I’m writing this blog post in the midst of the announcement that school closures in Ontario will continue until May 4th. While I know that we are sure to hear more about what this means from a school and Board perspective, this blog post is not about that. It’s about me trying to work through something that I’m struggling with, and hopefully hearing from others about how they’re addressing these same concerns: what does play-based learning look like at home?
I know that our current reality is different than anyone could have expected. As educators, we’re not sitting here designing an online course that students are choosing to take. Instead, we’re looking at how teaching and learning can continue in a new format when social distancing and increasing Coronavirus case numbers do not allow school buildings to re-open. Maybe this means that programming needs to change, and yet, there are certain non-negotiables for me. Holding true to the pedagogy in the Kindergarten Program Document is one of them.
Now then, comes the challenge of figuring out how we can make this possible.
- Could we provide open-ended ideas to support home learning, and then allow students to share photographs, videos, and written commentary about their thinking and learning?
- Could we have class meetings or small group meetings, maybe even through Microsoft Teams, to provide instruction, facilitate conversations, and show provocations for home learning? This could also be a great way to connect with children and families, knowing the value in fostering relationships with both.
- Could we provide parents with some question prompts to use to help further extend play at home?
- Could we share with parents a list of some of the ways that we extend play in the classroom to also link with reading, writing, oral language, and math possibilities, since these seem to be the areas of focus in the coming weeks?
- Could we provide an online forum — maybe even a class blog with individual student login names — where children could upload and share their thinking and learning in different formats (from text to video)?
- Could we share provocations through video messages, such as this wonderful inquiry one that Kristi Keery-Bishop shared recently?
Today’s morning message: how are you stopping and wondering? https://t.co/JE9T53rdCr
— KKeeryBishop (@BishopKeery) March 27, 2020
These are some of my wonderings. A few came through some recent online discussions with my amazing teaching partner, Paula. Some came from my own contemplations, especially as I look at many online resources and links being tweeted out daily. There is so much stuff out there. While Paula and I continue to share many of these resources with our parents, we also talk a lot about the role that technology has played thus far in our classroom. To document learning. To share thinking. But not to have our young learners in front of a screen all day. If tactile experiences, social interactions, Self-Reg, and problem solving matter so much in our face-to-face classroom, how can we still prioritize and support these experiences at home?
Maybe some of our hopes are Utopian ideals. Maybe we’ll need to make changes that we don’t love and that merely become a reality of the time. I’m not sure that we’re there yet. Online learning doesn’t necessarily need to mean simply screentime and assessment and evaluation don’t need to mean worksheets and typed assignments. What might be possible thanks to photographs, videos, oral recordings, and online meetings? I’ve always been one to appreciate a challenge. This might be one of our biggest, and least expected, challenges yet, but this seems like the perfect opportunity for creativity. We’re game. Are you? What might home instruction look like for your students and families? Let’s share thoughts, wonders, and questions as we all navigate this very “new normal” together.
I’m with you on wondering about what this looks like from a distance. I have a couple of thoughts. I wonder about providing families with a list of common objects at home that could be used to support inquiry (eg a clear glass with water or glass jar can magnify if a student wants to observe bugs, flowers, rocks; at home sensory bins of cornmeal or dry beans with measuring cups ) . I also wonder about a daily or weekly educator directed provocation that lends itself to at home exploration along with suggestions of how to do that (eg read stone soup and suggest ways students could help with simple snack/cooking tasks and explain what kind of learning could be done and captured by that.). I’m worried about the assessment and reporting element for K but I’m also wondering about K educators scheduling conferences with a student/family online may expose new or consolidated learning, and personalized next steps. Those are just my initial thoughts. I think this is all going to take all of us some time, flexibility and patience to work out and it probably won’t look the same for any two students. Deep breath. We’ll start with baby steps and go from there.
Thanks Kristi for sharing some of your wonderings and ideas! It’s so interesting how your thinking aligns with what Paula shared as we started to do some brainstorming together.
