WOW has it been a week! I went from having no warning or training about distance learning to teaching my kids virtually for 5 straight days, doing live read alouds and meeting with my colleagues via google meet. I am more exhausted than ever!!
I am sure we are all in the same boat since none of us were trained for this. We did not go to school to end up teaching through a computer. But I am so impressed with us. If Instagram is any indicator, we are all KILLING IT! Although everyone is expressing the same thoughts of stress and feeling overwhelmed, we are all doing everything we possibly can for our students and their families.
I want to share how I set up my Google Classroom for my preschool special education classes. I hope by sharing this, I can help some of you set up your own Google Classrooms. Throughout the post I will be mentioning the google drive folder that has everything I have made so far for distance learning in it! The link to the folder is all the way at the bottom.
Disclaimer: I am by no means a Google Classroom expert. I just started using it a week ago, and I am probably using it minimally compared to other teachers, especially in higher grade levels.
Setting up Google Classroom
I was shocked at how easy it was to set up Google Classrooms. As a PreK teacher, I never had one before. I was pleasantly surprised to see how seamless the process was. If you need help setting one up here is a good resource: https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/6020273?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en
I decided to set up one for my AM and one for my PM. My students are extremely different in the two classes so I thought it would be helpful. Looking back, I probably could have just done one. I end up posting mostly the same stuff for both, so I almost created more work for myself. I also learned that you can assign certain students to certain material, so I could have easily put them all together. But this is a learning experience, right?
Coming up with a schedule was my first step in this journey. I wanted to come up with a schedule that was reasonable for my students and their parents, but also provided them with enough activities so that they can pick and choose. I created the schedule so that my students can recognize what time of day it was (with the pictures), but it also provided short instructions for the parents. I posted the schedule in the ‘stream’ part of classroom at first with all of the correlating work in the ‘classwork’ tab. I later realized how packed the ‘stream’ gets so I posted the schedule in ‘classwork’ as well.
I organized the classwork tab so that it was easy for the parents to find exactly what they needed. I put the classwork in order of the schedule, from bottom to top, and I created “topics” so that everything was sorted under big, bold headings. By creating topics, Google Classroom also created a menu on the left side so that parents can easily navigate this page. Anything that you see listed here that I created myself will be in the google drive folder. Parents have been telling me that the classwork tab is very easy to figure out and the schedule being posted in there as well makes it easy for them to access quickly.
All of these documents in the classwork tab are posted as ‘material’. I did not post them as ‘assignments’ because I am not checking them, and they are not being graded. Posting everything as ‘material’ was the easiest for me.
To create material:
- Under the classwork tab
- Click create
- Click material
- Type a title for the material, a description, and don’t forget to include the document/link/video/etc.
- You can also choose what topic you want the material to go under and if you want it to be assigned to ALL students or just a selected amount
A wonderful thing about Google Classroom is that it allows you to go back and edit posts or classwork. That has been very helpful so far.
Since my students all have special needs, they all have IEP (Individualized Education Plan) documents. Along with the typical classwork, I also have to still work on their IEP goals with them. Since my students are in preschool with mild-moderate disabilities, most of their goals are social and speech goals. To be honest, most of them are impossible for them to work on while at home. But some of my students, especially the older ones, have academic goals. I created an IEP work packet for these students to use with their parents at home so that they can make progress towards their academic goals. An outline of this is also in the google drive folder. Before making the packet for a student I confirmed with the parent that they had a printer at home. If the child did not have a printer at home, I would have created something different. The parents that I emailed did have a printer, so I was able to create these packets for them. The packet touches on every academic goal the child has. After creating the packet and sending it to the parent, I would set up a google meet with the family to go over everything that was in the packet. They had their printout, and I printed one out for myself so that I could walk them through everything in it and answer any questions that they had. The parents are loving these packets because they are able to help their children make progress for their goals.
I told families that I can google meet with them and their child whenever they want. It can be to ask a question, show me their work, or simply just say “Hi!”. So far I have met with a handful of families to say hi, chat, and do a read aloud. I love being able to connect with my students during this time. Honestly, it’s the only thing getting me through.
I made a google voice account so that I can easily communicate with families during this time. Google voice provides you with a phone number that allows you to text and call through the google voice app. Parents are able to treat the phone number as if it is a typical phone number and send texts, pictures and make phone calls with it. On my end, I just use the google voice app to respond and make calls. This way, I am never using my real phone number to communicate with families. This app has been helpful because I do not have to be in front of my computer to receive the notifications. They come to my phone and apple watch.
A few things to note:
- We were told we will be distance learning from March 16-27 so far.
- We were told to maintain skills for now. We are not required to be teaching new material at this time. If distance learning goes past the two weeks, that might change.
- IEP meetings are still taking place via google meet. Some have had to be rescheduled because we have not assessed the students enough to write an IEP and meet about the child. Especially students moving to Kindergarten have to be re-evaluated, so we are not able to meet on them at this time.
- Speech, OT and PT are not happening during this time. Our district told us that technically students are NOT allowed to receive services via google meet. The therapists are just required to send each child at least one resource, once a week.
- A lot of you have been inquiring about students and their access to technology. Students in our school district were given laptops if they did not already have at home. Families were also able to borrow hotspots if they do not have internet in their house. Our district is very fortunate to be able to do this. So far, they have given out over 1,000 laptops to families.
Overall, I am feeling better now than I was at the beginning of the week. A week ago, there were so many unknows and questions that I had. By now, I feel that I am in the swing of things. I do still feel that my whole day is starring at a computer though. Now, I have to start focusing on ME and making a schedule where there is designated time to step away from the computer and do something for ME. I hope that you are all doing the same. We can’t forget about ourselves and OUR needs during this weird time.
I hope that this was helpful to come of you, and maybe I will be back at the end of next week with some more thoughts and ideas. Until then, happy teaching.