Mercer student teachers keep children engaged through virtual lessons

Sprindale Students

With many colleges and K-12 schools moving to online instruction, teachers have had to get creative with their lessons and the way they connect with students.

Three seniors in Mercer’s Tift College of Education are student teaching at Springdale Elementary in Macon. Kasey Thom, Hannah Winslett and Katelyn West have been holding virtual lessons and activities with their students. 

A March 20 post on Springdale’s Facebook page said: “Today’s shout-out goes to three of Springdale’s fabulous Mercer University student teachers! They connected with their classes with messages of celebration, directed drawing classes and story time. Thank you, Kasey Thom, Hannah Winslett and Katelyn West for loving our babies as your own!”

Mercer student Kasey Thom is pictured during virtual “Spirit Day” at Springdale Elementary, where she is student teaching. Springdale encouraged students, teachers, parents, faculty and staff to post selfies wearing school spirit apparel on the school’s Facebook page.

Springdale uses an online platform called ClassDojo to communicate with parents and students. Teachers can send individual messages to parents and post to their class “Story” feed, and parents can “like” posts and leave comments, said Thom, who teaches first grade.

“This feature has been awesome now that we are trying to teach our students remotely and engage the class in what we are doing,” she said.

Winslett, who teaches kindergarten, said her teaching team has been posting both informational and fun activities on ClassDojo for students to complete. For example, she posted a video of a follow-along drawing activity, and parents shared their children’s artwork. They also did a vocabulary activity related to books students had read.

Hannah Winslet

Mercer student Hannah Winslett shows off a drawing during a virtual follow-along art activity.

“These connections and activities are so important because, while my students are so bright and smart, without practice, they will not continue to grow academically,” Winslett said. “These activities that I have provided give them the opportunity to use skills that they would be using in the classroom on a normal day and apply them at home with their parents. These activities bring the classroom home to them.”

West, who is teaching kindergarten, said she has been recording videos of herself reading stories. This week, the students are doing an author study of Eric Carle, so she has read a variety of his books to them.

“Videoing myself reading books aloud helps my students want to engage in their learning, and it allows me a chance to remind them that I miss them and that I truly care about them,” West said. “I hope to bring some sort of joy in a time where they may feel uncertain, anxious or afraid.”

Mercer student Katelyn West reads an Eric Carle book to her students online.

Springdale hosted a virtual “Spirit Day” earlier this week and encouraged students, teachers, parents, faculty and staff to post selfies wearing school spirit apparel on the school’s Facebook page, Thom said. She and her host teacher have also been doing FaceTime check-ins with their students. 

“We are trying to connect with as many students as possible to ensure they are still feeling loved and connected,” she said. 

West said this experience teaching remotely has encouraged her to build stronger relationships with her students and treasure the time she gets with them. She’ll also be prepared and confident if she ever needs to teach virtually in the future.


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