As the weeks pass in our new normal, many of us are worried about making meaningful connections with students from a distance. We are in this field because we want to make an impact on our students. We want to connect with them, show them they are believed in, and to facilitate social-emotional learning opportunities. How do we accomplish all of this from our homes? It is definitely more of a challenge when we are not seeing our students’ faces in person, but is it not impossible. Check out a few ways to forge connections in a digital environment.
Say hello to your students individually
It means so much to see a note or video, or to hear a message from a teacher that is communicating directly to the individual student. To hear your name and know that your teacher is thinking about YOU means so much to kids. There are many ways to reach out and say hi to students, from virtual meetings to phone calls and old fashioned snail mail. Any time a student hears or sees their name and feels that connection, they feel affirmed. Simple communication can make a huge difference, so consider what works best given your specific circumstances, and those of your students. For a great reminder on how impactful student greetings are towards student engagement and positive behaviors, check out this study: Positive Greetings at the Door: Evaluation of a Low-Cost, High-Yield Proactive Classroom Management Strategy.
Host a virtual talent show
This can take a little time and effort for students and teachers, but it’s worth it. This show can provide an opportunity to showcase their talents, help them connect to each other, and remember how great their classmates are. A great way to facilitate this is to offer some guidelines to students. Make sure the content in their video is under 2 minutes, and offer examples of what they can show off, (jokes, magic tricks, sports skills, musical instruments, etc.). Video clips can be shown on a shared virtual screen during a live meeting or combined into a full-length video for students to watch on their own time.
Assign group projects
Now that we are getting the hang of teaching remotely, up your game a bit by offering opportunities for students to do group projects. There are so many benefits to this concept, from social-emotional learning opportunities to offering students the ability to collaborate and simply have fun with learning. Tools like Google Meet and FlipGrid are great for group project facilitation. Guess who will also be excited about this… Your students’ parents! Give them the opportunity to sit back on the next project and let their kids work with a team of peers to accomplish their work.
Who doesn’t love a good competition? Bring a little fun into your digital classrooms by utilizing games like Kahoot and GimKit. These games are appropriate across multiple grade levels. It’s also ok to play some oldies but goodies, such as a scavenger hunt, bingo or I spy over Zoom for the younger kids. Bringing a little friendly competition can, again, remind your students of how fun their classmates (and teachers!) are. Plus, it’s a way to jazz up a virtual meeting when you are struggling to get kids to talk.
Don’t underestimate the power of a read-aloud
Students across all grades will benefit from and enjoy a good old read-aloud. This is often best received as a recorded video or audio of the teacher reading a chapter of a book or an article for students to independently listen to. From there, so many learning opportunities can stem, from practicing recall, learning new vocabulary, and extending to higher-order thinking skills. Beyond all of that, this is an opportunity to foster that connection between student and teacher that is incredibly impactful.
What other ideas do you have to share? We’d love to hear from you. Reach out to Tara at Tara@leaderally.com.