Touring A Socially Distant Educational Learning Skills Classroom

This month marks one year of a worldwide pandemic! To say that I am proud of us for making it through is an understatement! Underneath all of the stress and tears, my team and I have learned new ways of teaching that we never thought we would need. Veteran teachers felt like rookie teachers, and the new teachers have made it through (hopefully) their hardest year of teaching.

Some of the school districts around the one I work for have been following a hybrid learning model for a few months already. My school district will start our hybrid learning model on March 29th. My team and I were given last week to work in our building and classroom. This gave us time to start prepping materials in order to make the transition smooth and safe for our learners.

Materials for the 4th Quarter

The first thing my team and I worked on was putting together the materials that all of our learners would need for the remainder of the school year. We worked hard to plan and be sure that our learners would have enough material until summer break. We do have access to the printer and copier if a learner masters any programs and requires materials for the next.

Next, my paras and I put bins together for each in-person learner. The materials in each individualized bin will be used with that specific learner for the whole week. We included prepped activities and materials to use in each center, small group, 1:1, and large group. We also built “extra” bins for each center. The extra bins will hold materials, games, and toys for the assigned center. If a lesson, program, or activity did not take as long as we had planned and there is extra time in a rotation, these materials will be used. Once a learner touches these materials, the adult will put them in the “dirty” bin before the next learner comes to the center. These toys and materials will then need to be washed and quarantine for the next few days before they can be put away or put back into the extra bin.

Every learner will receive a bag of supplies that will be sent home. These bags have been individualized for each learner and contain lessons and activities appropriate for home use. These materials will be used when the students are remote. You can find the list of what we have sent home for my AM learners here, and my PM learners here. Each learner’s name has been blocked off, and each column represents each learner.

Scheduling

My team and I had a very difficult time creating a schedule to meet the minutes of all of our learners. The schedules that we have created for each day took about two weeks of back and forth conversations and we feel like we have finally come to a realistic schedule for each day! Our district’s hybrid plan has split the week into two halves. On Monday and Tuesday, our Blue students will attend in-person, and on Thursday and Friday, our Gold students will attend in-person. All Wednesdays have been designated full remote for deep cleaning across the district.

Each day, we are expected to give simultaneous instruction to both in-person and remote learners. My team has tried their best to work out their schedules to meet IEP minutes in-person. This means that there is a lot of in and out within classrooms throughout the week, and we may not have our related service team members in our classroom as we would have pre-hybrid model. My team and I plan on revisiting these schedules after the first week of implementation to make sure they are meeting the needs of all of our learners! For confidentiality, I have removed all of my learner’s names on our schedules, and you can find them here: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.

Large Group and Independent Work

After we had all of our materials ready to go for the first week, my paras and I started moving the furniture to match the schedules that we had created. The most students we have in person at one time is three. This means that we only need 3 independent work stations and 3 chairs at our large group table. This limited amount of students in the classroom at one time will help us stay socially distant, even when we are doing morning circle and ending circle all together. This also gives us the ability to continue to see our learners 1:1 during small group rotations, and allows for time to clean and sanitize any areas after one learner has been there.

During the day, some of our learners will still require adult assistance to transition, engage in functional routines, and participate in lessons and activities. Our district has provided the adults in our room with N95 face masks, face shields, gloves, and sneeze guard partitions for when a 6 foot social distance is not realistic or safe. Even when adults may need to be close to a student, we will be able to provide distance between the learners in order to limit the exposure of germs going back and forth between school and all of their homes.

Small Group Setup

Based on the schedule we have created with related services, our classroom was able to give related service team members their own areas for the week. They will be responsible for cleaning their areas and keeping everyone safe while they are in the room. We also have other areas of the classroom where our learners will be able to safely play and engage in other activities. The individual areas are as follows:

  • Our red area will be used by our speech/language pathologist.
  • The green area will be used by our social worker and TAs on different days.
  • Pink will be used for toys and games and our physical therapist on different days.
  • Yellow will be used by me for STAR programs, IEP data, etc.
  • The orange area will be used by our occupational therapist when she is in the room.
  • We also have a purple area that is not assigned to anyone on any given day. This is going to be our extra area in case a related service team member needs to come in on a day they don’t normally come in, or if any other staff members needs a clean area to work with a learner.

Putting It All Together

A socially distant classroom where students interact with each other as little as possible, keep materials to themselves, and avoid sharing toys was NOT something any of us were imagining. Now that this is the type of classroom that we have to set up, my team and I need to make sure that we are keeping staff and all of our learners as safe as possible. This might not be the ideal classroom, but it is a classroom following all of the safety protocols to the best of our ability! Be kind to yourself, and go in prepared to change anything that might not work! Even if that means having to change the furniture, material bins, or schedules each week.

5 Comments

  1. Structure of the classroom is very important when working in different areas of the classroom especially with children with autism they want their space and a comfortable space to learn from as well as simple class routines and simple class instructions that the child can follow. and understand.

    Reply
  2. Yes, so true! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  3. I have been in my Diverse Learning classroom…. trying to social distance since Sept. I set things up in the beginning, and I am lucky to only have 4 kiddos and a large space. None of them are able to wear masks so the EA’s and myself do Which itself is a challenge given the physical nature and speech language work, one of my students will not let me wear the shield. As much as we put things in place they are still hugging, singing, and dancing around being kids. One of my students did have Covid in November, and none of us caught it…. which is a miracle and speaks perhaps to how little the virus passes through asymptomatic kids. We are having a great year, but do miss the integration as we must stay with our cohort.

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  4. Thank you for reading, and for sharing!

    Reply
  5. Agreed! Can’t wait for things to get back to normal!

    Reply

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