Preparing For the First Class
I have taught for 12 years and would have no concerns about almost any room full children on the first day of school. I am a bit nervous, though, about my first online class. To prepare, I am:
-Planning the first class in person: While I am sure that many classes work well entirely on line, the school that I am creating is a hybrid, so my first meeting is going to be with live children, all in the same room. We are going to have a traditional first day of school, with games, activities, brainstorming sessions, etc. The first class is Friday, September 7, and the first online class will be on the following Monday.
-Doing practice classes with friends: All of my friends are scheduled to have a practice class with me. I want to be sure that I know what I am doing before I actually meet a student online.
-Checking the technology with the students: In the last two weeks, I did a technology check with all of the students. We simply had a quick online meeting. I helped them all create an account in our Moodle Classroom, and I gave them a tour of the online classroom. I want to know as soon as possible about any potential technical problems. I also helped them find their profile on Moodle, and had them send their first journal letter to me. It is essential to get them engaged right away.
-Watching Dr. Nellie Deutsch’s recordings: I couldn’t find a babysitter for the online class today, but I just watched the recording. It was really helpful.
-Choosing articles and videos: The first goal of any classroom experience with children is to create community and establish behavioral norms and expectations. As of now, my class consists of 7 very enthusiastic kids. I do not think that getting them to participate will be a problem. But, as all teachers know, curriculum that is too hard or not engaging can lose even the most enthusiastic and generous crowd. I have several readings that I traditionally do at the beginning of the school year, and I am organizing them into folders to give to the students for the first few classes. While I could forward the articles to the children on line, I think that it is important for young readers to get some practice reading and taking notes as they read. I also think that we are already learning a lot of new technology and I- perhaps more than the kids- need something familiar.
-Writing curriculum: Children need curriculum presented in several different ways. Much of my curriculum will be delivered through WizIq and then made available as a text document through Moodle. That way, kids can both hear (and hear again, since the lessons are recorded) and talk about the lesson, as well as read related materials.
-Making “Welcome Packages.” The thought of an online class is still very abstract to me, and likely even more so for the students. I want them to have something tangible to hold and be able to interact with. I am putting together “Welcome Packages” for each student. I am going to include several of the books that we are going to be reading, as well as the folder of articles. If I were slightly more organized, I would have wrapped everything individually, and mailed it to the students last week. Instead, I will bring the packages to our first meeting.
-Regularly communicating with parents: I have created a calendar for the year, with all of the on-line meetings and group gatherings. I was sure to balance fun events with educational events and I included events to celebrate the seasons and beginnings and endings of the semesters. Every few weeks, I have been sending the parents an update- perhaps about something that we are going to study or a book that we are going to read.
Last April, I decided that I was going to start a new online program. Now, I am three days away from meeting with my first class. What a lot of work it has been! However, I am approaching a place where I can do what I love without typical school constraints. I have been able to quit my old job, and my world feels wide open.