There’s a lot about this which is “unknown.” That makes this home instruction more stressful at times, but just sharing ideas (and taking an extra deep breath or two) can help. We will get through this together!
These seem like wonderful ideas!
As a parent I worry about:
Undertaking activities with my kindergartener while also supervising my 2 year old and his learning (and running the house/getting my own work done)
some students not having the supplies to participate due to finances (for example we are participating in daily Lego prompts, but not all kids will have Lego)
balancing screen time with hands on activities
Motivating my daughter to participate
Not knowing how to evaluate if she is making progress in her learning
But I know there will be many kinks to work out and we will all get through it together!
Thanks Amanda for chiming in with your thoughts and worries! As Paula and I continue to brainstorm together, this information will be very valuable. We even did some talking around some of these topics today: https://www.instagram.com/p/B-aTs–hwhi/. Our hope is that the options can be open-ended enough that all students can participate and at times that work for them. We don’t want to add additional stress for anyone. Our plan is to share different materials that might work for the same project/activity, so that all children can get involved based on what they have at home. Kristi even commented on this point in some of her suggestions. Our hope is that we can help motivate the children to participate, but also with the flexibility of materials and activities, every child will have something that he/she wants to do. (This is starting to sound a lot like school. 🙂 ) As for assessing learning, we are here to help support this. Photographs and videos could support a lot. Paula and I also chatted today about sharing ideas with parents to also support you as you support kids. This will be new learning for everyone, but we’re glad that we can do this together. Keep those questions and wonders coming. They give us even more to think about.
Please keep thinking out loud like this, Aviva! I am trying really hard to wrap my head around distance learning in Kindergarten. I appreciate hearing your wonderings too! Do Kindergarten students even have a board email to use in Teams??
Thanks for chiming in here, Helen! As we all try to figure out what distance learning looks like, I think there’s value in thinking aloud together. As I shared in my reply to Kristi, Paula and I have extended some of this thinking together.
In terms of an email for Kindergarten, they don’t have access to email, but they do have addresses that we can access through the Class List on The Hub. We then used the Password website to reset all of their passwords. Our thinking is that we can use these addresses for them to login to Microsoft Teams. We can email parents the link to the room (in the calendar invite) since the kids won’t actually be getting the email with the notification. Will this work? I’m just hopeful that the fact that it does in my head will also mean that it will in real life. 😆 We shall see soon enough.
Hi Helen! Also don’t feel like you need to adopt a big platform to reach out to your students. What mode of communication do you use right now with your students? Even if it is parent email, class website or twitter, is there a simple means of contact? Your students probably aren’t going to be submitting excessive amounts of assignments so think smaller and more doable for you, your students and your families. I feel for all of our teachers as we try to work this out – you do the best you can and take baby steps to move forward.
Thanks Kristi for this reply to Helen here! When the week started, I found myself registering for and trying to set-up everything (including a D2L option that I was struggling with making work for kindergarten). I was feeling overwhelmed, and I think losing focus on what we were trying to do here. Chatting together with Paula helped us figure out that having a way to connect with the class mattered to us (why we’re looking at Microsoft Teams) and having a way for students to share thinking and learning also mattered. Some good advice from a fellow educator though reminded me that a blog platform (which we’re comfortable with using) can help us with this instead of using D2L. This might not work for everyone, but I do appreciate the advice to start small and start with what already exists. Somehow this makes me breathe easier. What about you?
I love your thinking, Aviva, and it speaks to many of the discussions you and I have had throughout the years. There are so many opportunities for families to share the learning of their children and themselves and I feel like we have a tremendous opportunity to extend our current learning to the atmosphere of our students and families. We always speak of equity in this process and, as mentioned today by the Minister of Education, we need to be equitable. I’m struggling for what this process looks like, safely, for all staff, students, and families in a “forced” blended world.
What are your thoughts?
