Blended Learning Plan (Pre-K - 4th)
At GISNY, we are proud to deliver high-quality education, and we will continue to do so under these exceptional circumstances. We are committed to providing an alternative means of education in the form of blended learning.
For our Lower School, the blended learning approach means that we combine online educational materials and activities with traditional best classroom practices, as well as utilize non-electronic materials such as workbooks, handouts, and printed texts. This approach requires the physical presence of both teacher and student during virtual classes via the Zoom meeting platform. Blending traditional teaching with electronic learning enables a smoother transition to this necessary remote learning. Additionally, blended learning allows flexibility for students and families to control the time and pace of completing weekly assignments, while still actively learning and achieving the academic standards that align with our rigorous curriculum.
The success of our blended learning endeavor is a partnership and is dependent on careful planning by our dedicated staff, appropriate student motivation and engagement, and strong parent support for this alternative mode of instruction. The result of such learning experiences will expand our students’ academic progress and attend to student social and emotional well-being. While this is a time of uncertainty and challenge, it will also open new and innovative opportunities to connect ideas and engage with classmates.
Our blended learning approach is a new journey for us all and the contents of this concept will be revised after consultation and feedback from the GISNY community. We are determined to learn and grow from this exceptional experience.
Tools & Routines for Blended Learning
Overview of Educational Platforms
Lower School is utilizing Classtag, Padlet and Google Sites as its educational platforms. To allow our classes/students/teachers to meet virtually we use Zoom. Online platforms support our blended learning approach and faculty/student/family collaboration to ensure a quality student learning experience when planning and delivering remotely.
In the Pre-K and Eingangstufe, we understand that communication about learning activities should be parent-focused, as children need their parent’s support at this stage of development. Classtag was chosen as it is an easy to use platform that can be accessed via a smartphone, tablet, or personal computer. Families can opt to receive updates in the app, via SMS, or via email. Additionally, all posted messages are automatically translated in the language that the family has chosen within their profile.
- Classtag meets FERPA guidelines, and only parents invited to join a particular class can view the activity. All families are provided a permission form for child photos to be posted on the platform.
- Teachers can post announcements, videos, or links, create events, share photos, and distribute activity packets/worksheets.
- Parents are encouraged to contact teachers through the “chat” function. Parents are not permitted to chat with each other on this platform, as this function is disabled. However, they can message teachers, and teachers can easily communicate with parents.
When engaging in Blended Learning Classtag is used in the following ways:
- Teachers post the daily activity/activities and zoom link information by 8:00am each day, along with any supplies that children may need.
- Teachers share educational videos, links to stories, or recordings of themselves reading books for the children to enjoy asynchronously.
- Teachers encourage families to post pictures/videos of their child’s work or activities to maintain the community connection. These can be posted to an event, directly in the photo album, or as a photo comment.
- Teachers communicate with families via the chat function as needed (to check in on a child, share information, communicate about a small group activity, etc.)
- Parents have the opportunity to ask questions related to daily activities through the chat function or by commenting on the given announcement.
Padlet is a platform that allows teachers to share tasks and instructions with the class. Depending on the content, instructions can be provided as PDF files, audio files, videos, links or photos to support the children in the best way. The benefit of this platform is, that first and second graders can use it independently. In addition to that, the interactive features of this platform support the social and emotional well-being of the children. They can share their work, upload pictures or videos and communicate through comments with their classmates and teacher.
Google Sites (not Google Classroom)
Google websites are similar to the Padlet program in that teachers can share activities and instructions as PDF files, audio files, videos, links or photos. Google websites also allow students to work independently with the platform, but does not include the interactive component. Since it is a Google platform it integrates well with other Google programs. The design and how students use and access information on these sites is solely dependent on the teacher, which allows a lot of flexibility with hose it is used.
We are aware of security concerns that have come to light recently, in regards to the Zoom videoconferencing program. We are following recommendations from the Zoom programmers, as well as recommendations from our school IT administration. To make our Zoom meetings more secure we are following these procedures:
- Using a password for each meeting
- Using the waiting room feature, which allows the host (teacher) to allow only approved participants into the meeting
- Parents need to check the zoom name
- Attendance is mandatory in grades 1st to 4th. Student could be excused by the parents otherwise the child is unexcused
Learning Platforms & Programs:
Different platforms have different security settings. Please make sure you are using passwords and any other security measures suggested by the program you’re using.
- Padlet: Has passwords for the website
- Google Sites: Users need to have access to the site link
During a phase of blended learning our school rules continue to apply. Mutual respect, the trustful handling of information and consideration for the needs of everyone are also indispensable during this time. In addition, the following agreements apply:
Homeroom teachers should communicate the student and parent expectations and rules.
General rules for our zoom meetings (Pre-K and Eingangsstufe)
The goal of using Zoom in the early years is not only to provide a sense of connection and engage in learning activities – it is to continue to provide a sense of structure and routine despite the challenge of Blended Learning. It is important to talk to your child about Zoom meetings – they may not understand why they are being asked to see their friends and teachers on a screen, and this discussion may make this transition easier for them.
