SCHOOLS | March 31, 2021
First-year teacher Ms. Gabrielle Francis admits returning to her kindergarten classroom at Randolph Elementary in West Englewood for the last few months of the school year initially seemed daunting. She was happy to have the opportunity to better support her students coming back to school, but, now, she faced a new challenge: how to continue making remote learning exciting in comparison to what her students were calling “real school.”
“If I had given the same math lesson without Mario and his friends, my students would not have cared as much. Those little details are what changes a lesson,” said Ms. Francis. “What makes kindergarten special is that students are learning what they’re passionate about. If they can’t see themselves in the classroom, or their interests reflected in the curriculum, then what’s the point?”
Wednesday is an especially important day for Ms. Francis and Ms. Megan Horan—her fellow kindergarten teacher—because it is the only day that all kindergarten students are learning remotely. Ms. Horan describes Wednesday as a “reset.” Since her students are so young, learning online is what feels normal while spending time in a classroom is a new experience.
While kindergarten instruction typically includes quickly-changing components to keep students interested, Ms. Horan says she is especially intentional about the pacing of her lessons on Wednesday—not only to ensure her students are progressing academically but that their social-emotional needs are also met.
“On Wednesdays, we might take more time with our morning meeting or play an extra game or two, and I definitely give them opportunities to talk with each other as well,” says Ms. Horan. “When we get into the bulk of the lesson, it might become a little more fast-paced, but I still have time built in to help individual students if they need it.”
Despite the challenges of the past year, both teachers believe that learning and growth have taken place in their classrooms every day. That growth can be seen from advances in reading to how students are building bonds with each other.
Growth has been key for teachers too, and Ms. Horan and Ms. Francis attribute their progress to constantly collaborating with each other. However, this doesn’t mean their classrooms look and feel identical—even when they are teaching the same math lesson. Let’s take a look at how they each are keeping Wednesdays fun for their students:
|Time:||Ms. Francis’ Classroom:||Ms. Horan’s Classroom:|
|8:15 a.m.||It’s “Work it Out Wednesday” in Ms. Francis’ classroom!
After greeting each other, students are asked an opening question to get the conversation flowing:
|Ms. Horan starts out the day with a game called “Sit, Stand, Clap, Snap,” which helps her students start off the morning in an active way.
She even lets her students pick her background for the day!
|8:30 a.m.||For Women’s History Month, students have been reading Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.
Based on the book, students head to small groups to discuss what they want to be when they grow up.
|Next, it’s time for math! Look at how Ms. Horan puts a fun spin on “Red Light, Green Light,” to help her students master counting forwards and backwards:|
|8:45 a.m.||Time for a five-minute break and then a fun song about counting to 100! This song is a consistent part of the kindergarten routine.||For today’s math lesson about creating equal sets of objects, students use Pear Deck as an interactive way to practice.|
|9:00 a.m.||Today’s math lesson is all about creating sets of objects that are equal.
Ms. Francis enlists the help of Mario and his friends for this lesson!
|Ms. Horan works directly with two students who need additional reading support.
They practice sounding out words and read a fun story about animals wearing hats.