Distance Teaching for Kindergarteners: 8 Programs that Worked
When it was time to teach online after 30 years of live, classroom learnings, I couldn’t catch my breath, which is a definite sign of COVID-19.
But in this case my inability to breathe had nothing to do with the medical side of the pandemic. It felt like I was a new teacher again, but this time who would I lean on for help when it came to teaching 5-year-old students on the computer?
How? When? Why? What if?
Technology wasn’t a new chapter for me, besides teaching I run a publishing company that has two different websites and e-commerce platforms that I manage by myself.
In March I googled, “How to teach Kindergarten on Microsoft Teams” and got back a startling number of hits on the topic.
Not one person had penned a how-to on using computers for young children. Not one.
My first thought was that there was a hole in the internet.
Zero articles. Zero videos. Zero blogs.
If I wasn’t in dire need of the information, I might have marveled at find a black hole on the internet.
After many 14-hour days where I downloaded every known program to help record videos, post pictures and any number of needed programs, I slowly figured out what programs worked best to teach kindergarten online.
I taught my co-teacher and teacher assistant and anyone else who wanted help by showing them the following Game Changers:
This was the platform my district went with. Microsoft renamed all of their parts:
Not a website, a Team.
Not a webpage, a channel.
Not a text, a chat.
Not email, a chat.
It’s buggy when it comes to working with small kids.
Posts show up in order of comments; if someone wrote a reply, that post moved to the “new” position, which made finding daily work difficult for my young learners.
If you don’t add a @ sign before a reply on a post, nobody will know you commented.
Teachers can’t unmute a child’s microphone and it took months for students to figure out how to do this.
The following programs helped make the Teams experience positive for my kindergarteners.
If I uploaded a regular video to a post, it showed up as a long, gray rectangle with a small triangle inside. My students didn’t understand that if they clicked the triangle, the video would play, and it was even more confusing for kids to figure out how to close the video at the end.
None of this was an issue with Flipgrid Shorts. Flipgrid was my go-to program to record my daily Journal Videos. With Flipgrid Shorts, teachers can record a video up to 10 minutes long as one video or as segments that can be rearranged. It was the ability to add a thumbnail photo to the clickable video link that sold me.
I like the “Interactive Images” that help set a scene where you can embed video links into the pictures. Here is an early version of the program I used to teach Summer Safety. CLICK HERE It’s a messy, early example of using the platform, but that’s okay, right? We’re all supportive of early efforts, amiright?
This removes those pesky links at the end of the video where students might click away to watch cartoons or something even less appropriate. During the year the only videos we posted from You Tube were in the above example of Summer Safety in using these protected links.
This is a part of our Microsoft package, so it was free for us to use. Mostly it’s like You Tube, meaning any videos you post here will bring kids to a place that has other videos to click on. We never posted videos using this platform.
But “Stream” gives you the ability to rewrite closed caption words. It’s time consuming, but worth it.
I recorded a video in Flipgrid Shorts, downloaded it to my computer and then uploaded it to Microsoft Stream. I reworked the closed captioned words, then downloaded it to my computer again. Once I uploaded it back to Flipgrid Shorts, I was able to finish the video and get the code.
I rarely played this game of uploading and downloading, but the few times I did I was glad to be able to rework the closed captioning — which made the process worth the extra time.
I made presentations that I could use for my Daily Video Journals. I used a Microsoft converter (free at the Microsoft store) to convert it to an MP3, then uploaded it to Flipgrid, finished the video, got the code and embedded it on my Team.
There were times I went a little crazy, like our End of the Year Video. The audio recording on my Samsung phone is better than my brand new Lenovo computer’s recording. Sad, isn’t it?
So I recorded video on my phone, moved it to my computer, extracted the audio and then added it to my movie. This worked for me and the quality was excellent.
Office Lens (at the app store)
This is another Microsoft Tool (No. This article isn’t an advertisement for Microsoft products, though I am completely open to them paying me for the things I use. Hello, Microsoft? I also have ideas on how to improve Teams so it’s friendlier for young children. Hello, Microsoft?)
Office Lens let me use my phone to scan a copy of my emergency student information forms onto my phone and then text it to my teacher assistant in seconds. The new scan was easier to read than sending photo of a document, and their “white” filter cleaned the scan and made it look like new.
Yes. Teaching online takes more time to prepare lessons, videos and assignments. Yes, I worked longer hours while teaching virtually. But the fact that I figured out the how was a giant time saver in the end.
I don’t know what teaching and learning will look like in the Fall when it’s time to return to school whether it’s in person or virtually, but now that I have found the programs to make teaching manageable, I won’t have to suffer from the anxiety of not knowing.
What programs worked for you, either as a teacher teaching virtually or as a parent teaching children from home? Comment below, or tag us on your social media pages. Facebook: @ mshollywinter or Instagram @ mshollywinter.
Holly Winter Huppert is a kindergarten teacher an the author of the book, “Hans Helps: A Coronavirus/COVID-19 Story that is available everywhere books are sold and at www.hanshelps.com. Find other books she has written at www.winuplypress.com Holly lives in upstate New York where she is busily organizing her growing collection of face masks.