Thanks for your comment, Aaron! I think that you might rival Kristi with the hard questions. 🙂 I have to think more about this, and I wonder if others here might have some ideas to share. As I was writing this blog post and later connecting with Paula (https://www.instagram.com/p/B-aTs–hwhi/?igshid=1k5unt1zilt1m), I thought a lot about some of our conversations in the past. Your question is challenging as our situation right now is so different than any of our past experiences. I think that the Board is exploring equity of access by looking at how to get devices into the hands of those that don’t have them and wifi for those that might not have it. I’m thinking about blog extensions like Google Translate to possibly help support access of written materials in multiple languages. Paula and I also spoke today about giving some open-ended activities with different material possibilities to help ensure that everyone has an entry point and ability to participate if interested. Maybe in terms of educators, some of Kristi’s advice to take it slow and start with what we already have would be beneficial. Looking at ways to blend the digital with non-digital might be beneficial even when using some of these online platforms. It’s like elevating the photograph of the tower with a video discussion around the problem solving involved in the building process. I also wonder if some conversations around digital citizenship and privacy might need to enter the picture. Maybe a discussion with kids, parents, and educators together. Will comfort around this topic though impact on even the desire to have this conversation? I’m still thinking this one through. These are just some of my initial thoughts, but I will keep reflecting on this hard question of yours.
Great ideas and even better questions. You know I could go on and on about this so I’ll try not to do that! Families and teachers are the same right now – feeling overwhelmed. So keep it simple as you begin.
They need info to understand what you want, why and how. But don’t overwhelm them. Perhaps a video with you and/or Paula explaining a FEW of the basics of learning thru play that they should know? This will help them better comprehend what you ask now and in the future. But…
Send this info – and all communication- in a variety of formats.
Make sure your families have access to whatever supplies etc, you ask of them. Perhaps give a couple options in a way that makes them feel any option is a good one.
If time allows it, begin slowly, letting families build their confidence. As the days and weeks go by, you’ll be able to ramp it up.
I’ve always loved how you try to engage your families in learning. They have a head start over lots of homes in this province. Keep in mind a couple things:
– every family wants to best for their child
– every family can support their child’s learning but they will have varying levels of needs to do that
– ensure that there are a couple ways for families to give feedback and offer suggestions because, now more than ever, parent knowledge is vital to student success.
Good luck, Aviva and Paula. And many, many thanks for valuing your families!
Thanks for your comment, Nancy, and for chiming in with some different important things to consider. I’m grateful now that Paula and I have already spent a lot of time during the year exploring learning through play with families. They have also been involved in this process already at home (supporting play and adding to our class blog with how they extend class learning as a family), so I’m hopeful that this will help. That said, the reminders to take it slow, share thinking with parents, and provide this information to them in a variety of formats, are very beneficial. Paula and I also chatted a lot today about sharing different materials for project use, so that all families can use what they have at home (https://www.instagram.com/p/B-aTs–hwhi/?igshid=1k5unt1zilt1m).
I also really appreciate your point about feedback. This home/school connection is going to be key right now. This could be wonderful for parent/educator/child relationships, and I’m excited to see how things unfold.
Thanks for the conversation. I am just starting out on google classroom. I think the first thing I have to do is get families comfortable using that and then slowly layer things in. I called all my families and as I talked with parents and students they loved the idea of natural provocations, such as looking for birds and other signs of spring and slowly developing that by giving parents ideas of questions to ask their children to extend their thinking. I don’t want to load things on parents so am wondering about the reading and math focus that the ministry wants. How to do that with kindies so parents dont have to be beside them? Not sure. Lots of scaffolding will be needed for sure.
Thanks for your comment, Lucia, and sharing what you’re planning on doing! I love the idea of natural provocations, and also starting slow and adding to this. I wonder if the conversations around the provocations, and even counting, measurement, and shapes in the environment could link with the literacy and math expectations. Language and math doesn’t need to be separate from these inquiries, and in fact, I think that the overlap could be very valuable. What do you think?