What will this fall look like? This question has more than likely creeped it’s way into the thoughts of teachers around the world. While we DON’T know what this fall will bring, we DO know what kids need. They need to feel comfortable in their classroom, respected and valued–even when they cannot be physically there. Although all teachers would prefer to share the same four walls with their students, it IS possible to build classroom community while distance learning. Below are some tips & tricks to try to keep and establish your classroom family feel should we need to close our schools once again.
Create a Cozy & Friendly (Digital) Environment
Okay, so you are teaching at home, and trying to get to know a new group of students through the screen. Even though you might not get to start the year in your classroom, you can create a classroom environment for the kids to see around you. We are NOT saying to bring home ALL THE THINGS and turn your dining room into classroom 2.0. No! Try these strategies to make your students (and yourself) more comfortable during those first few online meetups.
- Find a quiet and comfortable space to go online. Many of us have little ones and furry ones home with us. Try to find a place away from distractions (if you can). Turn on a lamp. Add some posters from your classroom. Make it feel like you are at school as much as you can.
- Put up a classroom family tree display that students will be able to see during online meetings. There are some really cute display ideas out there!
- Help shy students feel more comfortable by reading to them, or asking them directed questions during the first few meetups. Reading a joke book together off of Epic Reading (screen sharing) has proven to open up communication from your quieter students.
Get to Know Each Other
Even if you cannot be together, you can help the students get to know you, and each other AND build that classroom community during distance learning. Try these “get to know each other through the screens we wish weren’t between us” activities. (You could do this during a 1-on-1 meetup for your quieter students.)
- Have students share 5 objects that tell about themselves. It could be pictures, toys, drawings, etc. This has been a successful first week of school activity for years. It would definitely work digitally too! Click HERE to get a free explanation letter you can email to parents or post on your online platform.
- If you are sending home materials, try our All About Me Lapbook. It is great for work on those essential fine motor skills, and it is a FUN way for students to share about themselves. Click HERE TO check out this resource!
Digital Morning Meetings
Morning meetings are great for several reasons. They help establish classroom routines (so important!), build the classroom community and lay out the day so students know what to expect. During distance learning, morning meetings are still doable! Some teachers scheduled these daily on their online meetup platforms, some did it weekly, some prerecorded them for students to watch when time allowed. Whatever works and is best for you and your students! Here is a sample outline of a distance learning morning meeting.
- Greeting-If you have gallery view, have them select a friend to say hi to. Draw names (popsicle sticks in a cup, etc..) and have students greet one another. They can do a western greeting (best cowboy voice), butterfly wave (create a butterfly with hands), guitar greeting (pretend to play guitar while singing or saying good morning), the list goes on and on!
- Sharing-A weekly sharing routine can help keep your meetups on schedule. Here is an idea: Mondays-Share about their weekend, Tuesdays-Question of the day, Wednesdays-Compliment a Classmate, Thursdays-Would you rather
- Games-On Fridays it is Game Day! Some games you can play through distance learning: would you rather questions, I spy, scavenger hunt, or Pictionary.
- Schedule Share-Teacher shares all work expectations, special events, etc for the day.
Social Emotional Learning
Incorporating social emotional learning (SEL skills) into the classroom is top of this list! Distance learning is difficult for many reasons, however the biggest difficulty is not being able to be together as a class. Students today are living through the biggest educational change in history! We need to not only take care of their academic needs, but their social and emotional needs as well. SEL skills have been a big topic in education for the last few years. Because of this, many resources already exist to help teachers nurture these skills in their students. Check out our previous posts on Social Emotional learning HERE.
At Lucky Little Learners we have created a group where teachers can collaborate, and have access to 12 months of Social Emotional lesson plans! Check us out at Encouraging Classroom. These activities can be used to build classroom community during distance learning as well as in a traditional classroom setting!
Teachers, we know you are worried what the fall holds. Hopefully the tips in this post will not need to be utilized. Just know there are ways to create a classroom community during these strange times. We know you are scared for the well being of your students. Please know we are here, we are better together, and there is ALWAYS a way to be impactful to students.