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South Jordan Journal

Jordan District teachers finding creative solutions for teaching during a pandemic

Aug 26, 2020 02:44PM ● By Jet Burnham

Second grade teachers Shaylyn Hansen and AnneMarie Taggart make boxes of individual supplies for each student. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Teachers are finding creative ways to implement the Jordan School District Re-Opening plan.

Spacing

Though it has been several months of living with COVID-19, social distancing still does not come naturally, especially for children. Teachers have created ways to encourage students to social distance.

Rachel Rose, a sixth grade teacher at Midas Creek Elementary, numbered her classroom coat hooks with consecutive numbers on opposite ends of the rack—No. 1 is the very left of the rack and No. 2 is the very right.

“When I let them in in the morning, I will have them come in by twos and hang up their backpack and coats, and they will be on opposite ends of each other,” Rose said. “Hopefully that helps with crowding while hanging up or grabbing their stuff.”

At Mountain Point Elementary, colorful numbered dots on the ground and on the walls remind students to space themselves while lining up. To alleviate congestion in the mornings, students have a chose to stay outside or to go inside and sit on their numbered dot until the bell rings.

In the cafeteria, numbers are stenciled on benches to give students more room and to be offset of those on the other side of the table.

Mountain Point, like other newer schools, is designed with classrooms surrounding a group gathering area. These dens, with numbered dots designating where students should sit, will be used when a classroom activity moves to the larger area to spread out. Teachers can easily transition lessons to this space—the technology they use in the classroom instantly transfers to the large projector in the den.

Principal Carolyn Bona said separating students from each other is a whole new mindset, especially for teachers of young children. 

“They are used to having the kids come to a small group or come to the carpet and have a classroom discussion up close; they're used to having them work in partners and groups,” she said.

Charity Horne’s first grade classroom has always been arranged with students sitting in groups at tables. This year, she switched to desks that all face the front of the classroom as suggested by the district plan. She will use a plexiglass shield at a small table to safely work directly with small groups of students.

The first grade team at Mountain Point has developed a strategy for keeping students from bunching up when coming into the building in the morning or after recess. Teachers will direct students one at a time to one of three nearby handwashing stations. They have also determined to allow only one student at a time to go to the restroom and to stagger drink breaks.

Sanitizing

Students and teachers will regularly wipe down tables, chairs and desks. There will be regular times throughout the day—before and after activities—when students will wash their hands.

Rose provided her students with a plastic tote to keep their supplies together and avoid messy desks.

“At the end of the day, they will take their tote and put it in a big cart,” she said. “We can sanitize the inside and outside of their desk really well every single day.

Masks

Some teachers, like Arielle Myers, a preschool speech teacher at Butterfield Canyon Elementary, will use a mask sewn with a clear window. She felt it was necessary for her speech therapy students to still be able to see her mouth.

Masks are required when students are inside but not outdoors. Mountain Point teachers are encouraged to take students on mask breaks—quick trips outside that coincide with their normal “brain breaks.” 

“With first graders and kindergarteners, you kind of need to really watch how they're feeling and what's going on and be intuitive to that,” Bona said. “We might be going outside and taking a little mask break and get some wind in our face, maybe walk around the building or walk out on the playground.”

Teachers will also find opportunities to adapt in class activities to the outdoors.

“We are going to be reading some stories outside and enjoying that fall weather,” Shaylyn Hansen, a second grade teacher said.

Supplies

Hands-on learning is still a part of classroom learning, but shared supplies are not.

Myers has adapted how she will work with small groups of students for speech therapy.

“I plan to provide each child with their own toys and manipulatives instead of sharing them as I have done before, so that they will more easily be able to keep their distance from each other while participating in the speech,” she said.

Teachers have developed creative ways to keep students’ individual supplies contained.

“I have purchased clear VHS cases that they will use to keep their supplies in,” said Amy Vadeboncoeur, kindergarten teacher at Midas Creek Elementary. “They even have a clear sleeve that I can slide their name tag right in.”

Shaylyn Hansen and AnneMarie Taggart, the second grade team at Mountain Point, found that plastic toothbrush holders were a great option to store a weeks’ worth of sharpened pencils for each student instead of using a community jar. Pencils will be resharpened each week and the case will be returned back to the same student.

Their students normally use a lot of tactile manipulatives for math and spelling practice. The plastic, foam and magnetic supplies and manipulatives have been replaced with paper versions and each student will have their own set.

The creative team has also come up with a system to keep their library books sanitary. Once a student finishes reading a book, they will place it “in bed to rest.” No books can be taken out of this special basket because it would “interrupt the book’s sleep.” Once the book has “slept long enough”—a minimum of a 72-hour incubation period—it will be available to read again.