Teaching challenges due to the pandemic
It has been two years since the world changed due to the pandemic. Teaching challenges are real. Teaching as we knew it changed and we had to learn to do things in different ways. This has been quite a challenge for both teachers and students.
I have been out of the classroom for a while now, but not out of the teaching mode. I was volunteering and doing small group instruction in the school until the pandemic hit, as well as doing one on one tutoring at my home. I was also doing ukulele group rehearsals with my husband until restrictions shut that down. This meant that I had to find ways to continue doing some of this virtually as well.
I kept in touch with teachers from my school and tried to find ways that I could somehow support them through providing resources, offering suggestions for certain specific circumstances, and just being there to bounce ideas off or even vent, if needed. As much as I wanted to be there to help out, it was not allowed. Also, my husband had just had a heart attack and I needed to keep him safe. I often felt frustrated that I wasn't able to do more to help.
I found that virtually teaching music was definitely unsatisfying and not sustainable with one way instruction. Our groups dwindled significantly and we discovered that what we thought was working, wasn't. In fact, we discovered many things were different than they had appeared. We tried doing virtual performances, and we even tried to do some one on one support when it was allowed, but it was so hard. Two of my children are music teachers, and they found this very challenging as well. For those who had to teach music classes virtually, I feel your pain.
Feedback from some teachers
As an aftermath to online teaching and hybrid teaching, many teachers are finding it difficult to catch up on missed learning. When I asked "What has been the most difficult part of teaching during the pandemic?" one of the most common responses was about kids being behind and stress for the teachers and kids. Here are some responses.
"Stress related to trying to catch up the lost time the children have had due to shutdowns. Many have fallen behind in both reading and writing."
"Trying to catch kids up who are behind because of missed school. In my class they are either really low or really high."
"The kids who are missing school are stressing out when they come back and they are further behind."
"students being at home due to illness or quarantine"
"Teachers are really tired. It is hard to do report cards. Little change since conferences in November. Conferences are coming up again next month. Stressed out, lots of paperwork."
I know it is hard to think of these issues without feeling stressed and in some cases "behind the eight ball". However, in order to meet needs, both academically and emotionally, the focus needs to be on the kids and where they are.
In any primary classroom, there can often be a huge range in levels of reading and writing abilities. This isn't new, but right now they are more obvious and the gaps are bigger. The demands of meeting standards and testing requirements sometimes loom in front of us and it is difficult to put that aside and focus on the kids and their needs.
Some tips and ideas for moving forward
What I have discovered from working with small groups and tutoring, is that it is important to find out where the kids are at and move forward while adding in the missing building blocks so they can progress. For example: I had some kids that were in grade 4 and 5 who were struggling with the math concepts being covered in their classes. I discovered that they still didn't know their basic facts. We spent some time working on different ways to add and subtract using dice and manipulatives, and once they had a handle of these, we moved on to multiplication and division using strategies to help with these concepts. It was amazing how this helped them to better understand what was going on in class. They still needed some extra support, but they developed some confidence and this helped them to tackle new material.
Reading with younger children really is developmental and kids will progress at different rates. Those who didn't get as much practice or support while learning virtually will need more time to be ready. Encouraging them as they continue to work on their skills will do wonders for them. The same goes for writing. Keep providing opportunities to work on their skills and practice and they will start to show improvement. It may take a bit longer to get caught up to the expected levels, but as long as they are showing growth, all is good.
If the kids are to develop confidence and continue to grow they need to be encouraged and supported in their learning. Bottom line is, their emotional well being has to be protected and nurtured as they work towards developing their skills.
Consider using guided reading groups and math groups to help with tailoring material for specifics levels and needs. If you need some help with this, check out my guided reading getting started post.
For those struggling with writing, consider using scaffolds, descriptive writing activities, and fun ways to work on parts of speech.
As for you, remember to take care of yourself and enjoy working with your students. You can only do so much. Give yourself some grace and just do what you can. In time, the kids will catch up if they know you care and they are encouraged to keep going and trying.
