Teaching kindergarten online?
‘That must be like herding cats,’ my aunt said when I first told her about my virtual kindergarten class.
‘In some ways,’ was my reply. I’ll get to that part in a minute.
Here’s what worked for us…
1. Our initial communication with parents
When we first received our class list (one day before we started teaching virtual kindergarten!), we sent an email introducing ourselves, including a real photo and the Bitmoji we would be using in our Google Classroom, and letting parents know what to expect. We shared:
- communication from the Ministry of Education outlining expectations regarding instructional minutes and times we were scheduled to be on Google Meet together
- we appreciated their understanding and flexibility as we all were adjusting as more information was coming in
- our intention was to do our best to mimic the routines and teaching of the kindergarten program, initially prioritizing the students feeling comfortable belonging to the class and enjoying the program
- we read information they had filled in on a Google Form when registering for Virtual Learning, and communicated with a few parents right away who had pressing issues to discuss
- a ‘Meet the Teachers’ visit was a priority for us, and was implemented within the first few weeks
- every Monday, and the day ahead before school started each day, parents received a summary of the week ahead
- we asked that parents ensured that their child’s microphone be turned off initially
2. Teaching kindergarten students how to participate in a Meet
At the beginning of the year, all twenty-eight of our students came onto our Meets at the same time. Their microphones were off, thanks to their parents’ reading our request. I explained that my microphone was on and showed them the mic on sign below that I kept in one cover of my binder. That was why they could hear me.
I flipped my binder to the other cover and showed them the red, microphone off sign, explaining that theirs were off. I could not hear them.
We could all see each other. Just like at school, if someone had something to say, they were to raise their hand. When called upon, they could turn on their microphone. Learning the mic buttons took some time, especially for younger students.
Knowing if it was mic on or mic off time? All it took was a flash of the binder. They had it right away. Print yourself a set free, here!
The thing about whole class, really long Meets in Kindergarten…
My job-share partner and I had only put in one full day each following the schedule and format we were given.
It involved having twenty-eight junior and senior kindergarten students from four different schools in a Zoom-like Google Meet together, in two full one hour and another half an hour blocks each day. For many, this was their first school experience. A number of our students had not yet turned four.
We were both seasoned kindergarten teachers. Neither one of us would attempt twenty-eight students in front of us for more than ten or fifteen minutes – if at all! But that was the directive. This is how it went:
After each of us taught one full day like this, we agreed that it did not feel like kindergarten. It was exhausting. The direct teaching of lessons the whole time vs. the play-based learning model left us with little to no connection with our students. They were overwhelmed and unable to engage in such a large group, and sit for such a long time.
Listening to our inner Oprahs, we made the decision to do the next right thing – trust our knowledge, experience and instincts and do what was best for kids. Beginning with emails to all of the parents explaining that we would altering the schedule slightly the next day, we collaborated half the night on making things more age-appropriate and motivating.
More on that next time…
Stay safe and well, my friends,