Read the Q & A below to find out more about Ms. Crain's class and about the unique ways she is keeping her students linked:
Q: What has this school year been like compared to previous years?
A: With Pre-K, social emotional skills are key, and this is their first experience with school. Knowing that, I had to get out of my comfort zone, and I had to get creative. I started thinking of the ways I could get my students to communicate with each other, to build their relationships with me, and to understand ways to grow their collaborative skills – especially since they aren’t in the classroom.
Q: What are some ways you are reaching your students and keeping them involved?
A: I have given my students a classroom tour, where I took my laptop around the room and showed them all their different stations. I added their photos to the chairs around the room to show them that they have friends sitting with them at their tables. When we do collaborative things in our class meetings, I hold up popsicle sticks with their faces and names on them so they can make that connection with their classmates names and faces.
I am trying to do all I can to reach them through a screen. I give them virtual hugs, and I take time to do individual lessons with each student, and I do circle time with them twice each day, because I know it is so important for them to meet as a group and see their classmates. I give them a little time at the beginning of each team meeting to just talk, because they need that. They talk to me, they talk to each other, they get to share what is going on in their world, and they share their work and the things they are proud of.
Q: Talk about any special projects you are doing with your students.
A: When the school year first started, I was only doing circle time one per day. I didn’t have many kids getting on, and during our class meetings they would just stare at each other. I knew that I needed to get them interacting somehow, so I started thinking of different ways to do that.
I came up with the plan that they could write to each other and be Virtual Pen Pals. I asked the parents how they would feel about helping their student write a letter or draw a picture to one of their friends in class. I partnered the students up with a classmate, and they did it. Parents sat with their kids, helped them with their words, helped them draw what they wanted to say, and then sent them to me. I downloaded them and put them into a PowerPoint, and we would go over them in class meetings. I also sent them to each kid, so they could write a response.
I have noticed that it has gotten better, and during circle time now the kids know who their classmates are. I have even noticed that their illustrations have become more meaningful because they have connected with each other.
Q: How are projects like Virtual Pen Pals helping your students?
A: I think it is good for them to be able to identify their emotions and express how they feel, but I also think it helps them to feel loved. It helps them to feel like someone else has that same feeling, and it helps them know that we are just a big family and that we are all here.
Q: What other projects do you have planned for this school year?
A: This week we started talking about illustrators and authors, so I am having my kids write their own books. They are dictating to me what they want to write, and I type it for them, then I print it out and send it home so they can illustrate it. Then, each week we will have an author of the week, and they get to share their books virtually with each other.
Through this, they will then get an understanding of print awareness, what an author’s job is, what an illustrator’s job is, and then also have pride in their work.
Q: What else do you want to add about this unique school year?
A: It has been a blessing that I have had the same kiddos since August, and that their parents are so wonderful. I supply the tools, but the families really have taken those tools and utilized those tools.