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Preschoolers and Distance Learning

  • 1.  Preschoolers and Distance Learning

    Posted 30 days ago
    I would be interested in hearing from preschool teachers who have been teaching online during the pandemic.  I'm interested in your experiences.  How do you keep children engaged?  Do you feel your learning objectives were met?  What has been your experience with parent participation?  Is there any research being done about this?

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    Barbara Nilsen
    Port Crane NY
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  • 2.  RE: Preschoolers and Distance Learning

    Posted 29 days ago
    I have been teaching online. I do a 30 minute segment (sometimes we run over) once a day. While we sent home learning materials I can't use them during lessons because not everyone has access to them. Either their parents put them away, they disappeared, or the students are elsewhere for childcare. That makes things difficult!!!
    We do a greeting song that they love. I spotlight each child and sing to them with their name then everyone greets them. I began this to help them learn each other's names, now if I forget the students remind me, they love it!
    I have weekly themes; introduce vocabulary, try to use realia even if it is virtual (oxymoron, I know), read aloud every day, and draw almost every day. I am teaching the students how to draw as communication and a pre-writing skill. (I use David Matteson's strategy.) Everyone is encouraged to "write" also: their name always, sometimes numbers, beginning sounds, or whole words if they are easy. Then everyone gets spotlighted again and we admire their drawing/writing.
    For engagement I ask questions, add choral phrases and movements to stories.
    It is a challenge... especially with busy households full of distractions.

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    Trudy Eby
    Early Literacy Specialist
    School District of Lancaster
    Lancaster PA
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  • 3.  RE: Preschoolers and Distance Learning

    Posted 28 days ago
    Our team has been interacting with children online on Zoom (our child care program was open on site from September to November 2020 before we closed down again, during which time we also ran some online programming with the intent to teach new families some tech skills in case we were forced to close down again, which did happen) since March 2020.  Over this time, we've tried a few formats, but generally our 8 staff work in two teams, with staff taking 15 to 20 minutes to lead planned and spontaneous activities.  We run morning and afternoon programs, although our mornings tend to be busier.  We work with a mixed age group from about 2 1/2 to 5 years.  Over time, children became more comfortable with online programming with some older children building skills such as learning how to unmute themselves (and even typing in the chat - even if it is only letters).  Staff work hard to provide a variety of activities (sensory play, singing, drawing, reading stories, science, games) and to meet the interests and developmental levels of the children.  With children this young, it is important to build in physical activity as much as possible and realize that children may look like they are not attending (not necessarily sitting in front of the screen all the time) when they are.  If children are energetic, it helps to do guided physical activity before settling back down into sitting activities.  Children enjoy having opportunities to take turns singing their favourite song, telling their favourite story, or showing something in their home.  Turn taking over Zoom requires teaching some routines, it's not perfect yet in our program depending on the ages and personalities of the children.  Interaction between children has been happening more, some children even mentor each other in Zoom etiquette, saying "Please listen" or "Please wait."   Staff are also experimenting with using breakout rooms to give each child more time to speak.  Sometimes staff show themselves doing activities outside; sometimes children and families are given "homework" such as collecting natural materials outside which can be used in the online activities.  We have sent some activity materials home, but have to time their delivery, so materials are on hand when staff want to use them in an activity.  Sometimes, it has been challenging to find all the materials available at the the time we assemble activity kits as some materials are in high demand and the stores may not have them in consistently.  Staff are able to have positive interactions with children, but what differs from in person learning is the amount of interactions between children.  We are hoping in the upcoming months, if our COVID 19 restrictions allow, to also have staff go out to communities near the families to do some outdoor programming with small groups of families.

    We did try having a couple of parent meeting times in the last three months, but saw very little participation.  Parents are usually in the same room as their children and often support the children in setting up the device (usually phones or Ipad).  Sometimes we struggle with background noise, but staff will mute the group when necessary.  We are experimenting with organizing topics, such as nutrition, to try to catch parent's interest. Parents may be busy with their English classes while their children are with us, or may have school age children, part-time work and other family members at home too, so we realize their time might be limited for our parent groups.

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    Deanna Mendoza
    Edmonton Mennonite Centre For New Comers
    Edmonton AB
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  • 4.  RE: Preschoolers and Distance Learning

    Posted 27 days ago
    Trudy, singing is the best way to start with preschoolers! I would love to know what song you used: did you make it up or re-use an old favorite? I have found that singing helps to focus their attention, whether you are teaching virtually or face-to-face. I have a puppet bear I use who acts like a 4-year-old, and who frequently needs help from the children.

    Physical activity is essential, as soon as you spot their attention flagging.  They can play Simon Says, with a child giving directions. At this age, they don't focus on the "this" or "that" in the instruction: they simply have to follow the child designated to give the directions on the screen. Activities can be tied to whatever topic or book you are reading or discussing. Sometimes just asking them to show emotions/reactions to an event in a story can be fun.

    I applaud you for managing to teach preschoolers for 30 minutes. I find it challenging to keep their attention for over 10 minutes! (About the same length of time for a corporate executive Zoom participant!). Every activity change I make though, reinforces a central learning concept. They get to learn by watching, doing, drawing, speaking, asking, and playing. Playing and being silly are the most effective learning strategies - even virtually! If a parent is there, they have to be encouraged to play and be silly too. Wherever possible, I will engage the caretaker in the lesson. Often I ask the children to "teach" the caretaker/parent/sibling something. Their role is not only to manage the technology but to be a role model by being a "good learner".

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    Sue Hepker
    Jacksonville FL
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  • 5.  RE: Preschoolers and Distance Learning

    Posted 26 days ago
    Good Morning, Sue. I always sang in the classroom first thing so it was a no brainer on Zoom. I tried with some "Good Morning' videos and they were unengaged. All I do is use the "Happy Birthday" tune, because everyone knows it, and sing " Good morning to you, good morning to you, good morning dear so-n-so, good morning to you!" Then I encourage everyone to greet that person. Sometimes simple is best and the students love having a turn to be BIG on the screen.
    I haven't tried "Simon Says" but do add actions, and voices and emotions in the story and ask children to join me. There are many changing activities during the 30 minutes, but they are all connected. Most of my students do not have a parent in attendance, but as I teach I hope to be modeling for parents ways to engage, encourage, question, and celebrate their children.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
    Trudy

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    Trudy Eby
    Early Literacy Specialist
    School District of Lancaster
    Lancaster PA
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