I wish you a happy rest of the year with many successes in your classroom.
Too Much Technology And Kids
Last week I wrote about changing technology and how we can often learn from kids as things continue to progress. It is okay to sometimes let them be the teacher and us the student. We can learn many things if we are open to this.
Although kids are more adept at technology in many cases, this can have a negative side if not careful. Kids are spending so much time on technology nowadays, especially since the pandemic and moving to online learning, they can become addicted to the technology and the feeling of excitement it can provide. It can become a problem if it interferes with social and emotional connections. It is important to find a balance between online and offline activities and interactions.
Technology Balance Is Important For Kids' Mental Health
Social interactions and group activities are still important. A fellow teacher told me the other day that she was very concerned about some of her students who were not engaging in the group activities and participating in the centers activities the same way as they used to. She was worried that they were getting too much stimulation from technology. Many of her students indicated that they stay up late playing video games or they get up early and play before coming to school. She noticed that they were less attentive and often very tired as a result.
Because our kids get so much more stimulation at home, it is important to provide as many opportunities as possible to remain unplugged at school. Hands on activities, community building games and projects, active games and even walks are some ways we can do this. Sometimes, good old paper and pencil activities can work well also.
Pre-pandemic, getting to do digital activities was a treat and it was used sparingly. Kids were excited to have the chance to interact with these activities. Nowadays, digital activities don't have the same enticement factor and they can actually sometimes be considered "boring" by our students because they have become used to action packed activities.
When we choose to use digital activities, we need to make sure that all the kids are actively engaged in them. They don't need to be fancy, but they do need to have value. If kids don't engage, then we need to find other ways to help them with their learning.
Technology Balance Is Important For Kids
This doesn't mean that using digital materials and technology shouldn't be part of the school day, just be careful about how much time is spent using it each day. There are many different positive reasons to use technology. Technology opens up different ways of portraying knowledge, allows for differentiation of material, and opens up access to more resources and information.
Finding a good balance will help with your kids' mental health and with community building in the classroom. I would love to hear ways that you have created a balance with technology in your classroom.
Changing technology creates a change of roles
There once was a time when our kids came to us for help when they were having trouble using equipment or tools. Now the roles are reversed for many of us. As new technology keeps coming out, our kids are becoming the experts and we need to get help from them to understand how to use the equipment.
Adults were the ones in the know
Years ago, my husband and I were tech contacts at our schools for the computer labs. At that time, the elementary labs had Apple computers and we were able to network, add educational software, and maintain the computers. When they switched over the labs to a different operating setup, I scooped up some of the computers and brought them into my classroom as stand alone stations for my students. At one point, my classroom was referred to as a lab.
Since I retired, computers have really advanced and so have the programs and apps. Floppy disks and hard disks are obsolete. CD and DVD drives are rarely found. Thumb drives, memory cards and external disk drives are still around and they are getting more and more memory space.
To think when computers became popular, we were so excited when we could use icons and images and actually drag and drop things instead of typing in code. Now we find it tricky to manipulate different apps and functions for online instruction. We have so much new technology, it is hard to stay on top of all the new apps, I know that my husband and I are no longer as in tune with things and we often need to contact our sons for help to navigate the new technology.
Now this is a job for our kids!
Sometimes we have to ask even younger people. Here are some examples:
Last week, my grandchildren showed us some new apps and ways to do things on our cell phones. I am sure that they could teach us much more. For instance, my grandson loves to create stop action clips. It is interesting to see how he does them.
I remember the kids at school creating lots of videos using a green screen and when we were doing Zoom sessions, some of the kids were constantly exploring changing backgrounds and other features.
Video games are also confusing for me, but kids can do them quickly and with great skill, even young ones.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
Many teachers had to go to online teaching and they were unfamiliar with the technology. They had to learn quickly what to do. Some are still trying to figure it out. With all the online teaching and digital features needed, don't be afraid to ask for help from the kids. You would be surprised at what they might be able to do to help.
