Remote Learning at The French American Academy
The French American Academy has crafted a remote learning program that provides an appropriate balance between screen-based and off-line activities. We have efficient pedagogical tools online that allow us to offer instruction, differentiation and feedback for our students to progress in their academic skills. Each time an educational technology tool is offered as a required or optional activity, school’s expert teachers choose it with a specific instructional purpose in mind. We focus on the quality and quantity of screen time your child engages in.
On March 13 the French American Academy decided to close the school in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we faced one of the biggest challenge the school has ever had to deal with : continue our mission to deliver the best education in a bilingual fashion. This pandemic has changed the way people live and work. Likewise, for us, in just a few days, we had to reinvent our school. On March 16, we had one day of training with the team and we launched remote learning on March 17. In a matter of days, we transformed our educational approach into an online distant model.
Turning challenges into opportunities
Weeks later, we have moved from an emergency program into a more thoughtful, intentional distance learning. We have delivered not just academic learning but also student support. We have learned a lot. COVID-19 has pushed us even closer to our mission and values: Bilingualism and excellence in a nurturing environment.
We found opportunities to transform. It is a crisis but also a moment of reimagination. Today, we don’t know how next year will look like, however, should we go back to remote learning , we are fully ready. Moreover, either online or in-person, we will integrate educational technology in our core curriculum as a tool to provide continuity of learning.
We’ve learned how to turn Remote Learning into an opportunity with many benefits. For example :
- Ability to focus without in-class distraction
- Learn in an informal environment
- Getting technology savvy
- Self-confidence improvement for shy kids
- Attend school even when it is snowing – no more snow days!
- Ability to learn at your own pace
Remote Learning in practice
Remote learning is not an online class. Our focus is on continuing instruction. Remote instruction happens in partnership with families and in good faith that everyone is doing their best in a complex, evolving situation.
To conduct an effective remote learning program, the faculty is implementing a blended approach. Teaching from home doesn’t mean replicating students’ in-class experience and just using digital platforms where teachers and students are online together at the same time.
Blended approach includes a combination of live sessions (synchronous participation), self-paced engagement (asynchronous participation, and offline work (e.g., pleasure reading, discussions with a family member or friend remotely, journal writing, photography, and/or video production, fun challenges, etc.)
The combination of those activities tackles three most important students needs :
- Structure. Students follow the same routine everyday which creates a sense of security, essential for learning.
- Connectedness. A daily connection with their teachers and peers allow the student to feel connected and engaged.
- Stimulation. it’s important to create opportunities for fun. A happy child is ready to learn. Incorporating outdoor activities and non-screen play in the daily schedule is crucial.
The strength of the community
Teaching and learning remotely is simply not possible without a committed community. Never before has our triangle of cooperation been put to the test so much. After 3 months of virtual education, we are now able to say that parents, teachers, students and staff have all risen to the challenge.
- Students = by consistently staying positive, focused and thorough in their learning process
- Teachers = by adapting in an extraordinary swift manner to distance learning, setting up learning plans, using technology, being supportive while staying academically demanding
- Parents = Working parents and non working parents, deserve a ton of credit. In younger grades, parents have been instrumental to remote learning success. They have actually morphed into a co-educator actually doing the class with the teachers. They have been key to help young students stay engaged and learn the curriculum. The school would never have succeeded online without them.
- Administration staff = by supporting the full community in every way possible. For example, the school provided free ipads and computers to students who needed them so that no child was left behind.
Communication is essential
With such a challenge, communication is key. The school put in place lots of efforts to ensure the flow of information was circulating smoothly between all community members :
- Zoom meetings regularly scheduled with parents and administration to monitor and refine learning tactics
- Surveys send to parents in order for the school to have a better understanding of priorities and concerns
- Use of different online platforms to make sure homeworks, videos, teaching materials were available to students and parents
Technology serving education : online tools
We use various educational technology tools to facilitate learning while students are at home. Each tool matches a specific need and has been carefully curated by teachers. In addition, technology allows us to tackle Remote Learning in two ways :
- Synchronous education which is online education that happens in real time
- Asynchronous education which occurs through online channels without real-time interaction. For example, when a student connects to Padlet to review, at his own pace, a video teaching how to count.
