Virtual Classroom Meetings with Young Learners

How are those virtual classroom meetings going? Frustrated? The deal is we really can’t expect too much – at least not with kindergarten! The goal here during this time apart is to just BE THERE. Have a place to give the youngest of our students a sense of security and normal rhythm to some of their days. Little people do not get the opportunities for social outlets that older kids and adults have because they are not independent in their use of technology – nor should they be. So just give them a place to come and see YOU and their friends.

Keeping their relationships alive using virtual classroom meetings. Relationships are the most important thing here. We are supporting their cognitive & social abilities and hopefully relieving any stress or anxiety they may be feeling during this era of Pandemic. It is not important to re-create the classroom. Don’t think teaching, just try to interact and connect. Don’t think “what can they learn?” Instead think “how can I bring them some joy today?”

Attention spans will run very short during your meeting. If you got 30 minutes out of them back in March, then only expect about 15 minutes now. I have set my meeting times on Google Meet for 30 minutes each morning at the same time. My kiddos are invited, but not required to come. We have to be flexible since parents are juggling a lot right now and our youngest learners rely on them to get set up. But even with this option I am having about 20 out of 26 join us every single time AND the others come a few times a week. I call that a win! If I really want to brag, a few siblings usually pop on to see what we are up to and particpate, too!

Here’s why they come:

  1. We are all excited to see each other!
  2. I have a loose routine that we follow that gives kiddos a predictable rhythm that they recognize from the classroom.
  3. We know we’ll do something fun together and they look forward to it.
  4. We get to SHARE and interact together and have a little normalcy.

How to make the most of your short virtual classroom meeting time

1. Get Excited!

It’s exciting to see and interact with our friends and important people, especially during this time of quarantine. Remember, as the teacher, you used to spend a large chunk of the day caring for these little friends and in many ways YOU became their parent. It’s time to show your warmth and love for them more than ever. Let them feel your love right through the computer screen! Remind them why they love you and let your eyes sparkle with fun.

2. Create Routines.

My first routine is showing up each morning for them for 30 minutes. I structure our time with:

  • Welcome Time – Littles are so excited to be using this cool technology, but mostly they are overjoyed to see their friends’ faces. They are MISSING each other and YOU. I allow the first five to ten minutes just saying hello and allowing them to share a few things while we wait for everyone to get on the Meet.

  • Practice Time – We take a little time practicing “mute” and “unmute” and learning our signals. Our classroom signal was “Give Me Five” with my hand up. It’s the reminder that I need: 1. Eyes watching; 2. Ears listening; 3. Bodies still; 4. Mouths closed; 5. Brains thinking. We’re not in the classroom, but these still apply! Now let me also say that while I ask for it, I don’t get it from everyone in this situation. We also practice raising our hand right beside our face so I can tell who is interested in talking.

  • Greetings – We do a little Good Morning Greeting familiar to our classroom days by me starting and picking a student to say “Good Morning” to. That student unmutes him or herself and picks another student to say “Good Morning” to and the greetings continue. This process gives more mute/unmute practice as they take turns talking. The routine is that kids raise their hand if they haven’t been picked so we know who is left. If a student does not have Grid or Gallery view, I just name the friends out loud that are left.

  • Calendar & Review Something – I brought my calendar home & set it up behind me in my sunroom. Pete the Cat & Lilly from The Purple Plastic Purse sit nearby too. There is comfort in bringing a little familiarity into our virtual relationship. Let them recognize pieces of our “old ways”. I have them unmute so we can sing our Good Morning song, count and sing our calendar songs together & recognize our birthdays and special events that are coming up. I don’t try to do everything. We try to review some concept that we already know about. Remember this is just about participation and gathering together, not trying to learn anything new.

  • Sing/Story Time – We sing a familiar song like our “Rise & Shine” morning song and other favorites. Some days they request more, other days they aren’t into it so we move on. While I have videos of myself reading that they can access, I read one “live” once in a while because children just love to be read to.

  • Have some fun! We want them to want to come and have something to look forward to! Early in the week, I make sure we have a little more sharing/talk time. We share about our weekends, had our pets come in the room and shared our new work space. We play scavenger hunts and bring items to show off in the Meet, we share our mouths up close & personal in our cameras to show off our missing teeth. For other ideas click over to my whole post about Zoom activities and games you can do on your virtual classroom meeting.

  • Dismissal Time – We end like we started. Everyone unmutes and we have last minute shares about our little events coming up – today is Superhero/Princess/whatever you can find Costume Day! Last we start saying and waving our good-byes as kiddos and parents help leave the meeting. I usually offer to troubleshoot any remote learning issues with parents if they stay on after so that’s THEIR routine if needed. The challenge here is making sure all the kids are exited – I have to kick a few out myself because some don’t want to go!

3. Have some fun!

My goal is to make them WANT to participate. While early in the week, we spend more time sharing since we’ve been apart for several days, later in the week we have some favorite activities. We decided every Friday we would have Art Day. I love checking out what Patty at Deep Space Sparkle is up to for ideas. In between we have scavenger hunts, show and tell, dress up days, story days, and play games.

4. Create positive interactions.

While we know the virtual classroom is not a perfect learning environment for children, it is important that we keep our meetings light and fun. We cannot control what they do in their home. So big behavior expectations are really out the window. I do SUGGEST they sit still, and sit up, and not eat or walk around, but I cannot demand it. I let them know we want to see their sweet faces and we do! The point here is staying connected and having a place they can come to be together.

My goal is for them to want to be here and have something to look forward to on our meeting days. Keep it light. make it fun and move quickly from one piece of your planned routine to the next. Remember what I said about their attention spans? Watch & listen carefully to what they are saying and doing so that you can recognize the clues they may be giving you to what they are needing. Make sure you say their name at least twice on each meeting. Affirm & support their efforts just like you would in the classroom. Let them know you love them most of all!

At the end of your meeting, reflect on what went well or what was a challenge and try again next time. This is unchartered territory for our little people so if they are feeling the love and connection, mission accomplished!

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