By Danielle Schultz
Many schools have turned to remote learning due to COVID-19. The following list provides ideas for how you can foster connections with students, whether you are currently at home due to remote learning or just looking for additional ways to connect with students outside of the physical classroom.
Create a Digital Newsletter
Creating a digital newsletter can help students have a landing spot for information and resources. A great site to create dynamic digital newsletters is Smore. With Smore, users can easily share pictures, videos, and links. Smore even has a COVID-19 Template Center, with templates for sharing lesson plans, teacher updates, principal updates, and other school communications. Smores can be sent via email, shareable links, and social media, and they can even be printed.
Smore has a free account option that allows you to create three digital newsletters, or you can upgrade to an educator account for a fee. Our school recently purchased an educator account so we could send out monthly newsletters related to our Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) themes. View examples of our monthly PBIS newsletters here.
Record Videos for Students
When students do not have the opportunity to see educators in person, having access to videos from educators can go a long way. You can use your smartphone or computer to record videos for students. Ideas for how educators can use videos include:
- Creating a video greeting to start the day, week, or beginning of remote learning
- Using videos to explain instructions for assignments
- Asking teachers to hold up a sign with a message or say a simple message for students and then compiling all the messages into one video
- Recording videos with a question for students and having them create video responses
Host a Daily Challenge
Giving students an optional daily challenge or task can give them something to look forward to each day. Making the challenge or task optional can help students want to participate instead of feeling like it is something they are required to do. During a difficult time, such as being quarantined due to COVID-19, a self-care challenge could be a good option for students (and educators). The California School Counselor Association is currently doing a 30 Day Self-Care Challenge with tasks that can be completed by students and educators. Below are some examples of tasks included in the challenge:
- Listen to your favorite song
- Exercise with a YouTube video
- Send a letter or postcard
- Call someone to say hello
- Wear your favorite outfit
When hosting a challenge, create a place where students can share pictures or examples of how they participated or come up with a hashtag students can use to post on social media.
Another way to connect could be to host virtual spirit days or a virtual spirit week. Examples of spirit days could include:
- Pajama Day—wear your favorite pajamas
- Crazy Hair Day—style hair in a crazy way
- Color Day—wear a color to support a specific cause, wear school colors, or just wear a specific color
- Hat Day—wear a hat
- School Spirit Day—wear school colors or apparel with the school logo
Schedule Virtual Meetups
Many schools are using services such as Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom to connect with educators and students during remote learning. (Many people are moving away from Zoom due to privacy concerns, but for most people it is probably fine to use.) Educators can use video conferencing apps to plan and schedule specific times to be online. Ways you can use video conferencing meetups include:
- Hosting a full class meetup
- Virtual book groups
- Drop-in lunch meetups
- Celebration meetups (for example, singing “Happy Birthday” to a student or educator or meeting up to congratulate someone)
Send Some Snail Mail
Since remote learning mostly focuses on using digital technology, receiving physical mail can be an unexpected surprise. Sending postcards is a cheaper option than sending letters, since it currently costs $0.35 to send a postcard versus $0.50 to send a letter. Postcards can be created at home using Microsoft Publisher or purchased from retailers such as Vistaprint. Educators can send postcards to all students at the start of a remote learning unit, make a goal to send each student a personalized postcard by the end of the school year, or use postcards as a reward/incentive for a job well done.
Nothing can take the place of a face-to-face interaction, but these ideas may help you foster connections when you cannot be with your students and fellow educators. How are you connecting with your students and other educators while learning remotely?
Danielle Schultz (schcounselor.com) is a middle school counselor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She enjoys connecting and collaborating with other school counselors and educators. Danielle can be found on Twitter @sch_counselor and Instagram @sch_counselor.
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