Teachers are attempting to use streaming platforms like Zoom for kindergarten classes. Here's how they say it's going.
- From Zoom to Google Meet, schools are using different online methods for remote learning during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Even kindergarteners are trying to learn from their teachers online.
- Educators say the transition hasn't been easy, but they're glad video-calling and streaming technology allows them to stay in touch with their students.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Schools across the US have shut down due to the spread of COVID-19, but not all of them are out for the summer just yet. Many districts are transitioning to remote learning — even for elementary school students who are as young as six and seven years old.
Cassidy Kaht, who teaches kindergarten at a public elementary school in Scottsdale, Arizona, said she has been trying out different teaching methods, learning what works the best for her group of kids as she goes. Using video messaging programs has been extremely helpful for keeping in touch, as it's the only method of connection the students have with their teacher and with their friends. "This is so important," Kaht told Insider over email. "They need to know that we are still a class family even though we can't be together in person."
But adapting to new methods of teaching has been a challenge, teachers say. "It's definitely a learning experience," said Kate Macauley, an elementary science specialist at Hunter College Elementary School in New York and a member of the nonprofit teaching organization STEMteachersNYC. "But I think it's been really nice to know that everyone in the community has been really flexible and understanding and forgiving in many ways."
From Zoom to Google, schools are using different online methods for remote learning during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Since New York City schools began closing the week of March 15, Macauley has been incorporating Zoom live-streaming sessions into teaching science to her students, who range from third to sixth grades. But since it's hard to hold young kids' attention, many schools are just incorporating short streaming sessions and providing activities and at-home work to do throughout the rest of the day.
Juliette Guarino Berg, who teaches fourth grade at the Chapin School in New York City, said her team of educators is starting with recorded video lessons. "Then we're going to gradually transition into doing Zoom, so that they have the experience of doing distance learning and then they can get used to the idea of using Zoom as a platform, rather than jumping right into it from day one," she told Insider. "We think that's a good way for them to take on the technology gradually, rather than having to deal with it all at once."
Google Classroom seems to be the popular choice for younger kids, according to interviews with teachers, but Macauley says the learning process has been a challenge for her own six-year-old. "It's really hard to navigate a computer when you don't know how to spell or read very well," Macauley said. "Just typing in all the passwords — they have set up Google classroom, which works brilliantly for what they need — you have to be able to read."
Kaht said her school has been mostly using Google Classroom's tools, which offer ways to grade, give feedback and communicate with students, and Webex, Cisco's teleconferencing program. For her young students, she sends out a lesson plan to parents the night before. "My lesson plans follow the same schedule each day to try to promote a consistent routine at home, despite the craziness," Kaht said.
Some schools have to rely more on parents.
Because many younger kids struggle with the technology, Macauley and other parents have to help their kids with day-to-day work. Sarah Pradhan, whose two children are in kindergarten and second grade, told Insider that the methods of remote learning in their Granby, Connecticut, public school largely rely on parents to facilitate learning.
It's because of Pradhan's flexible work-from-home schedule that she's been able to make a clear schedule for her kids day to day and oversee the learning process for both kids. "I've been able to be a teacher for my kids," she said.
But not all families have one caregiver who is available all day. Even if a parent can work from home, their work doesn't always allow them to help their children at the drop of a hat. "I can't imagine what it's like for people who are actually needing to be on their computer full time, work from home remotely and having to teach," she said.
For students with different needs, teachers have to think creatively.
Teachers are still trying to figure out how to best teach all students of different needs remotely. Kaleigh Baker, who teaches fourth-graders at a Kansas City, Kansas, public school, said it's been difficult to find creative ways of helping some of her students who aren't fluent in English. "The idea of how to accommodate for them in this scenario is really daunting and overwhelming at the moment," she said.
Baker's school is still on spring break, giving her some time to prepare her remote instruction lesson plan, but she's worried about how to best help students who are still learning English. "One of the things with those students is some of their best instruction is just being in an English environment, being in the classroom," she said. "So they're going to miss out on the biggest thing that impacts their English."
Teachers are finding ways to handle disciplining disruptive students during remote learning.
Zoom rolled out a guide for K-12 teachers who are making the transition from traditional classrooms to virtual learning as a result of COVID-19, and it highlights some methods teachers can use to uphold their control over their classes, including how to disable private chat from the call, disable group-wide messaging, and expel participants.
These tools are helpful for keeping the students in line, paying attention, and acting appropriately, according to Macauley. "The chat has to be monitored at all times. When you're in a comfortable setting in your pajamas at home, the way that you chat might be slightly different," she said, though she acknowledged her students have been pretty well-behaved so far.
Above all, teachers say they 'miss the kids.'
Carly, who teaches kindergarten at a New York City public school and asked that her full name be withheld, said she's been struggling to keep in touch with all of her students and their parents. Not all students have parents home during the day to help them with their work, and an estimated 114,000 New York City public school students live in unstable housing or shelters, according to the New York Times. There's also the issue of access, as many students around the country don't have internet or computers at home, as Bloomberg reported.
Carly said that this is an "emotional" time for teachers who miss working with their kids every day. "It's hard because you're just sitting in front of a computer and on the phone and it's crazy," she told Insider. As of now, she's using Google Classroom, but hopes to transition to Zoom so she can connect with all the students together. "We miss the kids," she said.
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