The students in Kristan Nalezny’s first-grade class pointed out a monkey pictured on the slide at the local park. Nalezny told her class that the monkey was her favorite animal during a Google Meet earlier this year.
Nalezny is a first-grade distance teacher at Meadowbrook. Every week, she invites her learners to a local park for free play. Parents and siblings are also invited. The hour of outdoor play allows her and her students to create relationships that can transfer into their virtual meetings.
“I’m hopeful that this will increase their ability to interact with each other, and I want them to see me as a person,” Nalezny said.
The kids are building relationships on the playground, and now Nalezny can see those connections build when they are online, too. It was a slow start, but the students are able to say hello to each other by name in the Google Meet before class begins, and they are getting more comfortable unmuting themselves to share their thoughts.
“I want to make sure the joy in school is still there even if we are isolated; we can still find the fun in each other,” Nalezny said.
In addition to creating connections with her students, Nalezny uses the weekly hour to connect with parents and receive feedback about what is and is not working.
Deanna Johnson is a parent of three students in the distance learning program at Meadowbrook. So far, she has been impressed with the level of structure with synchronous classes staggered throughout the day.
“I can see the connection growing between my kids and their teachers already, which is vital to learning,” Johnson said.
Jon Mcaab, another distance learning parent, shared a similar view. He believes socializing is a big part of school for a first-grader.
“I think Ms. Nalezny is doing a nice job of allowing them time online, but by promoting an outdoor gathering once a week, it’s really making the distance learning work for us,” Mcaab said.