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Classrooms during COVID

Meghan Carey, physical education teacher, PS 160, Jamaica, Queens

New York Teacher

Physical education is a critical part of every child’s development, not just physically but because children learn so much while playing. My challenge now is to keep the 250 hybrid learners on site at PS 160 and the 350 learning remotely physically active and learning.

My co-teacher Joseph Macchia and I each teach five on-site classes of about nine students in two alternating groups each day and have prepared Google Slide lessons for our remote students.

The cafeteria is the only inside space big enough to contain our in-person class safely distanced. We keep the windows in the cafeteria wide open and the floor is disinfected daily and marked for safe distancing and yoga mats.

We’ve had to reimagine all the activities we once did with our students. One of the activities I do with younger children is throw multicolored nylon scarves into the air that they have to track with their eyes as part of what we call “physical literacy” as they prepare to catch them. For older students we use spinning plates on sticks to strengthen balance and coordination.

When the weather is good, we use our school’s small track area and basketball court because the playground’s swings and climbing apparatus can’t be kept disinfected. Students play tag using pool noodles to tag, or toss beanbags into Hula-Hoops spread on the ground in a contest testing distance and accuracy.

Keeping the equipment we use disinfected is a challenge. After each class, balls must be wiped down with disinfectant rags. The pool noodles have to be wiped clean. I go home with hands cracked and bleeding from the disinfectants and from washing my hands all the time. I bring the throw scarves home and put them in the washing machine at high heat.

For remote learners, lessons are based on age and each spells out a learning objective and a warmup activity, a “minute-to-win-it challenge,” such as tossing rolled-up socks underhand into a hat or a laundry basket, taking a side step and seeing how many times you can repeat the action in a minute. We sometimes ask students to record themselves answering questions based on the lesson or we ask if they can demonstrate the lesson’s skill. Some love recording themselves for the class, and others are shyer and only share with us.

Since the virus upended our usual physical education classes, I have joined the chat group that physical education teachers created where we bounce ideas off one another and try to keep from burning the candle at both ends.

as told to reporter Dorothy Callaci

Xue Qing Liang, chemistry teacher

Classrooms during COVID

To make the school year feel successful, educators are revising lesson plans, troubleshooting technology and investigating new strategies. Day by day, they’re figuring out what works for their students — and themselves. Read their stories.