Are you going to be teaching virtually this year? Distance learning presents many new challenges for teachers and parents alike, but perhaps the most difficult part is getting to know your students so that you can make connections with them when you’re not even in the same room!
We all know how important it is to connect with your students and YES: this is still possible to do virtually! We’ve collected some great ideas that you can use TODAY to help you at the beginning of the school year.
1. Create a Virtual Classroom
Virtual classrooms are all the rage right now, and they’re so fun to create! There are tons of youtube videos that will guide you through the process of creating your own. Decorate it with your favorite colors, posters and furniture. The best part is, you can add hyperlinks to objects that will lead students to websites or videos they need to use. Sound too complicated or don’t have time to make your own? Check out tip #2 for a premade one!
2. Virtual Meet the Teacher Open House
One of the most exciting nights of the year is Meet the Teacher/Open House night! The students are excited to see their classroom for the first time, and you’re excited to see all those adorable smiles that will fill your classroom all year long. If you’re teaching virtually, you can still preserve some of that excitement by holding a virtual Meet the Teacher Open House. We’ve created one and it’s already formatted for you, all you have to do is add your pictures, videos and text. Students will love to see pictures from your life and parents will get all the information they need for a successful school year. Click here to grab yours!
3. Put a Finger down if… Get to Know You Game
This is a super simple game that you can play with all of your students as an ice breaker, or just to get to know your students a little more. This game would be perfect for a video conference meeting like Zoom or Google Meet. Here’s how to play:
Have your students hold up all 10 fingers so that everyone can see them in their screen.
The teacher will say a statement. If it is true for them, they will put a finger down. If it’s not true for them, their finger stays up.
Students would be out if all of their fingers were put down.
“Put a finger down if you’ve ever forgotten to turn in your homework.”
“…..if you’ve ever forgotten your lunch at home.”
“…..if you’ve ever arrived to school late.”
“…..if you’ve ever missed school to go on vacation.”
“…..if your favorite special class is gym.”
“…..if you’ve ever walked into the wrong classroom on accident.”
“…..if you’ve ever gone to the nurse at school.”
“…..if math is your favorite subject to learn.”
“…..if you’ve accidentally called your teacher ‘MOM’.”
“…..if you think this will be the best school year ever!”
The questions are really endless! We love this game because it helps students see that they have commonalities with other classmates and they just love it!
4. Virtual Show and Tell
Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned Show and Tell? Let’s face it, kids love to talk about themselves, their families and show off something that’s important to them. There are several variations of this idea that you can use: show a special toy and explain when you got it, show us a picture that makes you think of a special memory, show your pet/sibling/family member and tell us something about them that makes them special to you.
Ok, if you’re teaching virtually this year and you don’t know about Flipgrid...stop reading this right now and sign yourself up for a free account (then come back to read how we use it with our students!) Flipgrid is a free video recording platform with endless possibilities. Students can record a video based upon a question posed by the teacher, a video or any type of assignment that requires a response.
We use Flipgrid, with these surveys, at the beginning of the year to get to know our students personally. We love that other students are able to watch other classmates’ videos and record a video response back.
This would be a great way to have students interview a classmate by recording videos back and forth to answer the questions. We use the surveys mainly as a brainstorming sheet, so that the students know what they want to say when they go to record the video. We’ve found our ELL students do phenomenally well with using Flipgrid and are more comfortable speaking in English in a video then they were in class.
If you’re new to Flipgrid, and would like to try out our FREE FLIPGRID SURVEY Sample, please click below!
6. Me Behind My Mask: A Self Portrait
If you’re looking for a fun art activity to do with your students, check out Cassie Stephen’s adorable self-portrait idea! Every year we have our students draw a self portrait at the beginning of the year that we hang up in our classroom as a year long decoration. Since our students won’t be with us in a classroom this year, we wanted to continue using the self portrait idea. Cassie has a guided drawing video to walk students step by step through the process. We love the addition of the mask too!
After your students draw their self-portrait, you can have them post a picture of it on Padlet. Padlet is another great free resource where students can post images or videos and other students can comment on their post. Think of it as a virtual bulletin board! After your students post their self-portrait picture, other students could guess who they think the portrait is in the comments.
8. Don’t Forget Classmate Connections
One of the hardest parts of virtually teaching is to provide our students with opportunities to connect with each other. There’s no recess for them to play together or lunch to eat and share giggles across the table. Sometimes it’s so easy to focus on the academics and try to control the chaos of video class meetings by having everyone on mute, but it’s equally important to provide them with opportunities to talk, laugh and have fun together. A simple virtual lunch bunch group meeting allows students the opportunity to just chat and have fun together while they eat lunch.
Even though you won’t get to share the hugs and high fives as usual, it’s so important to let kids know that even virtually, they are a special part of your classroom community. These activities can still give kids an opportunity to let their personalities shine through. Good luck with your school year!