When Distance Learning STOPS feeling so “Distant”

by Hollie Griffith

on April 27, 2020


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There were a lot of things that I thought would happen this spring…. I expected a trip to the beach, endless soccer games, I expected to be wrapping up my school year with themed days, read alouds, and endless hugs. I guess I could say…. the end of my school year DID NOT go as planned.

I should also say…. I’m not the teacher who loves technology. I know technology has its place to support and enhance instruction… I just never thought that I would ever be in a place that I would NEED technology to drive my communication and instruction. I’m a sit in the floor, pull out the post-its, get out the markers, dance on the tables, small groups, get dirty, point to the words, play games, figure it out together, group work, hands-on kind of teacher. I live for the laughs, the smiles, the hugs, the discussions, and those ah-ha moments. I definitely WAS NOT prepared for the weeks ahead…

COVID19 rocked my world… I know it has taken us all by storm. Honestly, I spent the first week home from school not really sure what to do. I didn’t know where to begin… how to help… or what to do with my own students. This truth is, I’m learning right along with you. I’ve been at this thing we now call distance learning for four weeks. I’m certainly not an expert… but as a teacher I do have a renewed spirit. I’ve been amazed with how this teaching community has come together. YOU have gone above and beyond…. I’ve seen parades lead by teachers sending messages of love. I’ve seen you spend endless hours getting materials and learning packets organized to send home. I’ve seen teachers reading books online, creating new YouTube channels, Using Zoom and Google Meet, making phone calls each day, delivering sweet surprises to student doors, sending picture messages…. We’re all stepping out of our comfort zones. In all honesty, I am convinced more than ever that this community of educators that I am so blessed to be a part of is truly AMAZING. Also…. distance learning doesn’t feel so “distant” to me anymore.

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With that being said… I have a few distance learning tips to leave you with! I am by no means an expert! But… I have learned a few things in the last few weeks.

1.  Keep things simple and have a “home base”. That place where EVERYTHING is stored.  For me, that’s Google Classroom. But for you… that can be anything.

2. It’s OKAY to SLOW DOWN. Last week, I was trying to keep up with a new math lesson each day. It was too much for me and my students. This week we’re doing two math lessons and then we’re playing games. I think during these times… simple is better!

3. Don’t ever stop making those connections! You can visit and wave from the yard, Zoom or Google Meet, or call. BUT… remember, you don’t have to do it all! Your students just need to be reminded of how much you care.

4. Distance learning DOES NOT always have to mean DIGITAL. There are many other ways to provide instruction! As I was getting my plans together last week, I was originally going to create these amazing google slides for my students to write on. Then I realized… they’re only in first grade! They can easily turn a piece of printer paper into writing paper…. and they still need to use a pencil and paper. Do what’s best for you and your students. I ended up posting a few videos that walked my students through their writing pieces. They’re writing about their weekend, using household items to create a musical instrument, and even writing a book review. All of this can be done with pencil and paper… no need for a worksheet or a google slide!

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5. Planning and delivering instruction like this is stressful! Take a deep breath and know you’re doing your best! There’s not really a right or wrong answer. We’re all learning each day and making changes that benefit ourselves and our students.

Overall, I have learned so much from this teaching from home experience.  There are so many things that I will be taking back to the classroom with me when I no longer have to give virtual hugs. From this day on I will ALWAYS hold a pajama party zoom meeting. I will ALWAYS have a zoom talent show. AND…. I will ALWAYS show up at 24 doors at the beginning of the year with a treat and a hug. This time… I’ll be able to give a real hug.

I have created a few things to make life a little easier. During our first few weeks of instruction we gave packets before moving to online learning. I posted them for free in my TpT shop….

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You can download week one HERE…

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You can download week two HERE…

Also…. These Phonics Based Fluency Passages have been a life savor for me. The last few weeks we have been focusing on vowel teams!!

I think my favorite thing about this resources is that it is interactive and students can listen to the story being read to them. Then… they can read it over and over until they’re fluent! I’ve asked a few students to record themselves reading the story and send it to me. ALSO… the stories are silly and my kids love them!!!

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A word sort is included with each passage.

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The other resource that I’ve found really helpful is my Digital Informational Passages… These passages were created in Google Forms.  I’m REALLY loving google forms these days because it’s so easy to look at their answers and run a spreadsheet of the results.  These passages are interesting and fun…. AND they cover some science standards!

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Hope some of this helps!!! Just remember YOU ROCK! We are all in this together!



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