Learning at Home
Special days and classroom themes connect remote students
Daniel’s eyes danced as he read his snowflake poem aloud. His classmates, dressed in red plaid flannel and soft, ribbed cotton jerseys, listened with their eyes and ears. Not only was it Pajama Day in Monica Lambert’s second grade all-remote class, the children had just enjoyed “lunch-bunch”—a special time of eating and chatting with their teacher and her daughter. The little community was ready to consider how line breaks influence the tone of a poem.
This calm companionship is evident in all nine of Katonah-Lewisboro’s remote-only elementary classes. What started off as an experiment to serve district families who, for a variety of reasons, chose not to send their children to school during the COVID pandemic, is a success story that will have lasting impact on the Katonah-Lewisboro School District.
reading and self reflection
creating a sense of belonging
“Teaching remotely has completely changed my teaching,” reflects Lambert. “My lessons are shorter, only eight to ten minutes, and I teach without paper—I can’t believe it! Because we do all of our work online, I can give students feedback almost instantaneously.”
Lambert and her colleagues mention the deep connection that they have with their students, and the children with each other, as another surprise of remote learning. One of the reasons the relationships are so strong is because teachers have worked hard to cultivate them. "In the early weeks of remote learning, we focused on deep listening and loving speech," said fourth grade remote teacher Theresa Garber. "Each month we explore a concept such as belonging, gratitude and compassion through vocabulary and quotes, literature and self-reflections."
"Virtual platforms allow growth as a community in a different way than being physically together,” she added. “We have seen one another's holiday decorations, origami creations, LEGO airports, magic tricks, arts and crafts and the Elf on a Shelf (in the cat's bed)."
KLSd offers two learning models
Eleven percent of the district’s students are currently enrolled in all-remote learning—a number that has stayed fairly consistent throughout the year. Families commit to the hybrid or remote model in two to three-month segments and will soon indicate their choices for the next segment of the school year, February to March. There’s little movement of students between the learning models at the elementary schools, reports Mary Ford, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, which is an indicator that families are choosing the model that works for them.
The nine fully-remote teachers are seasoned educators. What's been important to their successful transition to the new learning model is the weekly Fully Remote Teachers Roundtable, a time to share what working, think through challenges and learn new aspects of educational technology, led by Chris Nelson, KLSD Director of Technology, and Randy Hall, Senior Facilitator with the Instructional Technology team at the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center.
Remote-only Classroom teachers
Kindergarten: Jenn Noonan
First grade: Paul Hughes
Second grade: Jillian Abisch and Monica Lambert
Third grade: Marissa Marmo and Amy Signore
Fourth grade: Theresa Garber
Fifth grade: Linda Pickett and Lynn Garofolo
In a year in which all Katonah-Lewisboro students have become increasingly proficient with technology, remote students stand out for their independence. Jennifer Noonan’s remote kindergarteners unmute themselves to share and use the Zoom reaction function during reading to indicate when they see sight words. Paul Hughes, who teaches the remote first grade class, also finds that his students are at ease with the digital learning platforms, adding that they are organized with their materials at home as well. "When I ask them to get a writing folder or reading bin, they are always ready to go!"
“Each day I post our class schedule on Schoology,” said Lambert. “It includes Zoom links to our classes and specials, the time of all classes and breaks, independent activities and homework assignments, and more. I am so impressed at how my second graders have taken on this complicated schedule and have run with it, since day one.”
connecting students with each other and their community
Katonah-Lewisboro’s teachers are finding creative ways to accentuate the best in hybrid and remote learning—from making the most of each in-person minute to developing projects that connect students to each other and their community.
Second graders just completed a unit on economics which introduced concepts of needs and wants, goods and services, and supply and demand. To expand on these principles, Lambert initiated the snowflake project and invited all Increase Miller second grade classes to participate. She created kits of popsicle sticks, twine, ribbon and a poem. Now, students are making snowflakes and hanging them in public areas. The poem’s message: The best things in life we can’t buy.