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Schechter’s Early Childhood teachers know that the inherent challenge in distance learning for ages 2-5 is that the students crave in-person time with teachers and friends, and they don’t quite have the attention span to sit for long stretches at a device. So, our EC team has spent the past eight weeks adding to and tweaking their daily distance learning offerings to make this the best possible experience for their young students! In addition to the types of activities we featured HERE in our earlier article, the EC team has some fantastic new additions to their schedule to keep the little ones connected!
This week the Early Childhood program rolled out live, virtual, small-group time as a companion to their regular pre-recorded storytime and activities with the teachers. Students made self-portraits, following the same learning format they had used in the classroom: first the students watched a teacher demonstrate the lesson, then they were given time to complete their own self-portraits. Because this is an activity that the students have done monthly in school, it was a great way to ease the children into this virtual small group platform. After everyone completed their portrait, they had a chance to share their work with the rest of the group. The children are learning to draw what they see and focus on details such as eyelashes, pupils and five fingers on each hand. Doing this kind of detailed work helps children get used to looking for details in other settings such as in books. It also helps students build their concentration and their persistence.
The youngest students, the two-year-olds, are the hardest to engage when we can’t be together in person. Finding ways of interacting that provide them with a sense of normalcy, education, and engagement requires flexibility and creativity. This week, Morah Bonnie, their teacher, introduced a variety of opportunities for students to interact more personally than in a larger Zoom meeting, including a lunch date program, two small group drop-ins, and enough 1-to-1 spots so that all the students could spend “alone time” with their teacher. The students were engaged and had good conversations with Bonnie. The story Ten in the Bed,complete with finger puppets and a 10-spot bed for the animals, was captivating enough to hold everyone’s interest and encouraged a lot of participation. The children helped count, identify the animals, and make the appropriate animal sounds, which reinforced many different early learning and development standards. At one of the small group meetings, Morah Bonnie and her students read a dinosaur story that encouraged the children to get up and move. Bonnie noted, “we can still expose our children to activities in all the domains of learning; we just have an extra challenge to do it virtually.”
Last week the EC teachers met with parents for one-on-one Zoom meetings to check in and reconnect. Morah Robin noted, “it was wonderful to (virtually) see our families and catch up with them in engaging conversations.” Parents communicated about their children’s accomplishments and struggles, and the teachers were appreciative of all the positive feedback about our Early Childhood digital platform. Some families gave virtual tours of homes and playrooms! For the teachers, highlights were messages from students and a lot of virtual hugs. Chatting about the children and all their triumphs during this isolation brought some levity to these unprecedented times.
For Early Childhood teachers, the greatest joy is to share in the daily experiences with their students, observing developing friendships, sharing a book, giving hugs, and wiping away a tear. The technology that enables teachers to reconnect with our parents and students in this way helps maintain those close bonds. Take a look at the adorable self-portraits that our EC students have produced lately!