What’s Working?!?

Ok…so the title is truly a reflection of my uncertainty of what is in fact working in this thing that I have called distance learning. Over the past 10 weeks, I’ve been engaged in this process with students and as we approach the final month of the year, I’m taking some time to reflect on what has – in my opinion – worked, at least for me and my students. Don’t worry, it will be a short list so not to worry about a never-ending post here!

Google Meets

Since our first week of distance learning, we’ve had Google Meet sessions that have been audio only. During these times, we’ve done check-ins and it’s also been a great tool for helping small groups through mini-lessons. Over the past couple of weeks, they have shifted slightly where students have been the ones to suggest things that we might do during our Meets. We had a Connect4 tournament and we’ve also had a couple of students who created and shared short trivia games. What I’m noticing is that these times are becoming more and more social and less and less about “the work”. Which is an education in itself. Don’t get me wrong, we work through any questions students have but it’s becoming a more comfortable forum to share in a more social way. I’m still navigating some of the ideas of great uses for Meet and would welcome any suggestions people may have. 

Podcasts

Last month, I introduced my students to the Six Minute Podcast and I must admit that it’s the one thing that is probably the most talked-about or the activity that is most tried during the week. I’m actually surprised at how many have enjoyed listening and having discussions about it. The podcast is a serial story about an 11-year old by the name of Holliday. She is pulled from the icy waters of Alaska with no memory of who she is or where she came from. She is “adopted” by the family who found her and when she begins to develop incredible abilities, she soon discovers that she’s not alone in the world. There are so many twists and turns in each episode and many can’t wait to find out more. As we have listened, we learned about writing summaries, making and justifying choices, character analysis, and more! I think when we start again in September, podcasts might be something that we keep.

Design

While I personally understand the impact of the trauma caused by the current pandemic, I felt it necessary to speak about it in an age-appropriate way with students. Having a number of students with parents as frontline workers, I knew that their experiences would definitely have an impact on our learning. We’ve been doing a design sprint – well…maybe more like a marathon at the moment – and it’s been incredible to see how it has empowered students to think about themselves as being incredible problem solvers. Today I had 3 students pitch their ideas during our whole-class Meet and I was blown away by what they designed to solve problems for people. They thought of it all. From holographic watches to stay connected with family to a new company designed to train and employ individuals to make personal protective equipment for the community, when implemented, their solutions can have an amazing impact! Through this work, they are really understanding that they have the power to bring about change not just for themselves but for others. 

Art & Physical Education

While the Arts and Physical Education haven’t been the focus of the Ministry of Education during this time, I’ve been adding them to our weekly schedule. It’s made the world of difference for some of my students. The ability to express themselves through the Arts and Physical Education has been incredible. We’ve created a classroom Art gallery and many of my students plan weekly Phys. Ed. challenges for their classmates. When I see schools re-opening and subject areas like Physical Education aren’t being included, I wonder what further trauma this might be on students who rely on these subject areas as an essential part of their school lives and their general wellness. I worry.

As I reflect on this past month, I think we’ve had many successes and these are just some of the reasons why. I’m not sure what June will hold and I guess we’ll see!

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Updated: May 29, 2020 — 11:03 am

The Author

Arianna Lambert

I'm a grade 4/5 Teacher in the Toronto District School Board who loves integrating technology and mindfulness in the classroom. Through inquiry and design, I work with students who are engaged in meaningful learning opportunities; developing core competencies, while creating ways to make the world an even better place. I am the recipient of a TDSB Excellence Award for the co-creation of #tdsbEd, Twitter chats for educators. Through conversations on trends in Education from STEAM to Mindfulness, it has become an online community of educators dedicated to improving their practice to ensure greater student success, well-being and achievement.

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