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How are students learning in a virtual setting?

Many parents may ask this question when considering online education for their children. Simply put, students learn by becoming engaged in the content.

Two of my colleagues, who are talented second grade teachers at Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA), Joy Knight and Danyelle Lynch, demonstrate how student engagement comes to life in the online classroom.

Although students may differ in abilities, Joy, who taught for four years in a brick-and-mortar setting before coming to GCA two years ago, claims, “We know that students all have one thing in common – they must be engaged for optimal learning.  Our desire for each class is to grab the students’ attention, make them feel like valued contributors, and enable them to dig deeply into a topic so they can make connections.”

The two teachers recently taught a class on grammatical contractions and wanted to incorporate a “contraction surgery” activity they saw on Pinterest. A contraction surgery involves cutting apart words and bandaging new words (or contractions) together. Joy and Danyelle decided to go ahead with the activity and adjust it for an online class.

Photo: Courtesy Wendy Oleksinski
Joy Knight, First Grade Teacher

Danyelle, a teacher of 18 years, explains, “Joy entered the classroom virtually as “Dr. Knight” — dressed in scrubs and a mask!  The kids were immediately drawn into the lesson and remained engaged throughout, which was exactly what we wanted.”

For Joy and Danyelle, it is not about how many slides they cover in an online class session, instead, students will find lots of conversation and sharing during any one of their classes.

“This (co-teaching method) results in many connections being made that might otherwise be missed,” says Joy.

Joy and Danyelle are giving students a voice through a second grade initiative to improve writing.  They use Padlet, a free application that creates online bulletin boards to display information for any topic. In Joy and Danyelle’s classroom they incorporate the applications for students to share their ideas for ongoing stories. The students and teachers meet together to choose an idea and then they develop those ideas together in consecutive live class sessions.

Photo: Courtesy Wendy Oleksinski
Sample Padlet Lesson

Danyelle explains their co-teaching philosophy in just a few words, “Our students know we want to hear what they have to say.  When we respond to them, we use their names so that they know they are being heard and valued.”

Danyelle and Joy’s first grade students are learning and connecting in ways that make content age-appropriate and meaningful all within the online classroom.

Wendy Oleksinski is an Intervention Specialist at Georgia Cyber Academy and a K12 Teacher Ambassador.

About The Author

Wendy Oleksinski

Wendy Oleksinski is a high school advisor at Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA). Prior to joining GCA in July 2013, Wendy worked as a classroom teacher, private tutor, and staff development instructor for more than 13 years. Wendy graduated from Piedmont College in 2003 with a Master of Arts degree in early childhood education. She has earned numerous awards and accolades in the field of education, including Teacher of the Year for Gwinnett County Public Schools and Teacher Ambassador for K12 Inc.  Wendy currently lives in Suwanee, Georgia, and enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.

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