Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning: Day 6

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 6.

Had you asked me 2 months ago what my favorite time of day was I our classroom, I would have said Read Aloud time. The time we sit together in our meeting area, in a circle, and share a story together. We do lots of thinking and talking during this time and it is the time that I see many children comfortable sharing their voices and perspectives.  It is a happy time the kicks off our afternoon literacy block.

So, when we moved to online/pandemic teaching and learning, I built in daily time for a Google Meet read aloud. I have not been surprised that most of the kids in the class (between 21 and 24 out of 28 most days) attend the live Google Meet.

But my favorite part of the day is no longer read aloud. (Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE read aloud time--what better way to spend time each day than sharing a great book with children) I am finding that Google Meet has not yet invited the same depth of conversation that in person read aloud does. BUT the 10 minutes before we begin read aloud have been my absolute favorites.

I started opening the Google Meet about 10 minutes early when we first started, worrying that we might have trouble learning to mute, we might have sound issues, kids might have time getting into the Meet. But what I found is that these 10 minutes, as kids straggle in, have become the best 10 minutes of my day.  Kids arrive 2-3 at  a time most days. Some seem to be there waiting for me to open the room and are there the second that I am. Others pop in sometime in that 10 minute window.  This gives us me time to say hello and to catch up with each child as they arrive.

This reminds me of mornings in our classroom.  Because 5th graders are busy with various responsibilities in the mornings--some are part of Crossing Guard teams, some are part of the middle school Orchestra and some go to other classrooms to help out to star their day, our mornings when we were in school were often quiet as kids arrived at various times across a 20 minute window, depending on their other commitments.  I used to stand at the doorway and greet every child but I found this year that if I sat at our big classroom table, I could greet each child and also have longer conversations with several each day. Every morning I'd chat with each child. Those kids who had something exciting to share or who needed some extra support seemed to make it over to our big kitchen table where a group always gathered to talk and catch up on each other's lives. The space seemed to be an anchor for community. Some students stayed only a few seconds to check in. Others sat for 5-10 minutes talking and listening. But that informal greeting time seemed important, thinking back, It seemed to offer conversations that we really don't "count" in a school day, but conversations that add up.

Our 10 minutes in Google Meet before read aloud begins have started to feel like our morning arrival time in the classroom.  As students come in and I greet them and ask what's new, they share with others interested, just like they were at the big kitchen table in our classroom. Students who have been there for a few minutes, greet and ask questions of those as they arrive. Today we got to know a students' pet, we got to see photos of a students' newest baby sibling and we got to hear about a walk a student went on with his family.

I've been thinking about all of this because I've never really considered those first minutes of our school day--those minutes when kids arrive a few at a time-- because our day hadn't "started" yet. I never really gave it much thought.  Until our 10 minutes before read aloud started to have that same happy feeling.  Those ten minutes that we are waiting for everyone to arrive for read aloud that I may not actually "count". I don't think I could have planned a time for this to happen in Google Meet in an authentic way. I think there is something magical about the unplanned, informality of the sharing and greeting of each other that happens when we are waiting for everyone to arrive. I feel so lucky for those 10 minutes that just accidentally happened because I was worried about the technology.


  1. Franki- Like you, I have continued read aloud. I am in a middle school model, so I have the kids first thing in the morning. Even so, usually around 15 kids come every day. And like you, I open up the room a little early every morning. And it's my favorite time of the day. Just like you said, it's a time of connection and loving and caring. Thanks for this beautiful piece of writing!

  2. One of the biggest signs of the fact that my child was having a horrible K-4 experience was the fact that the teacher never greeted him in the morning. I'm not sure she greeted most of the kids. Unsurprisingly over half of those kids did not return to that private school for kindergarten. She's still there but we've moved on and found wonderful caring teachers.

    I discovered your blog sometime this year and have loved reading it. You must be an amazing teacher.


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