Creative Ways Teachers Are Building Classroom Community Online

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creating classroom community online

Shout out to every teacher out there creating remote learning environments that work through the curriculum you’d already painstakingly planned for a memorable classroom experience. It’s only been a week or less for some students, but the work is nothing short of astonishing. And leave it to teachers to know that building a classroom community is not just about curriculum. Here are some creative ways teachers are creating classroom community online that’ll make you smile (and maybe even cry):

1. They are sharing funny videos on social media.

Principal Nalwaker, Butler Elementary in Cottonwood Heights, UT, goes live on Facebook to cheer up his students and teachers. He knows that laughter just might be the best thing to happen to all of us right now.

2. They are continuing their Responsive Classroom one question at a time.

Pat Trippiedi, teacher at Waterbury Elementary School in Roselle, IL, says they are posting questions every day on their Google Classroom site and asking students to respond. She was surprised by how many kids respond—they’re clearly looking to connect.

To do this, try asking some of these questions:

  • Online learning can be hard, what are you doing to stay organized?
  • How are you feeling about staying home right now?
  • What do you think a pandemic is?

3. They are using Quizlet to host grade-level competitions.

In Falmouth, MA, Donna Espindle-Scozzari, Lawrence Junior High School, and her team are doing a Quizlet live championship via zoom. Their 8th grade class is broken into teams of 4. The plan is to do four days of solving equations prior to the big event. Then, they will be asked to solve more equations that covers some of the previous learning. Sounds like something worth working for!

4. They are hosting virtual theme weeks.

Julie Petrovic and her team in Naperville, IL thought a Spirit Week might be just the thing to keep kids engaged and lighten the moment. Other schools shared their amazing themed weeks as well … just check up some ways they are cheering up quarantined kids! 

5. They have reframed March as September.

Lots of principals and teachers have shifted the perspective by reminding everyone this is all new territory much like it feels in September. They’re giving kids permission to ask more questions and open their minds to a new kind of school structure. This helps everyone feel less pressure which is a good thing right now.

6. They are hosting daily class pets.

We heard about a teacher who asked his sixth graders to send in a picture of their pet (if they had one). He’s been highlighting a different “Class Pet” each day. The response was amazing. Students are excited to see it each day, probably more than the assignments! And, at least this way they are checking in and they have a little more invested. What if a kid doesn’t have a pet? This smart teacher encouraged kids to create a virtual pets so they can participate too.

Make a virtual pet in Scratch

7. They are using Google Forms to check in with kids and teachers.

Keep it simple to get more responses, says Jeff Howe, teacher in Manchester NH, who says he plans to buy toilet paper for the colleague who gave him this idea. 🧻

  • How are you today?
  • What questions do you have for me?
  • What can I do for you?

8. They are using Google Forms to take attendance.

Consider using Google Forms for check-in and for exit tickets at the end of the day like Michelle Walker, a teacher at Sports High School in midtown New York City. Want to build a community around reading? Create a form like the one below to keep a list of books kids are reading. This list will help you make recommendations as well.

9. They are making book talk videos. 

Remote teaching is going to be difficult for lots of reasons, but we can work to keep kids reading and sharing what they read. Try using book talks to help make that happen. Haven’t done them before? Check out What Is a Book Talk? Your Guide to Making Them Work in the Classroom.

10. They send virtual cards to their students.

We’ve heard of lots of other teachers using these same methods for sending emailed cards to students. Knowing we’re all out here missing each other can be just what a student needs—and it feels pretty good for the giver too!

11. They create lesson videos for their students.

Vicki Bailey, first grade teacher at McGraw School in Hampden ME, sent us this photo of her teaching a lesson on your favorite color. Hers is purple, obviously! She posts them on See Saw which is a site her students and their parents are already familiar with. They can comment about the lesson and share their favorite color as well.

12. They use online video chats to connect.

This Kindergartener from New York City was thrilled to meet with all of his classmates and his teacher on Zoom. We’ve seen lots of teachers using video chats to meet with students in personal ways that bring back a positive community culture.

What are your ideas for creating and continuing classroom community remotely? We’d love to hear about them in our Principal Life group or the WeAreTeachers Helpline on Facebook. 

Plus, The Next Weeks of Online Learning Don’t Have to Be Perfect.

Creative Ways Teachers Are Building Classroom Community Online

Posted by Kimberley Moran

Kimberley Moran is an editor at WeAreTeachers. You can follow her on Twitter at @kagmoran or on Facebook. Email her at kmoran@weareteachers.com.

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