Hi everyone! Welcome back to my blog!! I just completed week 3 of distance learning. It was another packed week full of google meets and scrambling to figure out this whole thing…STILL! In this blog I am going to share what I have been doing for large and small groups via google meet. I hope to give some of you ideas or inspiration as you move forward in this adventure.
Just like the past 2 weeks, I want to preface this post by saying I am not an expert. Not even close. Every class, teacher, and group of students in different, so everyone has to find what fits for them.
I should probably start by explaining the group of students I have… I teach a preschool self-contained class in a public school. All of my students have IEPs (Individualized Education Plans). My students range from ages 3-5 and they all have different ability levels. Typically, in school I teach them in small groups. This is how they learn best. In my school there are also two other preschool classes. One class utilizes ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) where students work in 1:1 and 1:2 ratios with teachers. The other class is an integrated class, where half of the students are typically developing, and the other half of the students have special needs.
I wanted to explain the other classes because I do all of the large group google meets during distance learning with Jessie, from Special Resources by Jessie. She is the teacher of the preschool self-contained classroom that utilizes ABA.
**As of now, we are not required to google meet with our students at all. Jessie and I are choosing to do so in order to stay connected with our students and their families**
For large groups Jessie and I invite all of our students, our teaching assistants, the speech therapists, the occupational therapist, our principal and our supervisor into one large google meet. We gave everyone directions for how to download the google meet grid view extension so that they can see everyone at one time. We felt that this way, it feels like they are at school with their friends. We also asked that everyone enters the google meet, says ‘Hello” and then mutes themselves. We found that giving these directions beforehand were key, or else we would have to manually mute everyone, and we didn’t want to have to do that.
Jessie and I started the large groups pretty early on. There was not much planning that had to be done for these. We are in a pretty solid routine now, that we are going to continue moving forward, of read alouds on Tuesdays, something special on Wednesdays and yoga on Thursdays. Yoga was something we always did on Thursdays at school.
(We sent these images to parents, our teaching assistants, speech therapists, the OT, our principal and our supervisor ahead of time to give them the info for the google meet sessions)
For the read alouds on Tuesdays, Jessie and I each choose a book that we brought home from school and simply read it aloud to our students. Last week we actually planned ahead, and each read a counting/numbers book! We do not let the students talk to the group while we read. They stay muted. Sometimes though we stop as we are reading and ask them to turn to their family member and answer a question or tell them something related to the book (Ex: “Tell an adult how many monkeys are on this page.”) We have gotten great feedback from parents about our read alouds, and we look forward to doing more.
On Wednesdays, our plan moving forward is to do something special and different each week. We started this tradition last week when we did “Share Your Pet”. This was SO cute, and I highly recommend you all do it with your students, no matter what age they are. Students brought their pet OR a stuffed animal to the google meet. Like always, they said hello and then muted themselves. Jessie and I had prepared a list of 5 questions that we were going to ask each child. We sent the list to parents beforehand so that they can prepare (Ex: what does your pet eat?, what do you like to do with your pet?). Jessie and I went first and introduced our pets and answered all of the questions. Then, our students went one by one. They pretty much all needed help from a family member, but it was SO cute. The parents had great feedback afterwards as well. After spring break we plan on doing a directed drawing and/or some sort of show and tell.
On Thursdays we do yoga. When school is in session, we typically do yoga every Thursday, so we were not going to let distance learning stop us from that. Jessie is a certified yoga instructor, so she leads our large group in a 15-20 minute yoga session. Again, all students are muted and listening to Miss Jessie. We have even gotten our teaching assistants, principal and supervisor to participate! The parents say that they are very thankful that we are continuing our yoga routine, even from home.
This week I attempted small groups. This was not mandatory for me to do, I just felt that I should get my students familiar with this format, in case I have to teach them this way moving forward. I was also excited to see them back in small groups, because I am so familiar with this format from being at school.
I planned the groups based on student’s availability. As I shared in last week’s blog post, I had parents fill out a google form stating their availability, and a bunch of other information. I used that information to group students. Typically, in school, I group them based on skill ability, but this format does not allow for that right now.
I had no expectations for these groups this week. My plan going in was just to get them to say hi to each other and to allow them to get familiar with having to talk through the computer to me, and each other. If time allowed, I planned on reading a short book.
10 minutes before my first small group on Tuesday I quickly printed my circle time from home FREEBIE. I got nervous that I was going to need something to do with them since my students are not yet able to hold conversations with each other yet. I am SO happy I printed it. I actually went through circle time with my students over the google meet. The parents, and my students, loved it. After circle time I had them answer our question of the day and then I read a little bit of the story I had. I was so happy I had circle time printed out and a book on hand. I now know moving forward that I need to have a few options prepared because it turned out that every group was so different.
In one group I ended up using a whiteboard to draw shapes and write letters. The students told me what shape or letter was on the board. They loved this.
In some groups we did a color scavenger hunt in their house. I would tell them to “go find something that is red”. They would walk away, go find something that is red, and then come back and share it with the group. This is how my Find Something That… Scavenger Hunt product was born.
In one of the groups I used my iPad to search pictures of objects. I would hold the iPad up and the students would label the object. Like I said before, my students are all of different levels, so I had to think of something different for each group.
Moving forward after spring break, I plan on having a more solid plan going into small groups. This week I felt like I was coming up with stuff in the moment, because I truly didn’t know how small groups were going to work out. I will probably use a mix of the circle time from home, insects questions of the day, find something that… scavenger hunts, label and ID basics, directed drawings and read alouds.
For the third week in a row I have revamped my work area!! I realized that I will need some space for a whiteboard moving forward. I wanted a place to display our learning target and to be able to write or draw stuff on. My mom gave me this whiteboard to use so I had to reorganize a bit. Now I am excited to start teaching again after spring break!
Next week we have spring break. We do not teach again until April 14. During break I will be planning for when we get back and completing a lot of grad schoolwork (I graduate in a month WOOHOO). I encouraged parents to take a bit of a break this upcoming week, but to still keep somewhat of a routine. I have been telling parents through this whole process how important routines are in general, but especially during this time. I told them that I would not be putting new material in google classroom, but they are more than welcome to continue using what is in there during break. I explained that I will not be available for google meets over break, but I encouraged them to reach out to other families and maybe have FaceTime playdates. My students’ email accounts are not able to start google meet sessions, but I still gave the parents a list of all of the student’s emails. I figured they can email via their children’s email and figure out a way to stay connected.
After spring break, we are finding out from our supervisor what is expected of us moving forward. Our district is moving from maintaining skills to now teaching new skills. I am interested to see what is expected from the preschool team. I will keep you all updated as I find out.
I hope that some of you found this helpful! Feel free to comment below with any large and/or small group ideas you have for preschoolers during distance learning. We can all learn from each other!