Kent School: Committed to Connection 5 Tips for Successful Distance Learning in Preschool

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by Director of Little School, Bonnie Williams

I’ve been hearing from parents of other preschool students that distance learning is extremely minimal, or even non existent. I can see why this would seem impossible. But here we are, Little School is in the middle of week three of distance learning.The meat of my position as a teacher and director is to provide a safe environment for my students to learn positive social interaction, Kindergarten readiness skills and, most importantly, a lifetime love of learning so my students want to COME to school. We do this with constant hands on projects and learning through play. To have social interaction children have to actually be with each other! How on earth does a preschool teacher do this without being WITH the children? It has been a whirlwind of constant (and ongoing) tweaking, pride swallowing, and trial and error but it is possible! Hopefully these tips will help you as well during this temporary and unusual time.

  1. Consistent communication

Let me be very clear… not constant but consistent communication is key. Parents are used to a schedule and our parents thrive on it. The majority of my parents are working parents with conference calls and scheduled clients. Having a consistent time that I am posting activities (we use the SeeSaw App for daily communication) has been invaluable for parents who need to organize their time as well as teach their child. I use email for weekly communication that outlines what to expect for the week to come. We are also scheduling regular Zoom meetings so that parents can put those meetings on their calendar and no one is competing for the laptop or tablet.

      2. Make lessons in multiple modalities or with materials that families have       around the house.

If you can make individual packets for your students then by all means do it! It’s the surest way to ensure that your students have all the materials that they need for the projects that you would like them to do. My concern with this method is that it may not be very sustainable for long. Right now because we are still considered an essential business so we can still go to school and prepare packets. However, parents may not be able to drive to school to pick these up. Be prepared to present lessons that can be accomplished in multiple ways. (For example: if a child does not have scissors then they can tear the paper. They are still getting those fine motor skills!) Also, using materials that can be found outside is always a plus! Plenty of sticks and rocks for all and who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt to find these materials?

       3. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

Sorry, not this time, Mr. Spock. (My apologies… I was raised in a Trekkie household and quarantine has made me a tad punchie). Listen to your parents with kindness, patience and a full heart. They are trying desperately to get their work done and teach their kiddos. They have anxiety about their children having the ability to go to Kindergarten. Not every single request will always be matched but listening with an open mind and using those super creative preschool skills of yours, there is always some sort of middle ground. For example, many of my parents in our fours class were having trouble keeping up with some of the craftier projects. Those projects are very hands-on and trying to complete their own work while completing these projects was leading parents to feel that their child was falling behind. I absolutely dislike worksheets in preschool, however, during these times they felt appropriate for parents to be able to have their child complete as well as reinforce the Kindergarten readiness skills that we’ve been learning this academic year. If I was going to give worksheets, they were going to be worksheets that went beyond just writing and reinforced other fine motor skills (cutting, gluing, rolling dice). It took some time but I finally found a packet I love and the feedback has been amazing from parents.

      4.  Lower your expectations about deadlines.

This seems silly to say for preschool but don’t expect photos of projects to come rolling in all in one day, during school hours or sometimes at all. I do check-ins with parents that I don’t hear from and trust me, they are doing the work. They may not be posting but they’re always apologizing for not getting an activity out the same day it was posted. Please tell your parents to stop apologizing, everyone is doing the best they can

     5.  Keep the Connection. Show your face and stop being camera shy.

This is my favorite, and I think the most important! The students want to see you. Even if it is reading a book or talking about the weather, they like to see you and hear your voice. Your students don’t care if you haven’t showered or blow dried your hair (at least they haven’t told me yet). Keeping that connection during this time is more important than ever with your students. We have been using Zoom for class “circle times” but it’s more of an excuse to stay connected. Sure we learn and sing but the opportunity for kids to connect with their friends and teacher face to face is invaluable. When we go back to school (hopefully sooner than later) our students will have a smooth transition and we won’t feel like strangers!

For Little School instructional videos email info@kentschool.org.

2 thoughts on “Kent School: Committed to Connection 5 Tips for Successful Distance Learning in Preschool

  1. As one of the parents in Bonnie’s “fours” class, I can say with absolute honesty that she and the other teachers in Little School at Kent School have been doing exactly what is written here. Seeing the evolution of how Bonnie is applying the new norm of distance learning to 3 and 4 year old children has been amazing. The feedback from parents is obviously being listened to, and taken to heart with quick and constant tweaking to ensure none of the children, or parents, are being left behind!

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