At last week’s Revere Public School Committee meeting, James Hill Elementary School Principal Melissa Lomas said she was excited to present to the committee the work that her 3rd grade team has been doing with regards to remote learning.
“This team has approached remote learning through the lenses of social and emotional development, academic growth and school engagement,” said Lomas. “They’ve worked tirelessly to design instruction that is not only informative but it is also interactive and engaging for their students.”
Hill School 3rd grade teacher Jill Ippolito said the school has been focused on providing Hill students with similar experiences to those that they would have had if they were in the classroom.
“A lot of the ways that we engage our students is by using programs like Pear Deck,” said Ippolito. “Pear Deck is an incredible program we often use with Google Slides. It helps us to increase student engagement and formally evaluate students and to make learning fun.”
Through some slides, Ippolito showed the Committee members how programs like Pear Deck can mimic lessons that would otherwise be taught in the classroom.
“These are some of the choices we have that lets students engage,” said Ippolito. “We can give them multiple choice questions on the spot, let them draw, drag and drop…so we’re trying to make lessons as realistic as it would be if it was in the classroom.”
Ippolito said Pear Deck also helps teachers interact with students while they are teaching. The program, explained Ippolito, has different tools, such as highlighters, a text feature that allows teachers to track progression in real time. This allows teachers to quickly assess students as if they were in the classroom.
“It’s the same as if I were walking up and down (the classroom) past the desk of students,” said Ippolito. “I can see as they’re answering in live time. I can see which students are answering. So these answers show me right away (the) students that answered it correctly and I can see which one’s answered incorrectly. So it’s really a great way to just assess them on the spot. I can also leave comments. So it is another great way to assess. I can go back and look at a live lesson as well.”
Ippolito said the Hill doesn’t just use computer programs but a lot of hands-on activities as well. “At the beginning of the year, our team put together some whiteboards and we put them in some bags for the students,” she said. “We sent to them some dry erase markers as well. And the students love drawing on whiteboards. So it’s a nice change of pace. In addition to whiteboards we also use their math workbooks as well and believe it or not, they get excited now to pick up a pencil and write on some paper.”
Next, Hill School teacher Melody Holmes talked about reading instruction during remote learning.
“We’re focusing really hard on how we can make learning more engaging for students,” said Holmes. “When it does need to be a teacher directed lesson, third graders are not naturally equipped to sit and listen to a PowerPoint presentation for a 30 minute small group lesson. So what can we do to make it a much more robust experience for them? We can embed student friendly videos. Pear Deck allows us to put the video right in the PowerPoint. The kids can actually control the video themselves, which is awesome because they’re not dependent on my internet bandwidth. They can pause and rewind and have full functionality with the videos independently.”
Holmes said the Hill School tries to make presentations colorful and kid friendly and really eye catching for students.
“It really does make a difference,” said Holmes.
Holmes added that the Hill School did not want to sacrifice any reading skills just because teachers don’t have students in front of them.
“We don’t want students to lose their ability or miss out on the opportunity to grow their ability as readers, in the sense of reading comprehension and annotating texts,” said Holmes. “So, believe it or not, in third grade we really start to dig deep and closely read texts. Kids are asked to highlight their evidence to prove why their answers are correct when they’re reading. They don’t just rely on multiple choices to see if they understand the text. So we asked students to go back and highlight or underline to prove their thinking existed in the text. We used to do that very easily on worksheets, and through not only Pear Deck but also programs like Achieve 3000 and Raz kids. We have all sorts of digital tools to allow them to develop these skills, which they’ll be using their entire life as learners.”
The Committee members also heard from Hill 3rd grader Lucas about his experiences during remote learning.
“My name is Lucas and I go to the Hill and my teacher is Miss Rose,” said Lucas. “I’m here to tell you how remote learning is going for me. I like that I can sleep a little bit longer and I don’t have to wear my uniform. But I like fun Friday because we do a bunch of fun things.”
While Lucas is engaged and enjoying remote learning, and the little extra sleep he gets in the morning, he did say he misses school–like most kids these days.
“I missed that I can’t talk to my friends in person,” said Lucas. “I can’t have recess, we can’t go into the playground and I can’t talk to my teachers in person. So I’m looking forward to going back to school.”