‘I will not let a single child slip through the cracks.’: 10 ways this first grade teacher is re-inventing learning

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“My classroom was my sanctuary. It was the place I felt the most in control and felt the most peace in. God gave me a gift of being able to teach, and it is the one thing I know I am really good at. Over the years, I have built my first grade classroom to look and function exactly like I want. I don’t want to change anything I was doing. I have created an environment where students thrive, love learning, and become successful members of a community.

Not changing is not an option!

Over the last 19 years, I have learned, grown, and tweaked how I teach. I don’t feel like I can do any of those things now. Those don’t seem like strong enough words for what teachers are being asked to do now. I feel like now I have to reinvent teaching. This is not a debate over ‘should we be in person, remote, or something in between?’ No matter what schools do, they won’t look like they did March 13, 2020 for a long time. My flexible seating, collaborative, Whole Brain Teaching classroom will be different now, by necessity. I know teachers can reinvent and will do it, because teachers are capable of doing anything!

So, here are 10 things I’m changing.

Courtesy of Katie Howell

Collaborative Groups Reinvented into Distance Groups
My first graders were experts at working in partners and in collaborative groups. This is going to be hard from a distance. We will reinvent by creating mini circles from a distance and maintaining our 6 feet. Online, I am going to do my best to meet with kids in small groups daily, so they can work together and see the value in it.

Hands-On Centers Reinvented into Binder Centers
In school, my math and reading centers can’t be shared. My game based classroom is a thing of the past. I am reinventing by taking my favorite resources (from Tara West mostly) and making binders of games. My kids WILL still learn through playing. From a distance, we will find fun and interactive activities to do together. We made a flip book to keep engaged.

Flexible Seating Reinvented into Choice Positions
Sadly, my coffee style and comfortable classroom will have to change until the kids can safely move about. I can reinvent by still giving my kids choice at home and school with how they sit/stand within their space. They will be in control of their little space!

Courtesy of Katie Howell

Shared Materials Reinvented into Individual Containers
My ENTIRE classroom was shared materials with tables, and that is not the case in a COVID world. We will reinvent by each one of my kids having their own bucket of materials, ELA and math kits, and resources to use.

Pre-made Centers Reinvented into Center Books
My style of game-based teaching works wonders as long as I had games on cardstock ready to go. I only had enough for my small groups. I will have to reinvent by now having activities organized in game packets or binders, ready to go. From a distance, we will create online and engaging games.

Paper Forms and Copies Reinvented into Digital Resources
I have been teaching for 19 years and have tried and true forms and copies used year after year. 2020 has forced me, in a positive way, to move those resources into digital format. It took a lot of time to reinvent the way I communicate and will help me for years to come.

Face-to-Face Relationship Building Reinvented into Deeper Understanding of Our Kids
I think the relationships I make with my kids and families is my greatest resource as a teacher. No matter what, my kids and I won’t be the same face-to-face this year, due to either a computer screen or a mask. It is up to me to deliberately make time to get to know my kids and make those connections. I am going to need to focus on that more than anything.

Courtesy of Katie Howell

Being Able to Provide Safety to Our Kids Reinvented into Teaching Our Kids About Resources
School is a safe place for so many kids. I can check in on my kids and read their body language to help them. Now, I believe I will have to teach kids even more about resources they have available and how to ask for help. I will not let a single child slip through the cracks!

Old Traditions Reinvented into New Traditions From a Distance
I am missing so many beginning of the year traditions — ‘Meet and Greet,’ setting up my room, first day of school. I am now reinventing my traditions to include creating videos to explain simple tasks just so the kids see my face. I would have sent a simple email before, but now I feel like if I can record myself saying the same information, then the kids and families will better connect.

In-Person Teaching Reinvented into Learning From a Distance (Computer or a Mask)
Oh, how I wish I would have known that March 13, 2020 was going to be the last day I would teach in person with no restrictions! My students were free to roam the classroom and actively participated and learned from each other. I now need to reinvent myself to spark that same love of learning from a distance, by teaching kids to ‘frame up’ to the camera and learn from each other, even when you don’t know the person well.

Courtesy of Katie Howell

To all my teacher friends, I KNOW we can do this because failure is not an option for us! We always go above and beyond what anyone on the outside knows because we love our kids! We can still be everything we were in the classroom, it is just so much harder. This year is going to be a challenge, and we will do it TOGETHER!

A First Grade Teacher”

Courtesy of Katie Howell

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katie Howell. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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