Maintaining Engagement and Community in Lower School During COVID-19
At DVFriends, we know that successful learning, particularly for students who learn differently, requires a trusting partnership between teachers and students. When Governor Wolf closed campuses in March, many schools struggled to maintain the learning relationships between teachers and students, and many students struggled with the loss of community connections with classmates.
DVFriends continued face-to-face instruction every day in every class across all grades. Using Zoom, teachers and students continued to interact in real-time, seeing and hearing each other, which maintained cohesive learning communities with teachers and peers. Lower School teachers, all of whom are certified in Orton-Gillingham multisensory instruction methods, adapted their lessons to the online platform so that they could continue to provide direct and individualized instruction to keep students making academic progress from home. Lower school students used school-provided iPads or home computers to log in and learn with their teachers and classmates.
Understanding that social and emotional wellbeing is as important as academic progress, especially during this period of uncertainty and general anxiety, lower school teachers and administrators developed creative activities including exploration projects, storytime, mindfulness moments, a virtual field day with games and a magician, community service projects such as writing letters to doctors, nurses and essential workers and random acts of kindness challenges, and scheduled lower school virtual "hangouts" to keep students engaged and connected with each other outside the academic “classroom” setting. This summer, lower school students each received a "Flat Lucy" -- a laminated photo of our school therapy dog Lucy to take with them on their summer adventures and share back photos and videos with the community. All of these programs, big and small, have helped to keep our lower school students engaged and connected during our time apart.
As we plan and prepare for safe re-entry to campus in the fall, and the possibility of periods of virtual learning next year depending on the trajectory of the virus in our area, lower school teachers are focused on approaches that prioritize direct, face-to-face, individualized academic instruction and incorporate enrichment activities that support the social and emotional wellbeing of our students whether in-person or virtual.
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