For those teachers going back into the classroom to teach this fall, we know that it feels kind of like trying to navigate a minefield. You already have so much on your plate at the beginning of the year; and now in this unprecedented time, you are being asked to extend yourselves even more!
We would like to share 10 ideas to help you get your school year started as smoothly as possible in the socially distanced classroom. So, take a deep breath and read on.
1. Make Expectations Visual
It’s so important for students to clearly know what the expectations are for them as they return to school. Creating a sign together helps clearly communicate what they can and can not do. You might even draw diagrams to show what it looks like to stay in their personal space during class or at lunch time. Some expectations you might write are:
Keep hands and feet to yourselves
Wash your hands for 20 seconds before lunch and after recess
Wash your hands for 20 seconds after you use the bathroom
Use only your own supplies
Sneeze and cough into your elbow
Eat your own food only
2. Teach Students How to Wash Their Hands
Don’t assume that your students know how to wash their hands the correct way. Make sure to clearly demonstrate what they should be doing every time they go to wash their hands. This includes emphasizing that they wash for at least 20 seconds. They can sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “Mary Had a Lamb”. You can even go to https://washyourlyrics.com/
to create a poster for the classroom with song lyrics. Here are a couple of videos that you can use to show students how to wash:
For Younger Kids
For Older Kids
3. Create Sanitizing Stations
If you don’t have a sink in your classroom, students should know where they can go if they need to get sanitizer fast. Make a couple of stations with hand sanitizer, tissues, wipes, paper towels, etc. and encourage the frequent use of them throughout the day. It’s also a good idea to further sanitize the room by having students wipe their desks at the end of each day.
4. Redesign Flexible Seating
It may seem that the idea of flexible seating in the classroom went out the window when Covid-19 arrived however there are still ways to make it work. Obviously anything that can’t be cleaned or sanitized regularly is out, but you can still give students options for where they will work. You might use a system where they are in the same spot for a week. Each spot is then sanitized at the end of the week and they can choose a different spot for the following week.
5. Allow Students to Have Ownership of Their Space
If your students will be sitting at the same desk everyday, help them to get excited about their personal space. Try calling it their “office” or “workstation”. Give them an opportunity to decorate it and make it their own. They can create signs, bring in pictures from home, make name tents or decorate with painters tape or fun washi tape.
6. Get Students Moving
With so many restrictions, the temptation is for educators to have students at their seats on the computer all day long to keep them safe. However, that is a recipe for a very boring school day, and unhappy students make an unhappy teacher. Find ways to get students out of their seats, even if they are spread apart. They can stand up if they think they know the answer to a question, or you can create fun hand signals with chants for them to do. Another way to get students moving is by taking lots of brain breaks. If you don’t already use the website GoNoodle with your students you should! There are a ton of fun interactive videos that you can do together.
7. Get Creative with Instructional Activities
Even for the veteran teacher, getting students to learn material will look very different at the start of this year. In order to limit the number of students in a space at one time, you might need to split the class in half or into small groups and stagger assignments. Have each group of students do a different station each day or assign a few students to various activities. It’s also important to still have student to student interaction Allow partners or group members to write down responses on whiteboards and hold them up for each other to see. Students can record videos using websites, such as Flipgrid and their classmates can respond. If you’re looking for guided Flipgrid activities for the start of the year, check out our Beginning of the Year Flipgrid Surveys. Also, be on the lookout for areas with more space where students can spread out. Use the hallway or teach outside when the weather is nice.
8. Make Use of Video Conferencing Tools
There will most likely be few to no adults visiting your classroom in the fall, but that doesn’t mean that guests are out! In fact, you might be able to arrange for even more of a variety of guests to “visit” your classroom through Zoom or Google Meet. Allow parents to sign up to be a mystery reader. Try and connect with a classroom in another part of the world or an expert in a certain field. Students will love getting to see different faces and hear about others’ experiences.
9. Rethink Classroom Jobs
The days of classroom jobs as usual are gone for now. You might not be able to do paper passers and pencil sharpeners, however jobs such as line leader, caboose, and attendance helper can still work. Think outside the box to come up with other classroom jobs, such as human timer, noise monitor, or chant leader. Get input from your students! There are still ways for them to have an active role in their classroom community.
10. Create Individual Supply Bags
You can cut down on germs by having students use separate supplies. Create bags ahead of time and label them with the students’ names. You can even separate out math manipulatives. Make sure to label clipboards, whiteboards, and give students their own dry erase markers to use. You can cut up felt or hot glue pom poms to the marker caps to create individual erasers.
You’ll find this tip and many more in this free back to school e-book!
We hope you found some of these tips useful. Have a great school year!