Play-based learning in a Hybrid classroom

This was going to be the year that I went totally play-based in the classroom. I had designed my classroom with flexible seating and lots of areas for student choice. I have spent the last year researching, reading, and watching every webinar I could about play-based learning. I was excited and ready to make the 20-21 school year the best ever!

And then……

The Coronavirus altered my plans. Students can not share the same sensory bins, they can not sit together and read in flexible seating, dramatic play, and using dress-up clothes could not happen. Playing games to learn together was not possible while socially distancing. I was discouraged.

This week I finished my first full week as a hybrid teacher. I have seven students in class and thirteen virtual. My classroom is organized so my students can be spaced apart in accordance with the health department guidelines. When my students move they mask. This has been a repetition of “mask up, stand up!” I thought this would be hard for five-year-olds but they are doing great remembering. When at their desk they can be mask free, but during group teaching on my carpet, they are masked up.

So our day consists of lessons on the carpet (masked) and videos running for virtual students. Then, we go back to our desk for the practice of the skill, and that gives me time to upload the video.

One of the problems is that I am constantly thinking of fun ways for my students to learn and then think to myself “nope can’t do that with social distancing”. I get a little frustrated that I can’t be the teacher I want to be, but I’m going to try my best to be the best version I can.

It’s definitely going to be challenging to figure out ways to make learning fun while social distancing, wearing masks, and virtual students. I have felt like it was hard to make sure my “At home” kids feel like they are a part of the classroom community. One way I have tried to build that bridge is every morning we record our morning circle and I have pictures of our “at home” friends and we say their name and tell them good morning. The kids have amazed me and in just one short week they already know the names and recognize the pictures of our “at Home” kids. I hope to grow this connection in the coming weeks. I am hoping to figure out a way to use Google meet more often during lessons. I’m just not sure how yet.

I spent most of my planning time this week thinking about what kind of activities we could do that would be more individual. So we started the week using plastic canvas under our paper to draw our letter and number of the day. The kids loved the bumpy letters. Then I let them use it to draw a picture. The sensory aspect of this was amazing. I had a student say “this is so satisfying”! Yes, she is 5, and using words like satisfying!

I created individual sensory bins out of rice and beans and they use tweezers to grab the letter then color it on a sheet. I have labeled the containers so they have their own. We painted our letters with Q-tips. We also made our names, letters, and numbers with glass beads or tiny erasers.

Virtually has been a little bit more of a struggle. I try to record a video at least three times a day. We have had one Google meet all together. During that time I read the book “Not a box”. Then I showed them how I made an airplane out of a box for our class “mask”ot Mabel the elephant. Students sent me pictures of the things they made out of boxes.

This is a long way from the way I want my teaching to be, but although it will be challenging I strive to do better each week. The research says children learn better through play and I am going to make it my goal to teach through play and watch my students succeed.

I am still struggling with making connections with my virtual students, and it breaks my heart. I have to remember it’s only week one, and I am doing the best I can for now! But I will continue to improve my teaching and find ways to make this work! One way is to share this blog with other educators in the hope to collaborate and learn from each other. I plan to share my journey, the good and bad every week.

I’m going to call this year a work in progress!

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