Back on March 2, Eastern Christian faculty members met for the first time to begin thinking about the possibility of a Coronavirus outbreak in our area and what that would mean for how we instruct our students. If I’m completely honest, I wondered if our administrators were being overly cautious. I thought to myself, “There is no way it will come to this. Can they really expect us to teach preschoolers remotely?” In school, we have made a conscious decision NOT to use technology with our youngest students. How would we move our hands-on learning approach entirely online?
But in that first meeting, our administrators shared some ways that Chinese teachers were encouraging student learning at home, and so I left thinking that we could experiment with remote learning in preschool should the need arise. Our preschool team worked together to brainstorm ideas for what our students could do at home to promote the same type of learning that happens at school. We immediately began creating “remote learning” lesson plans for parents of PreK students, and delegated the work load as to which of us would focus on activities related to Bible, Language Arts, Math, Fine/Gross Motor, and STEAM. Our “Week 1 Preschool Lesson Plans” began to take shape, while we naively hoped we would never need to implement them.
Now a whole month has passed since I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my Preschool students at school and my perspective about Preschoolers and remote learning has completely shifted. With distance learning being our only option in the present circumstances, my question is no longer “How in the world can we be expected to teach preschool students remotely?” Instead, my question is now “How can I best support my students and their families as we learn remotely?”
With the help of an amazing Preschool director and hard-working colleagues, our Preschool team is doing all that we can to make this challenging COVID situation less stressful and more meaningful for our students and their families. For starters, we don’t want to lose our classroom community! Even our youngest students enjoy meeting online for daily virtual Circle Times with their teacher and friends. Each class meets at a set time for 20-30 minutes each school day to greet one another, hear a Bible story, sing familiar songs, and review or learn something new! We’ve heard such positive feedback from parents about how their children look forward to circle times and that it is so comforting to have some sense of “normalcy” during uncertain times.
In addition to these daily synchronous learning times, our Preschool staff provides weekly lesson plans for parents of Preschool students to use at home. We recognize that all families are facing different challenges through this pandemic, but for those who are able, we make suggestions of learning activities that can be done each day with their children. We consider what items families may have around their homes and try to come up with meaningful and engaging activities that practice important Preschool skills; skills like learning to spell or write their names, use 1:1 correspondence to count to 10, and developing fine and gross motor strength. We share these lesson plans with families at the start of the week so that they can pick and choose to do the activities that work for their home situations. We encourage parents to share photos of their children completing the suggested activities and it has been so fun to see our students still learning and growing at home!
As we continually seek to make remote learning even more effective for our Preschool students, this week we are adding synchronous “specials classes.” This means that our little ones will get to exercise from home while watching gym teacher, Mrs. Veenstra, sing along and do motions with music teacher, Mrs. Macy, and hear stories from library teacher, Mrs. Kabot. Also, each Preschool student will be invited to join their teacher and a small group of friends for a special “Show and Tell” time each week so that we can stay connected to our students in a (digital) space that allows for more conversation and less structure.
Above all, we know that our great God loves our Preschool students even more than we do! Our hearts break that we cannot physically be with them at school, but we trust that God is in control and has a plan in all of this hardship. We hope that this unique time with their families is a blessing that our students will never forget, and we are here to support, instruct, encourage, and pray for ALL of our students and their families along the way.