If you’ve never been in a virtual classroom before, it may be hard to picture what it looks like. Today I’m going to share all about Class Time!
What is “Class Time”?
Class Time is what we call our live lessons with our students. I meet with my students twice a week in our virtual classroom for 2 hours. We have Language Arts and Social Studies from 9:00-10:00 and Math, Science, and Technology from 10:15-11:15 (the students have a 15-minute break in between classes). Our students log in to our classroom and can then see me, a list of friends that are in class with them, the content I’m teaching, and a chat box. We use Blackboard Collaborate for our virtual classroom platform. The students follow a link to get to my classroom and sign in with their name (this is how I can see who is in class with me). See the photo below for what our classroom looks like. (Student names have been whited out)
What do my lessons look like?
We make all our slides for Class Time in PowerPoint. We combine subjects in our PowerPoint lessons; each Class Time day we have one PowerPoint for Language Arts and Social Studies and then another one for Math, Science, and Technology. We then load the PowerPoint into Blackboard Collaborate and voila – lesson time!
During Class Time, the students have the opportunity to turn on their microphone and camera and share their thinking, show their work, or boast their dance moves during brain breaks. They also have access to a tool bar (which I turn on and off as needed) and their tools consist of stamping, drawing, typing, line drawing, and movable objects on the board. The students have access to some items all the time like the ability to vote or give me a green check/red X, smiley faces, and the ability to raise their hand, to name a few. There is also a chat box in our virtual classroom that is open all the time. In kindergarten, it’s mostly parents communicating for them in the chat box or asking me questions. Sometimes one of my kinder friends will just start typing random letters and/or emojis in the chat box. When this happens, I simply turn off their chat privileges.
Keeping a 5-year-old engaged is a challenging task regardless of your setting. In the virtual setting, it can be even more challenging because you can’t see them unless their camera is on. I keep this in mind when planning lessons and try to make them as appealing as possible. Lots of interaction with the material can really help. The more the students are able to do (just like in a brick-and-mortar classroom), the more they will be engaged with the material. We also always take a brain break about halfway through each class so the students have the chance to stand up, get their wiggles out, and have some fun. And, as you may know, I love to use props. Hats, glasses, headbands (my personal favorite), and any other prop I can incorporate can help to keep my young learners focused on me.
What do we do?
We do everything you’d see in a brick-and-mortar classroom. We read, write, do science experiments, dance, sing, do centers… you name it. The only difference is we are not physically together.
I’m not going to lie, once you get comfortable with operating the virtual classroom, management is SO much easier than that of a physical classroom. If a student isn’t using the tools, microphone, camera, etc. correctly, then guess what? You just turn off the permission for that student and carry on. This is obviously something that would be addressed in conversations with the parents, but the distraction can be immediately removed in that Class Time. Fortunately, in kindergarten, the biggest issue I have is when a friend screams in their microphone or scribbles on the board.
The biggest challenges in the virtual kindergarten classroom have to do with taking turns. When we are doing a whole-group activity, every student wants to do it and they sometimes have a hard time waiting for their turn at this age. But with practice, and activities like centers, they get better throughout the year with this. Also, there are some limitations in Blackboard that make turn-taking a challenge. For example, only 6 cameras can be on at one time. So, during a brain break, only 6 kids can show off their dance moves and that’s it. Something else that can be challenging at the kindergarten level is the students need a lot of support in operating the tools and being successful in the virtual classroom. Most have their home educator sitting with them to assist during Class Time, but there are times when the home educator must step away. In this event, it is hard for the student to navigate the lessons alone, especially in the beginning of the year. Even though my students are 5 and 6, they do pick it up pretty quickly and some can participate in Class Time independently by the end of the year.
When I made the change from a brick-and-mortar classroom to my virtual classroom, I wasn’t really sure what this would look like. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that the only big difference is the platform: we are in a virtual room on the computer. But the kids, the teaching, the fun – that’s all the same.
Stay tuned for highlights on my Instagram page to see Class Time in action. Have any questions? Drop them below!