Thursday, March 26, 2020

COVID-19 How might we help parents?

What a shock to families, to be home full-time, around the clock, with your energetic preschooler! As we continue to build our virtual learning as we go, with little to no beforehand planning, I am striving to know what families need. We can change our materials to match their needs.

Our school's approach has been to offer families the same daily framework as we had in school - we are sending daily plans that more or less resemble the school day, with a morning message/intention for the day, a core lesson, a read-aloud, plus special extras such as dance and music links. Some families find that these are not enough materials; others have insisted they are too much. I, for my part, insist that families not feel obligated to do any of it - these are meant as supports for families during this new normal. Though, I continue to tweak the materials to meet the emerging needs.

There are so many resources available on the internet. The early academic information is almost daunting! There are math and alphabet games, scavenger hunts, and videos galore.

The real work is in behavior management. Families have never had to deal with their little ones day in and day out like this before! All of us, sheltering in our homes, in isolation. How do we get along?

I've reminded families - when the going gets rough, keep their outlooks small and immediate. Just get through the next little bit of time as patiently and kindly as you can.

Behavior management skills are built over time...there is no panacea. However, children thrive on is good to try to follow a similar pattern each day, and, ideally, even provide a visual for your preschooler about this routine.

One small yet effective tool we keep at the ready at school: "First/Then" This simple, direct lingo can often lead a child into more positive choices, rather than spiraling into tantrums. Basically, it goes like this - preschooler really wants to do x, whereas you really need/want them to do y. Simply say, "First y, Then x." When you use this on a regular basis, you will build your child's ability to do less-preferred activities...and they will always have the happy reward of doing something fun right afterwards.

Believe me, like every behavior idea, it doesn't always work - but it may well be worth trying.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

COVID 19 - What happens when we Zoom together?

We had a very special Zoom call yesterday afternoon, initiated by one of our families. This was our first time connecting with one another through this tool. I loved seeing everyone's faces, and hearing the happy pandemonium of all the children's voices. I've been on a few Zoom calls in recent days, having needed to connect virtually with a variety of groups of people during this health crisis. I think this was the first Zoom call where there did not seem to be anyone "administering." There was no one turning off and on the various mics from afar, no one helping participants to take turns in their talking. It was a glorious free for all!

My noticings:

I loved seeing all the families together...many of the children have siblings, either younger or older, and there everyone was, together, making faces, laughing, and talking.

I thought the parents looked remarkably relaxed and happy. This new normal started back on Thursday, March 12, 2020, when the President declared a national emergency and schools were closed that very next day. Relaxed and happy, on your 11th day home with your children in this surprising, unforeseen way? Go, families! You rock!!

I heard so many caring expressions from the children -

  • "I want to hear ____ talk; isn't it ____'s turn?" said one preschooler; 
  • Another showed a page from their new journal and a classmate responded, "I like that!!"
  • "How about I try to talk to everybody?" one preschooler asked, diplomatically.
There was so much love and affection between all the kids and their families - sitting on laps, sharing snacks, stretching and moving while being held by a loving parent, squeezing closely dear!

There were a series of unexpected and absurd conversation topics -

  • why do people kill alligators and crocodiles?
  • these are the lovies I sleep with at night.
  • do you know Darth Vader?
All the children had things to share: Legos, costumes (lots of princess dresses!), journals, drawings, paintings, and stories. There was an impromptu book sharing, with preschoolers leaving their video feed to search their homes for favorite stories, to show these to their classmates. So cute! They see themselves as readers, wanting to learn more about everything.

We were so charmed by this exuberant time together, we are thinking that weekly "Zoom gatherings" would be a fun routine to add to this new normal. More to come!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID - 19: How to explain to kids?