To meet this goal, we recommend the following:
Before the Zoom meeting:
- Set up a designated space in your home for where your child will participate in Zoom meetings. It is helpful for young children to identify a particular space with a given activity. Talk to your child about this space and how it will be used.
- Ensure that this space is free of unnecessary distractions (i.e., toys)
- Have this workstation prepared with any materials needed for the day, per the teachers’ instructions (printed worksheet, pencils, art supplies, etc.)
- Have your child use headphones to eliminate any background noise that could cause distraction
- Log onto Zoom a few minutes before the meeting is scheduled to begin. Ensure that the device you are using is plugged in and set up on a flat surface so that it is easier for the child to engage.
- Stay close by! Young children will need your support to navigate Zoom, as well as to stay engaged.
- Sustained engagement in Zoom meetings is expected, and this may require parent support.
- Regular attendance at Zoom meetings is preferred for this age group. However, we respect your decision as parents regarding screen time. Please reach out to your classroom teachers to discuss if this is an issue.
- It can be overwhelming for some children to see the whole class at once. You can choose “speaker view” which will only show the teacher speaking OR you can pin the teacher leading the session so only their video appears.
- If using a tablet, Chromebook, or iPhone, you will not be able to see the whole class – you will need to toggle between frames. In these cases, it is recommended to pin the teachers or switch to speaker view.
General rules for our zoom meetings (1st to 4th grade)
- Workstation is ready before zoom meeting begins (books, pencils, space for work etc.)
- Everyone has the camera on and leaves it on for the entire class
- Use headsets in order to avoid background noise
- There is only one person talking at a time
- We always ask before we go to the bathroom
- Ask if you did not hear or understand something
- All students are muted (teachers can disable unmuting feature)
- Chat is used as: Q=Questions, A=Answer, I=Information
- Teacher calls student name, student unmutes, replies, mutes again
- We ask before we show something to the class
- We enter the meeting with our real name and do not change the name during the meeting (teachers can disable this feature)
- We always leave the background during the meeting as it is
Parent Roles & Responsibilities (grades 1 to 4)
- Please ensure to help your child set their daily routines
- Actively ask questions to check that your child is managing the workload
- Please talk directly to your student’s teacher for information regarding correction of your child’s work.
- Encourage learning breaks and physical exercise
- Send a message to teacher if you have any questions or concerns
- Help your child find a suitable place to study
- If there are siblings in the house who will be online at the same time, try to make sure they are assigned different locations to avoid interference
Resource Specialist Teacher
- Offering 1:1 Zoom sessions with all our special needs students – flexible schedule, family oriented (to make sure that these sessions truly are a support instead of an extra hustle)
- Close contact with our school psychologist – make sure that all students, parents, families are in good mental health (in some cases: second opinion, considering if it would be important/more helpful if a school psychologist is working with the student, parents, family as well)
- Reaching out to parents on a regular basis to check-in how their kids are doing (How are they handling the current situation? Are the assignments too much/ok/overwhelming? How is the situation at home? How are you as a parent feeling? ... )
- Consistently contacting the people from the Board of Education who are offering services for our special needs students at our school (services do continue!)
- Coordination of Board of Education meetings (those who can and will be done virtually)
- Regular update to all the Board of Education evaluators who were supposed to do evaluations (regarding our school closing)
- Working on a “paper/concept” (with the school psychologist) about pedagogical support/pedagogical conferences for students who are struggling
- Support for families who would like to talk someone during this crisis
- Collecting and categorizing links for ideas at home
Practical and emotional support
We know social contact and routine supports the wellbeing of students and staff. When this is not physically possible, staying connected online and in other ways can bridge this gap. Acknowledging the need for practical and emotional support is important for all school stakeholders.
- Homeroom teachers can be contacted for advice or comfort.
- Our Resource Specialist teacher is always there to provide expert advice for moments of emotional crisis.
- We can provide contact to our school psychologist when advised to do so by the Resource Specialist teacher.
Mental Health Needs
Schools can assist school and community members who feel anxious regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, they can be a source of valid information to assist in dispelling rumors and misunderstandings. Below are resources that address mental health needs of students and communities during an infectious disease outbreak. In addition to utilizing the mental health professionals in schools, available resources to assist schools include:
- School Mental Health and Training Center https://mhanys.org/programs/schools
- NYS Office of Mental Health https://omh.ny.gov/
- Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks, https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma14-4885.pdf
Following are resources that may be helpful in talking to students about COVID-19:
- Just for Kids: A Comic Exploring the New Coronavirus https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/28/809580453/just-for-kids-a-comic-exploringthe-new-coronavirus
- Fear of Coronavirus- A Good Time to Talk to Kids About Keeping Fears Realistic and Manageable. Lois M. Collins, Deseret News, Jan. 28, 2020 https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2020/1/28/21112457/fear-coronavirus-china-children-anxietyhealth-medicine-virus9
- How to Talk to Your Kids About the Coronavirus (and Ease Their Fears) o Vivian Manning-Schaffel, NBC News, Updated March 2, 2020 o https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/how-talk-your-kids-about-coronavirus-ease-theirfears-ncna1129851