By Shannon Anderson, author of Mindset Power: A Kid’s Guide to Growing Better Every Day
Virtual learning isn’t what you signed up for when you earned your teaching degree, is it? This year is a record holder for how many times you’ve had to make lemonade out of lemons, pivot your paradigm, and construct a boat while you’re in the water.
You’ve heard all the advice, been forwarded all the “BEST” virtual-learning platforms, and still you wonder, “How can I make online learning more . . . well, special?”
Oh, it’s special all right. (By definition, special means different from what is usual.) But, how can we make virtual learning special in the way we make our students’ classroom experience special? How can we include those personal touches, the feel of being part of a community, the fun we bring to our teaching?
What are some of your favorite things from the classroom that you can still do online?
1. Do you celebrate a success by using noisemakers or a special cheer? Continue that!
2. Do you have special themed dress-up days for fun or to go with a unit of study? Keep those!
3. How about guest speakers? Do you ever have guests come in to talk about a subject or interest area? Invite them to join you online!
4. Do you wish you could still meet in small groups? You still can with breakout rooms. The kids love this personal time working with you in a smaller group.
5. Do you normally take brain breaks to dance, or use a website like Go Noodle to get up and move to refresh or do mindfulness activities? You can still do these together on Zoom or Google Meet.
6. In class, if you use whiteboards for kids to respond to questions or for quick-checks, you can still have them do this. (A laminated piece of cardstock works.) Having kids hold up their responses on these can be a familiar interactive way to engage in a lesson.
7. Keep doing read-alouds and class meetings. Although not as intimate as having your class gathered on the floor around you, these are still special times to bond.
We can’t do all the things when teaching virtually that we normally would, but we can put a fun spin on many things. Some ideas to switch things up a bit include:
8. Dress up in a silly way or as a character from a book and teach a lesson as that person. The kids LOVE it!
9. Have scavenger hunts for the kids to gather items for a lesson. For example, if you are teaching 2D and 3D shapes, give them two minutes to gather as many shapes as they can from around their homes. Then have them share and name the shapes they found with the class.
10. If your school allows parents to pick up materials on a regular basis, give the kids a cut out picture of you or your bitmoji and have them take pictures of you going on an adventure with them. Have them write about the adventure and share their story.
11. When you are sharing lesson slides, personalize them with kids’ pictures or names. They will enjoy the personal touch.
12. Allow kids to present. You can spotlight or pin the camera on them and allow them to teach something or share a favorite takeaway.
13. Find a way to digitally stay in touch socially, whether it’s interacting on Seesaw, creating a Padlet, or using some other interactive app where students can post comments and pictures. It can be a fun way for you and your students to get to know each other better outside of the “classroom.”
Be easy on yourself. Don’t get caught up in the peer pressure to try every digital tool out there or feel like you have to create a bitmoji classroom because you see that other teachers use them. If you enjoy trying out new tech or love the bitmoji classrooms, then by all means do it! But don’t feel like that is what it takes to be a successful virtual teacher.
Successful virtual teachers do the best they can to deliver meaningful lessons, help their students feel cared for, and model the resilience it takes to be successful when there are so many unknowns. Students, parents, and principals know that teachers are creating, adapting, and delivering content in the most appropriate ways possible. Remember that virtual learning is very special. (Let’s hope for just this year!) Keep squeezing those lemons, add lots of sugar, and hold up your glass of lemonade! You will get through this, and it will be okay. Cheers!
Shannon Anderson has her master’s degree in education and is currently a third-grade teacher, high-ability coordinator, and presenter, and a former first-grade teacher, adjunct professor, and literacy coach. She loves spending time with her family, playing with words, teaching kids and adults, running very early in the morning, traveling to new places, and eating ice cream. She also enjoys doing author visits and events. Shannon lives in Indiana with her husband, Matt, and their daughters, Emily and Madison.
Free Spirit books by Shannon Anderson:
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