I made a short video for my students, to explain this coronavirus pandemic in terms that they might understand. I have long admired Fred Rogers' advice:

If it’s mentionable, it’s manageable

If we talk about tough issues, we can handle them; we’re not as scared. I believe it is really important to convey this courage to children, to let them know that we are here for them, we are keeping them safe. Here's the text of my video:

I want to talk to you about something that is on everybody’s minds these days.
 You’re probably wondering why we’re all at home, why we friends can’t be together in the same classroom, playing together.
 Maybe you’ve heard this big word:
 Maybe you’ve wondered about it.
 Would you clap it with me?
 [Clap out the syllables of Coronavirus]
 See it’s not too big. We’ve got this!
 It’s a big, big word with FIVE syllables – yet, here’s something surprising, Coronavirus is very, very, very small. You and I can’t see it. It’s practically invisible – unless you have a very strong microscope.
 Coronavirus is a very powerful germ that can make people sick. And, because we can’t really see it, we’re not always sure where it is.
 I don’t know a lot about it, but I know there are lots of scientists, lots of adults, who are working very hard to keep us safe from Coronavirus. Lots of people all around the world are thinking about this, working on it. We are in a whole big community of people asking questions about this.
 And we know how to stop it!
Oh, yes, we do!
We have good ideas about not spreading this virus.
n  need to wash our hands thoroughly - you can sing along while you wash your hands, a song makes the soap bubbles last longer, as you clean your hands all over.
n  You can be sure to cover a cough or sneeze with your elbow
n  If you hear someone cough or sneeze, you can move away from them, give them a little space...maybe go get the box of tissues for them
n  And, we have to spend time apart. That’s why school is closed.
 If we can spend time apart, we won’t pass Coronavirus to others, and we won’t grow it, in our world. That is a very kind thing!
 It’s pretty strange to not be in our classroom together,
Here’s the good news:
We get to be with our families during this time.
There’s lots of things to do at home, too!
And we get to be resourceful.
 We need to see each other through the computer, through pictures. We can talk on the phone together, too.
 We have always been thinkers.. We can think of fun and interesting things to do at home:
Tell stories!
 You could also think like a scientist. What do you think we could do to make Coronavirus go away faster? What if you get out some paper and give it a think, draw and write what you imagine. I wonder what it looks like! What magic can you create that makes this virus go away, stop making people so sick.?
 Also, what is something kind that you can do? What is something you can do to help your family? Show your family what the we do every day!
 We’re still going to have lots of fun together, just like we always do. For a while, we need to be together separately!
 We can share our fun ideas with each other, too. Send me a picture of what your are building, what you are drawing. Tell me a story when I call you on the phone. We’re going to make this time apart be a time when we are still together in our hearts.
   If you start to feel worried or frustrated about it, remember the rule of three – Three Deep Cleansing Breaths! Let’s do that now.

[Take three deep breaths together.]
 I care about you.

Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID 19 - What should kids reflect on?

We plan to make frequent phonecalls to the children, sharing the responsibility for these amongst the team. What should we talk to the children about? What should we get them thinking about? Our school routine of "Question of the Day" was such a big hit ... is there a way to make this happen, virtually?

We've suggested that each preschooler have a journal. Wouldn't it have been great if we could have created these for the students before this time apart began?

We've begun a list of ideas for children to reflect, draw, and write about, during this pandemic:

  • What is something kind you have done? 
  • How are you helping your family?
  • What do you plan to do today?
  • Tell me a story.
  • What is the most fun activity you have done with your family?
  • Do you miss school? What are you missing about it?
  • Have you been outside? Have you noticed any signs of spring? What have you noticed?
  • Are there shapes in your home? What is a rectangle in your home?
  • What is different about home than school?
  • Do you have centers at home? How might you create these at home?
  • Do you have a calm-down place? Where is it? What does it look like?

 Creating community virtually - that's our challenge.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

COVID 19: Virtual Learning

Just like that,
we will not meet in our classroom,
but virtually only,
preschoolers and teachers,
for the foreseeable future,
while our world struggles against coronavirus.
To be apart
is the very best defense.

Just like that,
we are thinking virtually,
how to display our learning?
how to have conferences?
how to do lessons?
how to create projects?
how to play together separately?
how to build and paint and dress up and move and read and share together?
how to do this virtually?

Oh my.

This is a reinvention of preschool.