Before we dig into each digital tool we’re using, you may be wondering if all this online learning isn’t too much screen time for your child. So here is the school position on it :
Not all screen time is equal
It is important to remember that not all “screen time” have the same value. In a perfect world, we want to protect our students from too much screen time, especially the young ones. But when schools are closed, there is little options left for parents but to put their kids in front of a screen to watch videos or play games. In that context, it is far more helpful and beneficial for children to be in front of an online learning program, And if it is live, with teachers and classmates, it is even better!
When we started our remote learning program, we were eager to protect the children and implemented limited instruction online. As an unexpected result, we found that kids were spending their free time in front of movies or cartoons or the web. However,
a recent research has shown that Increased hours of video games and television can negatively impact academic achievement.
Therefore, in order to help our working parents doing their jobs while their kids learn and to promote the quality of time spent on devices rather than the quantity, the French American Academy is actually increasing the duration of remote learning sessions. Educational technology has been proven as an enhancement to learning. The tools we are employing and their pedagogical purpose can help your child.
To learn more about what screens do to our child, visit this blog post (in french)
ZOOM or GOOGLE MEET FOR LIVE SESSIONS (Small or Large Groups)
To maintain the link between the students and their teachers as well as their peers, a daily connection is mandatory. Zoom or Google Meet gives students the opportunity to participate in live sessions with their teacher and classmates for
- Community building
- Small and large group direct instruction in all subjects
- Discussion, oral language practice, overview of daily activities
- Office hours for answering questions.
The French American Academy teachers are using Zoom or Meet for instruction and are balancing live sessions with other asynchronous learning modalities depending on the age and needs of the students. The French American Academy uses the latest versions of Zoom and Meet, with full security add ons such as passwords and encrypted meetings. Synchronous instruction is absolutely critical to our bilingual program. Zoom or Meet are not perfect, but we have taken all available measures to make it a safe space for students and teachers.
Zoom can even be utilized for dancing! Check this little choreography from our 7th graders.
Google Classroom serves as our students portal for grades 2-8. With this tool, already in use at the French American Academy, teachers provide assignments, students submit work and receive feedback. Both French & American Teachers post their schedule so that students and parents can easily find the information.
Google Classroom’s purpose is to facilitate paperless communication between teachers and students and streamline educational workflow.
SEESAW OR GOOGLE APPS
Whether we are using a Google site for the classroom or Seesaw, we want to make sure that parents can access the information, the schedule and the directions from both French and American teachers but also from the other teachers (Art, Music, Physical Education).
From one place you can find all information.
SeeSaw is a digital portfolio that we are currently using as our main distance learning platform in Pre-K and Kindergarten. SeeSaw allows rich, interactive asynchronous learning where teachers post assigned activities and students use a variety of tools (audio, video, photos of paper/pencil work, drawing tools, etc.) to demonstrate their learning.
Each student can watch his teachers’ lessons at his own pace, when he wants. Families have flexibility to complete assignments based on their household schedule. Teachers can give feedback by editing assignments or leaving comments in text form or audio form. The variety of audio and video tools allow us to continue to develop oral language skills in French.
Google Apps (google doc, sheets, forms, slides…) are used in upper grades and can serve both parents and students. It’s the ONE place to find all academic information.
The French American Academy faculty has access to numerous online resources to use in the classrooms, whether in person or during remote learning. Some resources serve for instruction, differentiation or engagement.
Here are some examples of websites we are using:
IXL is a website that we use to provide differentiation and personalized guidance. Middle School students have a unique login and password for IXL. This mathematics website is aligned with the American Common Core standards. IXL uses insights and analytics from student work to generate personalized guidance for each learner. These personalized action plans seamlessly link students to the skills that will help them build on their knowledge and remediate gaps in understanding. Students also practice math fluency which is adapted to their own level based on previous performance. Students are encouraged to complete 20 minutes of practice every day.
