might inspire you, too!

Until next time,