Where to begin when trying to connect to students & families
Getting ready for remote teaching can be overwhelming. From what we are hearing on the news, we may need to be prepared for an interruption in our school year again this fall. Here are some pointers for how to connect parents and families for learning remotely.
When faced with the situation of teaching from home we must first make sure we can communicate with our families and students who are learning from home.
Where to begin in this era of remote learning? The large district I teach in had not done remote teaching and learning before the big Coronavirus outbreak. So, I gave myself a crash course in Google and all things technology!
I am a firm believer in HANDS ON so I have shied away from too much technology with my little students. I have not been personally savvy in this area either, so have been determined to increase my proficiency with this new challenge. Our district rolled out remote learning for our students during the Pandemic and we did it for 8 weeks! Whew! Here is how I got started. I had to make sure I was able to communicate remotely with my students and families and streamline that communication.
#1 Streamline your communication
- Collect ALL your students current contact information to send out a group email to get everyone on the same page. This may seem obvious but it is surprising how many families do not keep their current information up-to-date on school enrollment forms.
- Try out the platforms for group meetings online. I started using the Zoom App as a way to connect with friends and family and then tried it out with my kids. I love that Zoom lets everyone see each other like a Brady Bunch format! The kids loved this too! Our district has a partnership with Google so we switched over to Google Meet. It works similarly to Zoom. Personally I liked having more control over my meetings on Zoom as far as settings were concerned. I could mute/unmute and exit kids out of the meeting without waiting for them to figure it out. Check out my post about activities to do with kindergartners on a Google Meet or Zoom meeting here.
- Set up a Communications Platform. This is another seemingly obvious piece but some of these sites were mainly intended to be used as a way of communication to collect volunteers and announce events to parents. I liked ClassTag, Seesaw, and ClassDojo for different features they offered and decided on ClassDojo. My reasoning was there was a Facebook style “Class Story” with the ability to like or comment, as well as a Portfolio area for posting work & pictures. A couple of families are able to take advantage of the language translation feature, too! I also wanted the ability to encourage my kiddos with giving out points. I needed only the basics since our district is having us use Google Classroom for teaching.
#2 Communicate with families
- Begin communicating through email how to log into your new site. I had to copy and send passwords through email, too. Respond often and be available for troubleshooting. I asked a couple of parents to help with this since I cannot see exactly what the families see.
- Introduce things step-by-step and make it fun. I took a picture of my dog, Hollywood, and put my reading glasses on her. The first job I gave my kinders was to submit a photo of their workspace and supplies at home. Holly checked them and gave each kiddo a point on Classdojo for joining our site and another point for showing off their workspace! Thanks to my good friend, Rebecca for this cute idea! I finally got everyone connected. It took different motivational techniques and assistance but we had to get plugged in now that we are not all together in our classroom.
#3 Create a planning template
Our team used a common planning template so that all kindergarten parents could access through one link any information they need for each week. We have it ready to go live on the weekend before the week starts. Seesaw has a good example of planning template that seems easy to use however our leadership wanted a common template within our school so we used this planning template.
#4 Create your online classroom
We use Google Classroom for our remote teaching and have all our materials, assignments, and classroom resources linked here. Parents click our link from the planning template and it takes them to each individual classroom. On this page a parent can access all they will need for the week.
#5 Train yourself in online resources
The toughest part for me as an un-techy teacher is training myself in all things Google and the many resources that help make this job easier. Check out my post on Technology for Remote Learning to find out the tools that will help get you started. I wouldn’t have survived without Google Slides, Google Forms, Epic!, Headsprout, and Generation Genius to name a few.
Learning how to navigate these resources will become such a time saver in the fall. I will begin getting my families familiar from the very beginning of our school year in order to make our potential return to remote teaching a smoother experience for my class.