Zearn can be used also at times because Zearn uses a concrete-pictorial-abstract philosophy and incorporates mathematical models such as number bonds and bar models. Students learn concepts through interactive videos where they must respond to the teacher. Students use math manipulatives to explore conceptual knowledge with different strategies. Research shows that math manipulatives online (such as the place value discs on Zearn) are just as powerful as real-object manipulatives and activate the same part of a child’s brain.
Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom.
RAZ is an application where students have access to leveled books in French and English (and other languages!). First through fifth grade students have a unique login and password for their account. Teachers can assign students books or children can browse a library of books at their level. Teachers use assessment data to determine which levels each student has access to.
Students can read fiction and non-fiction books and take quizzes on those books to assess comprehension. They can also record themselves reading books that their teacher can listen to at a later time which gives valuable opportunities for assessment. The various levels of books in both languages allows for differentiation. Although you may have many real books at home (and those are always wonderful!), RAZ ensures that your child has access to books in both languages at their independent reading level.
The volume of reading at the appropriate “just right” level is one of the greatest factors in reading achievement. In English, students can also click on a difficult word to hear it read correctly or see its definition and listen to books in English. If you would like to ensure that your child is reading a book at their level or make regular recordings of their individual reading for their teacher, we encourage you to utilize the RAZ Kids resource. If you would like your child to access books in Spanish on RAZ, please ask your classroom teacher to adjust the settings.
Another source for digital books that we introduced to many elementary students a few months ago. There are 35,000 books in English and also some in French. You can search for books at a certain guided reading level (use your RAZ account to know your level) and also search for books by topic. The nonfiction collection is amazing and you can search for almost any topic of interest and find high-quality books with beautiful images.
Epic provides wonderful variety to supplement the books you have at home and nurture your child’s curiosity. Books that have a green band that says “Read To Me” are ones that students can listen to. Teachers also assign books and collections to students on Epic that are aligned with content they are teaching. To login, students use the class code given by their teacher and click on their name.
In addition, teachers are also offering optional online sites that can enhance distance learning such as Lalilo, Ma Classe à la Maison, and Classe Numérique (tools in French) and Starfall, ABCMouse (in English).
Teachers have vetted any resource that is shared to ensure a utility and benefit for your child.
If you have questions about which education technology tools are best suited for your child’s needs, please contact your child’s teacher or the Division Director.
These are challenging times. As a result, it puts our resilience to the test. So the French American Academy took actions to place physical, social and emotional health of its community on top of its priorities.
Every month, we provide an opportunity for conversation through zoom meetings. During one of these meetings, Laurianne Neidecker, psychologist, met with all members of the community, students, parents and teachers to bring ideas and tools to alleviate stress and anxiety. Learn more about her family toolbox.
In addition to psychological well-being, we are putting in place a medical task force to monitor the State requirements regarding physical safety and social distancing :
Anna Jankowska is an anesthesiologist board certified in Anesthesiology, Pediatric Anesthesiology and Advanced Perioperative Echocardiography. Her main area of concentration is in caring for children with congenital heart disease. She is also a director of a fellowship that trains pediatric anesthesiologists. She has been in practice for 10 years since and has been working at NYU School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital.
Aime Dahan is a physician boarded in Family Medicine. He has been working as a family physician and ER physician for the last 25 years. He works at Bellevue Hospital as faculty for NYU Medical school as well as work at Manhattan VA Hospital and City MD Urgent Care. Lastly, he has an MSc in Microbiology and my BSc in immunology.
Bradley Gray is a Phd Health Economist with a background in Public Health (was a professor at Tulane’s and UIC’s school of public health, and has been the lead author in articles published in JAMA, JAMA IM, American Journal of Public Health, Health Affairs…., his dissertation was on the health of the family). He works at the American Board of Internal Medicine and has connections with people with a background in infectious disease most notably Dr. Denese Koo (internist and former director at the CDC) and Dr. Richard Baren (Head of the American Board of Internal Medicine).