by Claudia Belmonte and Roser Salavert
In today’s speed virtual learning environment, teachers’ creativity can make a difference in students’ engagement and learning. For example, have you ever used a virtual background/green screen, as an instructional tool? Or, have you taken your young students to a virtual field trip to learn phonics.
These are a few of the innovative and creative techniques shared by Monica Covington-Cradle of the Cooke Institute during her Talk Tools for the Blended Classroom on October 29th. The purpose of the webinar was to review and extend participants’ knowledge about the important connection between literacy and language with well-established explicit instruction practices. Participants actively discussed the importance of developing oral language in young students (PreK-2), the five pillars of literacy: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension, and reflected on the links between them.
But, putting herself in today's teachers’ new classroom environment, Ms. Covington-Cradle, a Speech Pathologist and Literacy Coach added a creative twist to well-established explicit teaching practices to enliven blended learning. In this manner, both the teachers and their young students become part of an engaging, fun and interesting learning process.
The Magic of the Green Screen Do you use a green screen/virtual background when teaching online? When teaching from home and to protect their privacy, many teachers opt for a virtual background. And for this virtual background to be crisp and clear, it helps to have a green screen, because it allows Zoom to detect the difference between you and your background.
Now, have you ever thought of taking advantage of a virtual background projected on a green screen as an instructional tool? This is the magic of the green screen.
A creative teacher made a green background with felt squares. (You can use a green tablecloth from the $1 Store as well) She projected a virtual background of a boat on a lake and placed herself in front of the computer thus simulating that she was in that boat. She started her vocabulary lesson with a song about ducks, and while teaching new words, she “pulled” a duck out of the water. Then she placed it on the lake. How did she do that? Simply, she had a cutout of a duck with a piece of Velcro on the back and she placed it on the green felt screen. As the lesson proceeded, the teacher produced other interesting birds and objects that would then magically swim on the lake. Children were excited singing the songs, producing the sounds, learning new words as they eagerly anticipated what the teacher would “magically” produce next. What a creative and powerful explicit lesson!
Storyline Online Do you use a software that reads stories aloud as an instruction tool? Storyline Online is a software that presents visual stories the same way they are presented when reading the actual book. This is a good choice for both parents and teachers to use, as it improves listening comprehension and builds a more solid background knowledge of a given story. Storyline Online can be an especially important tool to use in asynchronous and virtual learning environments, which are growing more common during this time. Some tips for teachers include discussing the visual components presented to improve vocabulary and build knowledge about the story. Additionally, asking comprehension questions throughout the reading checks children’s understanding of the story and how it connects to what they are viewing.
Virtual Trips Virtual field trips give teachers the opportunity to take students to intriguing places and provide them with new experiences, without leaving the classroom. Tools for modeling, simulations, and visual aids encourage critical thinking, discussion, and scaffolding. These are all very important skills in the learning process, and virtual field trips stimulate these abilities. Additionally, the experience builds background knowledge on subject matter, and increases both vocabulary and comprehension. A very creative teacher projected a screen of a virtual field trip to the San Diego Zoo. She also displayed both pictures (visible aids) and written lists of the animals from the zoo that her students will learn about. There were also some guiding questions incorporated into the presentation to gauge student interests about animals, and there was even a page constructed that allowed students to choose which animals they would like to learn more about from a series of pictures. For each animal, there were descriptions and pictures provided that showed the physical appearances and diet of the animals, as well as a list of interactive questions to engage the children.
The pandemic has created a stressful environment, and teachers find it is difficult to find the time (or the energy) to attend a webinar, but those who do, feel re-energized and rewarded afterwards. These are the comments of two of these teachers: “Great ideas to teach the kids online!”; ” I am looking forward to the final session”. Even if you missed the previous sessions, do not miss the opportunity to participate in:
Part 3: The Sweet Spot: Engaged, Elated and Empowered”
Monica Covington-Cradle of the Cooke Institute
Thursday, November 19, 2020, from 3:30- 4:30 pm
This session qualifies for CTLE credit