Mater Christi School was one of the first schools in Vermont to transition to remote learning; the school rolled out a complete remote learning platform on March 17, 2020. Internally, school faculty and administration had already been preparing for the possibility. While Mater Christi School anticipates returning to in-person instruction in the fall of 2020, we wanted to share our philosophy and approach to remote learning.
Head of School Tim Loescher led the development of a pedagogical approach tailored to each developmental and grade level. It was established collaboratively to ensure the best learning environment possible at each grade level. “This, we knew, would require a clear approach, a daily structure, a balance of flexibility and accountability, and ever-present attention to the whole child,” Loescher says.
At each grade level, Mater Christi faculty sought the “sweet spot” of instruction and learning in order to maintain an age-appropriate balance between online/screen-related activities, and off-line tasks, activities, and projects. The sweet spot seeks to maintain high expectations, an appropriate level of personal responsibility, and ongoing learning, problem-solving, critical thinking, along with interaction and classroom participation
Individual and small group meetings for academic and social support/needs were also part of the weekly regimen along with the arts, engineering, and physical activity/education. Enrichment and extension activities were provided for advanced learners; individualized and personal support from the Support Staff was also available. “Communication between administration and community, and between teachers, students, and parents/guardians, is critical and consistent,” Loescher adds.
Remote Learning by Grade Level
Early Childhood (Preschool and Prekindergarten)
In early childhood classes, the remote learning program is tailored to the youngest students with modifications for individual students when requested by parents. Each morning starts with daily lessons and activities emailed to parents. These may include worksheets, recorded read-alouds, and art, science, and outdoor activities for the week. Students are invited to join Face-Time calls, an organized “lunch bunch” once a week, and have scheduled individual time with the teachers.
Parents are invited to share videos and photos of activities, can interact in a class Facebook group, and receive a Friday Check-in email to update them on the week’s progress. The amount of screen time for each student is determined by the parents.
Elementary (Kindergarten, Grades 1 – 3)
Each of these elementary grade classes begin with a daily message, sent either in the morning or the night before, which provide a plan and structure for the student and the parent. A daily plan generally consists of the morning greeting, Mercy Pledge, calendar items, and assignments in Math, Reading, Writing, Spelling, Science. In addition, plans may include embedded links to custom teaching videos prepared by the teachers. Elementary students also are provided optional assignments in online platforms like EPIC, Spelling City, IXL, BRAINPOP, MysteryScience.
Teachers organize weekly Google Meets with the class, for academics or for social interaction. Most students have an individualized weekly Google Meet with the teacher. Additional meetings can be arranged by parents. In addition, remote support services are available if a child needs additional attention. Teachers provide feedback on any work submitted to them by parents and online learning platforms provide reports that track each student’s progress. Each grade level class offers 20-30 minutes of organized screen time per day, and many students choose to extend their screen time with the available online platforms. In addition, classes gather in Google Meets one to three times per week for lunch or social purposes, on an optional basis.
Intermediate (Grades 4 – 5)
Intermediate students work with a schedule that mirrors a regular classroom schedule.
There are daily Math and Language assignments. Science, Social Studies, Literature, and Religion are scheduled for three days a week. Overall, the curriculum reflects the standard grade level standards and content taught in the classroom. In addition, students may use online learning platforms including MyMath and SplashMath.
The duration of ZOOM classes vary depending on content and student participation/need and range from 10 to 30 minutes. The classes usually include opportunity for instruction, modeling/sharing of information and examples, along with student questions and/or practice.
Students have weekly individualized ZOOM meetings with teachers. Students submit their work by taking pictures and sending them to teachers via email or complete work using shared Google Docs, Google Forms, and other online applications. Students are given the opportunity to revisit work in order to demonstrate full understanding and grades were adjusted accordingly. Fourth or fifth graders who are struggling to clearly understand directions or show diminished effort are contacted by the teacher. In those instances, when students are unclear about content or expectations, teachers arrange individual, small group, and whole class meetings for review/remediation purposes. In addition, each grade gathers remotely once or twice a week for social purposes.
Middle School (Grades 6 – 8)
Remote Learning in the middle school follows a two-day (white/blue day) rotating schedule in which there are four 45-minute classes each morning. Students begin each day with a homeroom message video posted on our Middle School Team Google Classroom page. Classes consist of a Google Meet video conference where live lessons are presented. Occasionally, prerecorded instructional videos are posted. In addition, independent work time on teacher-prepared activities is included, with teachers available on an optional Meet or in a shared document for individualized instruction. Breaks are provided between each class to allow time for students to relax and to offer transition time. Grading is based on participation, work completion, and tests/quizzes which demonstrate mastery of content learned.
Each afternoon allows for call-back sessions when students can opt to meet with teachers individually or in small groups for additional support with class assignments. Opportunities for social interaction are provided during weekly homeroom sessions during which teachers connect with students on many levels: to disseminate information, assist with any challenges, clarify expectations, and answer questions as needed.
Every middle school is provided a Chromebook and charger along with books and teaching materials. Teachers and students work together and can make adjustments regarding navigating video conferencing, workflow, and workload.
Students elect or are assigned one of the following specials per trimester: art, music and makerspace. Physical education is provided for all students throughout the entire school year.
Mater Christi has a vibrant virtual Art Studio program which offers weekly instruction which is creative, fun, integrated, and hands on. When possible, it is integrated into and coordinated with grade instruction All lessons are introduced by the art teacher via iMovie videos that the students may view when they are ready to be creative. Students submit their work via email or on Google Classroom. In addition, the teacher provides feedback to images showing student work and can comment and suggest additional areas of work in a positive and affirmative way. The art teacher also regularly joins Google classrooms “lunch bunches” and social meets.
Music and Makerspace
Music and Makerspace descriptions for this website are forthcoming. Both courses are vibrant, teacher-directed and supported, and designed to provide creative, educational and developmentally appropriate instruction and activity for our students at every grade level.
Physical education is developing a curriculum to supplement the 3 times weekly assignments for intermediate and middle school students that consist of skill work (juggling balls, handstands) to workouts (calisthenics) to written work (food logs, activity logs, fitness plans). For the elementary students, lesson plans are shared once a week with activities incorporating movement and skill work. Communication is provided through email with students and families, as well as through Google Classroom.