SYRACUSE — In-person schooling may have been scrubbed, but teachers in the Wawasee Community School Corporation aren’t letting that stop them from connecting with and supporting students, and many are stretching beyond the eLearning tool Seesaw to do so.
North Webster Elementary compiled a video — available on its Facebook page — with each staff member holding a sign with a message for students, sharing how much they are missed while also encouraging eLearning and physical activity. A sentiment shared by all educators.
Julie Hays, a second-grade teacher at Syracuse Elementary, said, “I record messages for (students) a couple times a week and will send individual messages to them with Snapchat.” She noted filters can make the videos rather funny. “I also read a story aloud to them.”
High school English 10 instructor Paula Fiscus shared, “I’ve asked students to respond to video prompts every day we have eLearning. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know students this way. Some are so funny behind a camera. I’ve seen another side of many students using these video prompts. It’s like having a personal conversation with them.”
Meanwhile, special needs teacher David Shipley invited students to view “A Day with Mr. Shipley,” a well-received YouTube video. “I wanted to make a video that encouraged students to reach out and connect with our virtual office times. I did have some help making the video from my wife Emily Shipley using iMovie, then uploading to YouTube.”
Cheryl VanLaeken, a fifth-grade teacher at Milford School, has used video to go over eLearning directions and announcements while offering tutorials and readings of both news stories and “Johnny Tremain.” Her daughter will also tell jokes.
“I most definitely miss my kids! We are using Google Meet on every eLearning day at 2 p.m. We keep that time as it is predictable and anyone who is free joins us to chat,” VanLaeken said. She also hinted at a special surprise for her students in the near future.
To avoid all work and no fun, Lori Dixon, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Wawasee Middle School, and her team have used Quizizz to create an online quiz game for students.
Dixon explained, “We took a few review questions from each subject and one fun question for each teacher (example: What is Mrs. Lortie’s new dog’s name?) and made a game. We called it ‘Throwdown Thursday.’ We had 20-25 players, including our school resource officer, Doug Light.” A digital breakout game — like an escape room but all online — is planned for today.
“When approaching this new challenge, my first thoughts were how to keep those connections and relationships going while providing lessons that encourage the hands-on project-based learning that I know supports students in mastering learning standards,” Milford Middle School science teacher Mary Brower said. “This led to the development of a series I call, ‘Science from your Sofa,’ brought to my students each day by a character called ‘Nutty Nancy.’”
Goofy, fun and lighthearted, Nancy demonstrates concepts that students will be diving into through their lessons. Brower said, “Through this series, students have continued their learning continuum, plowing through Newton’s Laws, density and the elements of the periodic table by creating digital books, conducting experiments with household items, building Goldberg machines and using quality websites to take quizzes and record their finished projects.”
All teachers are adopting a host of new apps and programs, many of which are lessening the social void felt by many students. The teachers all commented on how students brighten upon seeing them and peers.
Teachers and team members are also using technology to collaborate on lesson plans and determine how to best serve students, embracing flexibility and exploring new methods.
However, Shipley perhaps sums up all teachers’ thoughts at this time. “I’m not alone in this. Wawasee teachers are doing an amazing job! I for one cannot wait to get back to school. In-person teaching and relationship building is why I became a teacher.”