With schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students of all ages are turning to the internet for online learning and lessons.
But distance learning can be particularly tricky for the youngest students who are just learning how to learn, and for their parents who have had to become more hands-on while trying to teach them at home.
So Fresno teacher David Hunter, with the help of his 13-year-old daughter Amelie, has come up with a website designed specifically for transitional kindergartners.
Hunter, a TK teacher at Ericson Elementary in east-central Fresno, wanted a resource that youngsters, many of whom are not yet reading, could navigate all by themselves.
(Warning to parents: If you thought the original “Baby Sharks” song was annoyingly ubiquitous, brace yourselves to hear a LOT of “Wash your hands, doo doo doo-doo-doo …”
Teachers, Superintendent Read Books on Videos
The Fresno TK website contains activities and read-aloud videos recorded by Hunter, other teachers, and Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson.
The titles include “We Do Not Eat Our Classmates,” “The Incredible Book Eating Boy,” “I Need a Hug” (don’t we all need one these days?) and “If You Give A Moose A Muffin.” The latter book is read by Easterby TK teacher Debra Bernabe while wearing a moose head hat with antlers.
The intent is to provide materials to supplement what schools and districts are already providing or will provide. Fresno Unified’s website, for example, has daily lesson options designed for all grade levels, including preschoolers and transitional kindergartners.
“In TK we do a lot of visual schedules, so we have pictures of what we do at each time of the day,” said Hunter, who earned his early childhood education teaching credential at Fresno State. “So I wanted the front page of the website designed in a way so the kids can see the visual pictures and think, ‘Oh yeah, I go to the triangle to get the read alouds,’ or, ‘I go to the oval to do this.’ It is visually based for them to navigate easily and it isn’t needing a lot of parent help.”
Hunter enlisted the help of his daughter, an eighth-grader at Computech Middle School in southwest Fresno, who learned last year how to build a website using Google Sites. Amelie’s work with the website isn’t over — she’ll be in charge of posting updates and keeping the site fresh.
Resources Are Also En Espagnol
In addition to the English language lessons and videos, the website has a link to a Spanish-language version with read-aloud story videos, translated stories such as “Jack y Los Frijoles Magicos,” and lessons in phonics, numbers, and other topics.
Scott Merrill, a dual immersion TK teacher at Ewing Elementary in east-central Fresno, created that website to provide options for youngsters who are still learning English, or who are English speakers just starting to learn Spanish.
“The website is a good resource for parents to supplement any instructional materials they are receiving from their own schools,” said Merrill, who like Hunter is a Fresno State grad. “But I am also trying to provide content for Spanish learners because our goal is for students to be bilingual and bi-literate. So, they need to have resources where they can continue to develop both languages. I made the Spanish website separate so I can help our culturally and linguistically diverse students continue to become bi-literate.”
The Fresno TK website has caught the eye of other educators in California, and Hunter is now working with TK teachers from Twin Rivers School District and Central Unified School District on similar sites for their districts.