C awoke eager to make robot cookies this morning, so before we even arrived at school we had mixed sugar cookie dough, and cut out cookies to bake. C is getting very good at levelling cups of flour, though not so careful with the stirring yet. He is also very ambitious with his cookie cutting, creating a robot that was a huge challenge to transfer to the baking sheet.
It took a bit of nagging to get him to log in, and he initially refused to put up his name card for attendance. We did hear the teacher say hello to him, so we know that they saw him. However, as we moved into the morning’s physical activity he turned both camera and microphone off. They then asked them to put up their name cards again, so he turned his camera on and chose yesterday’s card to reuse, because it was “Bumblebee in Disguise” (which he continued to sing throughout the attendance process.)
The cookies were baking as we headed to class, so he was able to share his first “man”, and then eat it as the teachers struggled to get today’s art gallery presentation to show. We could hear the presentation in the background, as one teacher coached the others to “share this tab”, and it wasn’t working. They finally decided that the other teacher should give it a try. When it finally worked, we could see the presentation, and the audio was “jittery”, but at least they could see it!
C had eaten his entire cookie, and was enjoying a juice box. Not the healthiest breakfast (he had a yogourt before we baked), but at least he was smiling.
He was able to identify that the image was a sculpture, but did not attend to the questions as the image remained on the screen for several minutes. When the response to one of her questions was that it looked like a “god” she then asked what they saw that made it look holy. I know that C had no idea what she was talking about. The focus today was on art from Africa and the diaspora, and the curator talked about the Yoruba culture. She connected it to farming, but did not situate her work with a map, nor with any text, and she did not mention Nigeria at all. At 10 minutes we were still looking at the single image of the mask, and there had been no other visual support for what she was presenting. C was now using the straw from his juice box to blow bubbles of apple juice across his desk. We persisted, since it had been the art gallery presentation on Tuesday that had inspired C to draw. At 14 minutes it was still the picture of the mask, and she was talking about its size. Without any reference within the picture, I’m sure our kids had no idea how large it was. At 16 minutes the image changed to “Wellness Activity” text, white on black, while she talked about festivals, and asked them to think about a festival that they had gone to. There were other classes contributing to her Q&A chat, so she repeated some of the names…. but it still said “Wellness Activity” on the screen. I wonder if early readers were puzzled by this. From what the curator was saying, I’m pretty sure that it was the teachers participating, not any students directly in the chat. At 19 minutes she shared a contemporary sculpture made from shoes, which C saw as a robot, though it was entitled “Mother and Child” (which was confirmed in the descriptive text next to the image.) By this time C’s juice box had been compressed, and was being used as the target for his wrecking ball fist. At 25 minutes it was clear that several students were struggling, with one being reminded to stop playing with her microphone, and to keep it off.
Had this been a presentation in one of my secondary school classes, I would have suggested more visuals, supportive text for key ideas, and a quicker pace than two images in 30 minutes. It is clear that the art gallery staff are not trained teachers, and have not read “Learning for All“, or any of our curriculum documents (Kindergarten).
At 30 minutes she shifted to “Mini art activity” on the screen, and described what she was doing, but never shared herself to show us what she was doing. When someone added to the chat that we couldn’t see, she finally stopped her screen share, and showed us her drawing for about one second. Seeing her face was very welcome, though the two bright pot lights either side of her face put her in shadow. And then it was over…. without any clear direction for the students to follow.
Back with the class they began their opening ceremonies, with a great deal of negotiation between the teachers. C was entirely disengaged by this time, playing with his transformer Bumblebee at the side. He refused to turn his camera off, which I did not challenge, as his activity might be useful feedback to his teachers. It was interesting today that C chose to try to read along with his classmate as she read the land acknowledgement. And then the teachers spoke about C being “up north” where there would be a different land acknowledgement. This is our homework for the weekend, to share at the next class.
They also asked C to stay online after the national anthem, to talk about the pictures that we posted earlier in the week. The national anthem was only audio today, and the students were reminded at the end that they needed to stand and not play during it. C found the interaction with the teachers difficult, and he didn’t take turns well during the interaction. I think that talking about the activity from four days ago might have been one of the factors, as was the tiny image on the screen with the full grid of his classmates as distractions. And, of course, Bumblebee continued to be a draw for his attention. Looking at the screen, and seeing the empty rooms, tops of heads, and students obviously singing and talking, I’m not sure that anyone was truly listening.
