I start each of my school days right now with a 30 minute, whole class session. We do a morning meeting and then a short interactive read aloud or number sense routine. It is an amazing part of my day, the four days a week it happens. Of my 22 students I usually have about 19 in that session. (One kid won’t be there at all as the tech is just not working for his family. He and I are now doing one-on-one meetings via facetime. Whatever works.)

The kids have got it all down now. Their mics are off unless they’re the one talking. As is mine, just in case you were wondering. They raise their hands if they want to share something and either I call on them or the student who had the floor before them does. They’ve managed to translate a lot of our in-our-physical-classroom-space routines to in-our-digital-classroom-space. It’s really amazing to me.

This morning we tried a one minute greeting. In our classroom this means I hold up a one-minute sand timer and we all mill about the carpet greeting each other until time runs out. Today I put a digital timer up on the screen and we all just talked at each other with greetings. I worried it would get super loud as some tried to yell over others, but it didn’t. Some didn’t speak at all, which is a choice they get to make. At the one minute point they all turned off their mics and got ready for our share.

Several kids shared today and called on their classmates for questions or comments. As this was happening, two of my students, neither of whom were talking or even had their mics on during this time, held up the cards I had mailed them. They put them right up to their cameras to let me know they had gotten them. No words, no distraction to others, just a way to let me know. It nearly made me cry.

Every kid in my class has gotten one postcard and two notecards in the past two months. My own children have been going through books and now I’m trying to pick one book per student to mail to them with another note. One student has written a note and mailed it back to me. Another mom asked if her child could do the same, to the return address on the card. (It’s my home address so I said sure. I would love notes from them.)

This is the third week our online instruction has really been happening. The first couple of weeks involved a lot of working through technology problems and making sure we all knew how everything worked. This week I feel like I’m actually addressing some academic learning. My small groups are doing guided reading and math work in ways that feel meaningful. It’s been wonderful.

I had to capture some shots of the math the kids were doing because it erases as soon as we move away from the specific screen. (And no judging all the tabs I have open!)

But I know it happens because of the relationships that we have. The notecards are one way that I can keep nourishing those relationships. It’s harder when we aren’t together everyday, all day, in the same physical space. I have to think about it more, focus on it, plan for it. But it is worth it.

3 replies on “Connecting”

  1. Colleen says:

    I would love to know how you’re handling small groups during distance learning! Are you doing that during the office hours time? I’m in your county so am following the same schedule and guidelines. I haven’t done any small groups yet online, but I am interested in trying.

    • jenorr says:

      Colleen, I am meeting with them during office hours. It’s a bit complicated, but I’ll give you the basics and if you want more I’m happy to chat via email (I’m jaorr). I’ve got five basic groups of 4-5 kids in each. I did it by their guided reading groups. I see them for 30 minutes. Two of the groups I see one time only. The other three I see twice. I’m using books online for guided reading (MyOn or other sites depending on what I need and I’ve turned off the read aloud and highlight piece). I share my screen. I give them time to read silently and then we chat. Some of them read a page or so aloud but I don’t force that because I know this isn’t our normal setting. Then I do some math. I’ve set up some 3 act tasks in PowerPoints so I could upload them in BB Collaborate and then we can write on them.

      I do meet with a few kids on Friday during our office hour time, even though that wasn’t on the original schedule. I wanted some one-on-one meetings for kids who need more academic support or some social-emotional support. I hope this is helpful!

      • Colleen says:

        Thanks for the help! My whole class sessions are going pretty well, but barely anyone comes to office hours and so I’m trying to figure out how to use that time more effectively. At first I thought I would let them use that time to connect with each other and socialize (if they didn’t have any questions about assignments), but it ended up being just a couple of students. So I’ve been turning on my whole class session early to let them chat before we start the lesson. Also, some of the kids that need help the most don’t get on their mic to speak up in front of everyone, so hopefully they would feel more comfortable participating in a small group. Thanks again! 🙂

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