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Lessons Learned during Week 1

I'm sure many of you saw this quote floating around the Internet or Instagram throughout the summer. I think regardless of whether you're teaching in class or virtually, there are going to be so many things that come up that we've never seen or experienced before this year. While logically, I was like "oh yeah, for sure!", I don't think I really realized how true it was until I went through my first week of teaching this year.

This week was a HUGE learning curve - more for me than my students! 🤷🏼‍♀️😆I'm always amazed at how resilient our students are and this week was a clear example of that resiliency in action. I'm not sure if it's because Grade 1 is a whole new ball game for the students anyways, but my students didn't even seems to notice that anything was that different. Me on the other hand...

Being completely honest, I found this week HARD. I thought I was prepared, but I don't think I realized how drastically the way that I teach was going to change. I feel like even during this first short week, I learned so much and made tons of alterations on the fly. I thought sharing some of these alterations might be helpful to some of you who may be running into the same obstacles or challenges as me.

Physical Distancing

One area that I found my students were really struggling with was maintaining appropriate spacing between themselves and their classmates once they weren't at their personal desk space. A quick visual cue seemed to really help them figure out how much space they should have. We use "ailes d'un aigle, pas d'une poule" (eagle wings, not chicken wings) to know if we have enough space while around other people.

Line ups are another area where my young kiddos had trouble knowing instinctively how much space they should have. Again, I used a visual that was easy to remember and fun for the students. In line ups, the students 'marche comme un zombie' with their arms out in front without touching the person in front of them to ensure proper distancing. Fun, yet effective!

Storage Baskets

It only took one day for the 'storage on the back of the chairs' plan to fall apart for me. With the small size of my Grade 1 chairs and my students' giant backpacks, chairs were tipping over, backpacks were getting caught on chair legs - it was a disaster! Add in the coats, sweaters and hats that were all supposed to hang on the back of the chairs along with the backpacks, and it felt like total chaos.

I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that I went out directly after school ended on the first day and picked up these storage baskets at Dollarama. Honestly, this may have been more of an issue for me than the students, but it really helped me feel like it was easier for my students to move around and there was a little more order in the classroom.

Outdoor Learning

I was soooo excited and prepared to incorporate more outdoor learning into my literacy program. Two things I did not count on - a much cooler September than normal and WIND. Here in Ottawa, it's been about 10 degrees every day and super windy. I was still having kids come dressed in shorts, so early morning outdoor literacy was chilly 🥶

I did continue to go outside, but the wind was another obstacle. I zip tied my chart paper to the fence, but anytime students tried to cut something out or do anything with loose paper, things would go flying. We've been doing Mme Andrea's alphabet bootcamp

to get everyone on the same page, so I've learned that doing all the cutting and pasting indoors and then going outside for the lesson and work time is much more effective. Cutting is definitely an indoor activity! 😆One thing that I've done is try to set up before school starts in the morning - zip tying my chart paper to the fence, clipping the bottom together, and having a bin of everything I need to go outside (i.e., markers, visuals, etc.) read to go!

Mask Hooks

In my school board, masks are not mandatory for K-3. The majority of my students come to school in a mask anyways, but will take off their masks for a break and to eat lunch. In an effort to keep the masks clean when they're not on students's faces, I attached these little hooks to the insides of their divider shield things. The students use them without any re-direction and I feel better about them taking their mask on and off during the day in a clean and safe way.

I know not every board has these shield, but you could probably put a little hook on the side of their desk as an alternative to inside the shield.

Early Finishers

This is a tricky one. I've always had my early finishers work on something hands-on or play-based from our literacy centres. I'm currently putting together some early finisher bins just using old take out containers that I'm planning to rotate weekly, but I also want some quick and easy paper activities that they can just take out of their desk bins. One small issue...the kiddos missed 6 months of school and are not ready to do many reading or writing tasks independently.

Since we're working on mastering our colour words, I put together these Colorie par code - Les couleurs to practice recognizing the printed colour words en français. FYI - The colour cards are from Mme Andrea's colour word wall. This is a great way to keep my early finishers engaged in whatever we're doing literacy-wise. Win!

Bye Bye Carpet Time!

The biggest adjustment for me was no carpet time. Anyone else find this hard to get used to this year? I didn't realize how much the carpet provided - a clear space where all students can see the lesson AND a great built-in body break when students move from carpet to tables and back again.

This REALLY affected my shared reading times. When I tried to do my read alouds using my handy wireless microphone set up, it was almost impossible for students to see the book. This really affected engagement and focus for the students. *Click here to read about the mic plan*

I've been trying to move more things onto my computer so I can project them. I picked up a tablet stand and then used the AirServer app to mirror my iPad to my MacBook. I can then connect my MacBook to my projector and BOOM - the book is on the projector and all students can see the book. Your board may also have a subscription to Mirroring 360 which lets you mirror your tablet to a PC or Mac. I was planning to use this when I realized that Mirroring 360 doesn't work on a Chromebook which is what I normally use in the classroom with my projector. Another easier option is to bring your students outside for read alouds which has also been very successful! I'm slightly unsure how this will play out when it's -25, so I like having the iPad mirroring as an option in class.

My colleague has also been digitizing games that we use regularly to put them on the projector so that all the kids can see and still participate. She digitized Mme Andrea's Pomme Pomme game and some other colour games that we normally play on the carpet. It's been a life saver!

Save yourself some money!

This year has already been more expensive as a teacher than most and so I'm sure there are many of you who don't want to spend any more money on school stuff. One more trick that I can share is that often the school will pay for things for which you wouldn't even think to ask! I usually go right to my office administrator and ask her if it's possible. This year she was able to buy a whole class set of clipboards and whiteboards for outdoor learning. Some of these suggestions, like Mirroring apps, mask hooks or storage baskets, may be things that the school would be willing to invest in, depending on your school and their financial resources. I never knew this when I first started out and it would have saved me tons of money!

To sum it up

There are going to be so many new things to learn this year and figuring out ways to work around the necessary changes to our teaching practices. I've already hit a lot of roadblocks that needed crashing through or driving around and I'm sure we'll meet many more throughout the year!

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