The next activity (they had now been sitting still for 75 minutes), was a scavenger hunt, where they would be able to get up and move. I redirected C’s attention to the screen. The first task was to find something with the colour yellow, so guess what he held up to share? The teacher called on each student in turn. The teacher described what each student was holding, but C and I were only seeing their initials, not their faces, so it really wasn’t helpful to reinforce the concept of “yellow”. C was the last to be called on, and it took almost 15 minutes to get through this first cycle of the scavenger hunt. They were very attentive to ensure that they didn’t miss anyone. The next was something that smelled nice, so he shared cinnamon and his robot cookie. Next was something smaller than his hand, and so a piece of lego was his choice. When they asked for something with numbers, C immediately said “measuring tape”, and we had to go up two flights of stairs to get one for him. He was very excited to then make the tape go as high as he could. The teachers continued to struggle with their layout, with one only seeing the initials, not their cameras. The next task was to find something in his favourite colour, and since he had his Lego firetruck beside him, and red is his favourite colour, that was his choice. Today was “wear your favourite colour day”, so his T-shirt was also red. And next was “something that keeps you warm”, and he headed immediately for his blanket from his bed. By now his desk was getting very cluttered with the cinnamon, firetruck, Bumblebee and cookie, so his blanket created a bit of a disaster! Then, find something that begins with the same letter as your first name. This one was a challenge for C, but he was able to find something that was also a good snack! The last one was something that starts with “B”, and so guess what he shared… again.
They had now been attending for 95 minutes without a break; longer than I would even ask of my grad students! And the teachers hadn’t had a break either, not even a few seconds off camera.
And then, finally, break time. They were invited to go and explore the virtual classroom (though this instruction was difficult to hear as C and his classmates all had their microphones on) for the asynchronous time. They were also directed to a new Jamboard, but with the delays in Google Meet (seems to be a universal problem over the past couple of days), the teachers were finding it difficult to share to model the activity. The students were then invited to choose a sticky, and post a message to cheer up everyone else. The teachers would like them to do it “on their own”, so we decided to try this later, when C might have more attention to give (than he had now, 100 minutes into this class, as he was “zapping” his Lego firetruck, and removing parts.) These directions took some time, so the break time remaining was only 48 minutes to eat and explore. I was surprised that C was unhappy that we were leaving the meeting, saying “I love my teachers”. I guess that observable behaviour doesn’t always align with how a child is feeling!
It was wonderful spending more than an hour outside. C chose to “earthquake” his igloo, built on Monday. Then we headed to the pond to slide down the hill and explore the characteristics of snow, bark, and “snow fleas”, more properly named “springtails”. The latter were found in our footprints from earlier this week, and likely came to the surface during our recent above-freezing days. There was plenty of singing of improvised songs, lots of kicking and digging, and even grandma got more exercise than usual.
Back in the house we put all our wet clothes in the dryer, and C assisted me to begin sorting my quilting fabric. He arranged my six boxes in rainbow order (identifying the last as indigo), and then rushed around to find other containers for black, white, rainbow, brown, pink and “uncategorizable” fabrics. Then we cooked Mac and Cheese, and C relaxed to watch “Justin Time” while he ate. This adventure show incorporates geography and history, and introduces C to new vocabulary that then shows up in his conversations with us.
I took some time to review the content from this week’s Google Classroom and the Virtual Classroom (Bitmoji). As of 2:15 there was still nothing more in the Stream than the Jamboard that they shared this morning, so I was not sure when they would be reconvening for the end of day (I assume 3:00), nor what activity was planned.
Instead we visited the Jamboard, and read the messages already there from six of his classmates. Then we decided to add an image, so he drew a happy face, sounded out and wrote the word “SMILE”, and added his name. Using the “image” function we were able to take a picture of his artwork and his own smiling face, and add it to the Jamboard.
Then he returned watching more Justin Time, eating more Mac and Cheese, and gave me time to reflect on the day.
I am impressed that he stayed nearby for almost two hours of online activity. By not pushing him (except when he was asked to speak to the class about his igloo building) he seemed more willing to return occasionally, and engage in the activity. He was more connected during the Scavenger Hunt, less so when they were sharing, and not at all when there was nothing for him to do but listen.
I am wondering how much direct instruction would have taken place when he was attending in person with his JK/SK class. I suspect that it was much less than we experienced today. I also suspect that his teachers did much more 1:1 interaction; they are currently doing almost none. Maybe they could use their tools to have students interact directly with them individually for 5 or 10 minutes, a couple of times a week. I think that building that relationship, checking in personally, and supporting turn-taking in conversation, would go a long way to supporting engagement when they are back in the full-class, online setting.
So, now it’s the weekend. We’ll continue to do creative activities, get outside a lot, and enjoy video resources together. And I hope that C will be happy to return on Monday, to see the faces of all his friends, and begin to develop some self-regulation and participate more fully.
I wish his teachers a relaxing two days, and a fruitful Professional Learning day on Monday. I hope that they are inspired to consider planning for more activities that are chunked within shorter timeframes, and which allow for direct communication with each of the students. I’m sure that they end their days exhausted, and feeling that they haven’t really connected. I’ll continue to reflect too, and consider how I might help from home, to connect C to his teachers and his classmates.