Many adults are receiving instruction from students so that they can navigate in a virtual environment. As kids become adept at the new technology, they can share what they know with those of us who were not raised in the same environment and they can actually enhance our understanding of the virtual world. Let's welcome their help and learn from it.
Research Activities Made To Help Younger Kids Learn About Canada
Learning about the country you live in and the flags and symbols associated with that country can be fun, but also tricky if you have trouble memorizing things. Using games and activities that are hands on will help with making the connections. These are especially helpful for those who need visual clues.
I created a couple of games and task card activities to help with learning about Canada for my students. These were very helpful and they were engaging, so the kids found it easier to learn the material. They also had fun playing so they were more involved in their learning. They were a good supplement for Canada studies of the symbols and the research project was helpful for learning in more depth.
Because I was working with a French Immersion class and also tutoring students in French, I decided to create a French version of some of the resources. I then gave them to the teachers to use with their classes.
I also created a bundle of booklets for doing research on the provinces and territories. These booklets were created with younger children in mind because many research materials are very difficult for them to read and understand. These booklets use maps and pictures of important information and interesting facts to supplement the written information.
Here are a couple of comments from those who have purchased this bundle.
"The booklets were well put together and simple enough for my students who have trouble reading. They are a great way to round out the lesson and encourage reading them at home to their parents."
"Really impressed with the high quality colour images and how effectively it portrays each province and territory. It was very beneficial for the class I was teaching. Thank you!"
As with the symbols, I created a French version of these booklets. This set I gave to my grandson's teacher to try out. Here are some comments I received from buyers.
"Finally I have a resource to support social studies in grade 4 extended French in Ontario students! Bravo! "
"Love these! Beautiful pictures and information at an appropriate reading level!"
I decided to make a resource to help practice matching the symbols to the different provinces and territories. It is one thing to research and record what the symbols are, but quite a different thing to remember which symbols go with which province or territory. This task card matching set is for the flags and symbols of the provinces and territories. It is a great way to reinforce the information. It is a match up game that fits well with the small booklet from my Canada My Country series. I have also created the activity in French to go along with my Canada Mon Pays series. You can check them out by clicking on the images below..
This is not as easy as you may think. How many times have you memorized material for a test only to forget it later on? It has been quite a while since I looked at the different symbols of the provinces and territories. When I tried to do it by memory, I did make a couple of mistakes the first time through. Once I looked at the booklet and refreshed my memory, it was not difficult to complete correctly.
The key was to look for things in the images or on the flag that would help me out. For example, the Saskatchewan flag has the flower on it, so that was a clue. I knew that the loon was on the dollar coin, so that made me think of Canada and Ontario because that is where Canada's capital is. These are only a couple of examples of how I made some connections.
Everyone will have their own way of making connections, but if we give kids a couple of examples to go by, they may be able to come up with some clues of their own to help them out.
Versatility is important when creating resources, so I made it possible to print these cards in two different sizes. The full size cards are large enough to use in group settings or if you would like to put them in a pocket chart or on the board for kids to sort. You could add small magnets to the back of the cards so they are easily moved around.
The smaller size is great for when you want kids to work in centers or individually as they take up less space. These are printed as 2 pages on one sheet.
In order to make this more accessible, it may be necessary to do only one symbol at a time for some kids. This is also possible. You could focus just on the flags, birds, flowers, trees, or even the names of the different provinces and territories. You decide based on what works best for your kids.
If you are focusing on one province or territory, you can use the cards to talk about the appropriate symbols for that province or territory. Then you could add to that as you move on to a different province or territory. Only choose a few areas at a time.
There are many different ways to play match up. Here are a couple of ideas.
You can do them by matching up the different symbols with the help of the booklet.
You can do a match up like memory by turning over a few cards at a time and deciding where to place them.
I have also created different bundle combinations for those wishing to have more options. With or without the booklets and with both English and French versions. Click on the images to check them out.
I hope these resources for Canada's symbols and the provinces and territories symbols along with the booklets will help to provide materials that help young children with their research of Canada.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.