About 1 1/2 years ago now, I blogged in response to one of Doug Peterson’s posts about our workflow and how social media is used as part of the process. Little did any of us know that in March of 2020, our worlds would change due to the Coronavirus pandemic. School life, home life, and just life in general are totally different now. For years, my teaching partner, Paula, and I have had a workflow that works for us and our families, but in response to this pandemic and our new school reality, this workflow has also changed. In many ways, it continues to change. And so, this blog post is actually a work in progress, but it does speak to what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
First Step — Begin with the Google Meet calls. This is how we connect the most with our kids and families. As with everything that we offer right now, these Google Meet calls are optional, but we usually have 23-26/28 kids join us each day. Parents participate. Siblings join in. This is our way to be social. To build relationships. To support well-being. While much of the large group and small group calls are focused more on open sharing times, sometimes kids share their work with us. This is when we can provide feedback, offer next steps, and maybe get students excited to dig deeper and re-explore previous topics. Paula and I always connect after each Google Meet call, and it’s our discussion that helps us decide where to go next, what new provocations to consider, and how to more deeply engage certain kids. This is not a public social media connection, but the social element of these video calls are certainly evident for us and for our families.
Second Step — Move to our Class Blog. This is where our approaches continue to vary, especially based on our feedback from families. We decided to post a general plan that can serve as a framework for each week, as well as provide some additional ideas for parents and kids.
General Weekly Information — We Will Update This Post As Needed
We then add daily contributions to extend on some of the learning shared during our Google Meet calls and through emails from families. This is where our thinking continues to change. After Friday’s call, Paula and I spent a lot of time talking. We realized that while we share daily ideas with parents — and try to always share one day in advance — a lot of what the kids and parents are sharing is in response to the conversations we have with students during the Google Meet calls. The feedback has children running off the calls to try out suggestions.
Best moment of our Google Meet today. I gave a child some feedback on the list of words he wrote, and he forgot to mute his mic when he ran off to say to his mom, "Miss Dunsiger said I could …". Love how he was excited with the suggestion! Small moments. Big happiness.
— 𝘼𝙫𝙞𝙫𝙖 𝘿𝙪𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧 (@avivaloca) April 16, 2020
We recognized that with the many different things that families are doing right now, maybe going through each provocation at home becomes too overwhelming. Paula made a great suggestion: “What if we take 5 minutes each day to present one provocation in the Google Meet room? It can be quick, it can have multiple entry points, and maybe it can get kids excited to try it.” When we thought back to our introduction of an Alphabet Chart in the Google Meet Room, we certainly had far more kids creating different ones.
And so this week, we’re going to try sharing a weekly plan. We will introduce one or two ideas in the Google Meet room each day, and we’ll see how families respond. We’ll invite feedback from parents and kids, and then we’ll probably be back to the drawing board again. The blog will still be the tool, but how it’s used by us might continue to change.
Third, And Final, Step — Engage with kids and families! In many ways, this is also done through our class blog. Many parents are emailing us examples of learning to add to the Family Contributions page on our blog.
Through the comments, we try to ask questions and offer feedback to extend the learning. Sometimes children share their work with us in the Google Meet calls instead. While we don’t record these calls, we sometimes reflect on components of them through our blog posts. Our hope is to help share the links between our suggestions and what families are sharing with us.
The blog also helps us reach beyond our classroom and connect with different educators who support our students. Karen Wilkins, our teacher librarian, not only provides daily provocations through her Twitter account, but also provides feedback to our kids based on what they share.
These are great! Wonderful artistic observation skills on the chip bag! I also really ❤️ his name logo too! The POP art connections are great artists to explore! Might be fun to also share onomatopoeia words, graphic words too! How do they draw it to look & sound like it means?
— Karen Wilkins (@ArtsHWDSB) April 9, 2020
LOVE this SO much! So much attention to details and a brilliant use of line and colour! I have had a few conversations in the library with him about dragons – he is very knowledgeable! So great!!!
— Karen Wilkins (@ArtsHWDSB) April 9, 2020
I LOVE this Rainbow Bird! So wonderful and very creative use of found clothes! I miss our K students but so glad to be able to see what they are doing at home! TY @avivaloca and please tell them I LOVE it! https://t.co/Qu09a63xOu
— Karen Wilkins (@ArtsHWDSB) April 8, 2020
Social media connects us when physical connection is not possible.
Our workflow is similar, but different, now. What’s your current workflow, and how does it change from what you did before? As we all try to make our new reality work for us and for our families, I wonder if sharing some of our approaches will allow us to support each other. If ever there’s a time for help, this seems like the time!
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, Aviva.
I’m intrigued with your comment about engaging with kids and families. You point out the use of your blog for that purpose. Obviously, I’m behind you 100% on that.
I’m wondering if you think it stops there. These are different times, as you note. Is there a different way to engage than the traditional tool? I was impressed when I interviewed Alfred Thompson that he left the meeting room open after the formal lesson for the kids to talk among themselves.
Something like that, I think can take engagement to the next level. What would allow students to engage with each other in addition to engaging with the teachers? School right now has the regular social aspect ripped away from those kids that hang out in play, at recess, at lunch, etc. Is there a realistic and safe way to replicate that given what we have access to?
Thanks for your comment, Doug! I do agree that getting kids to connect with each other — even without us there — would and is wonderful! In some ways, we’ve been advised against using classroom tools in this way, especially when we can’t necessarily see and support what’s happening in this regard. I wonder if it’s different for high school, even just based on the age of the students. Our kids also aren’t using the chat feature(s) of these rooms, so that could change things as well. I will admit, I’ve been tempted to suggest that kids use our Google Meet room in a way to connect just with peers, but I’ve wondered, if a problem does occur, does this make us liable? How would we support things then? What kinds of skills would we need to build first to even make this possible?
Your comment though made me think about this FaceTime experience that a parent shared (both agreed for it to be shared).
We do have many kindergarten kids, who with the help of their parents, are using FaceTime to connect with each other. Does this then meet the need of that missing piece? The desire for social interactions, especially when children can’t see each other, is huge right now. These tools could allow for these kinds of interactions, and maybe through some sharing by parents, child use of these tools with each other becomes part of this workflow. Thanks for the suggestion, the connection, and the push back!