Building a classroom connection while teaching virtually is a difficult task. Now more than ever, our students need to focus on social-emotional learning and connecting with others.
How can we connect with our students and create a classroom community from a distance? Thankfully teachers are great at thinking outside the box!
The following activities are here to help your students focus on connection, gratitude and being part of a community.
1. Daily Gratitude
According to kidshealth.org, students who take time to focus on things they are grateful for increase their ability to learn and make good decisions. They are also happier and less stressed because they feel more connected with people.
In a time of uncertainty and loneliness, it is especially important for us to find things in our daily lives to be grateful for. Starting the year with a daily gratitude journal writing at the end of the day is a great way for students to reflect on things they are thankful for.
If you work with younger students, you can draw a picture or record their thoughts in a video. Another option is to have a gratitude class page where everyone adds daily gratitudes.
2. Peer Connection Ideas
One of the biggest downsides to online schooling is creating peer connections. Social-emotional learning in elementary school helps children understand relationships with peers, manage emotions, and develop a sense of self. The big question this year will be – How do we develop relationships among students outside of the traditional classrooms?
Phone a Friend – In a time where video chat and texting is the preferred method of communication, it is important to teach kids the basics of telephone etiquette. Phone conversations with classmates is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn more about each other and practice basic communication skills.
Tips for Classroom Phone Connections
- Discuss what to say when you call a friend.
- As a whole group, brainstorm some questions they can ask the friend
- Assign 2-3 phone buddies for each student
- Create a parent letter to inform parents about this activity.
Penpals – Not only will classroom penpals help students connect, but it is also a great way to help kids work on their writing skills!
Create Classroom Connection Groups – Providing unstructured time for kids to chat throughout the week with classmates will help create those bonds that are normally developed in the classroom.
Tips for Classroom Discussion Groups
- Have an adult facilitate the group to make sure the discussions are appropriate for school.
- Leave the topics and structure of the meeting open-ended.
- Let the students lead the conversation.
3. Feelings Calendar
Helping children identify how they are feeling is an important part of social-emotional learning. Start each day with an emotional check-in.
As a result of daily check-ins, you will have more insight into how your students are managing their feelings during this difficult time.
4. Social Stories
Social Stories are simple stories that illustrate a certain problem or situation and how people deal with them.
5. Growth Mindset Journal
Having a growth mindset is a powerful tool for students to have in their social-emotional toolbox. Learning can be frustrating for kids. When students have a growth mindset they know that they are always learning and improving.
It is essential for students to learn that although they may not be great at something yet, they can reach their goals with hard work, effective strategies and a positive attitude.
6. Create Goals
After teaching your students about having a growth mindset, you can help them focus on creating achievable goals. SMART goals are academic or personal goals that students would like to achieve. SMART stands for specific; measurable; attainable; relevant and timely.
To learn more about SMART goals, Apples and Bananas Education to learn how to help your students achieve SMART goals this year.
Right now life for our students is overwhelming. With a houseful of people working and learning virtually, a child’s home life may be loud and stressful. Zoom meetings and online learning can be overstimulating and confusing as well. By incorporating mindfulness into our classroom you are providing students with a tool to use to when they are feeling stressed or anxious.
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment. When we teach mindfulness to our students, we are helping them learn to regulate their behavior and quiet their minds.
Ways to incorporate mindfulness into your virtual classroom
Mindfulness Through the Senses
Have your students take a moment to focus on one of their senses. What do they hear, see, smell, or feel? After a few minutes of mindful observation, bring the students back together to talk about what they noticed.
When we stop to focus on our breath, we reduce our stress levels and find calmness and control.
- Stop and Smell The (flowers, cookies, chocolate cake) – Have your students visualize a favorite object to smell Then have them breathe in for 3 and out for 3. Repeat this 3 times.
- Belly Breathing – with a hand on their belly have your students focus on the ride and fall of their hand as they take deep belly breaths.
Additional Breathing Resources for Kids
Childhood 101 has a great free printable with awesome breathing exercises for kids.
The Peace Out Podcast is a great resource for relaxing short stories and breathing exercises.
8. Non-Verbal Recognition
Finding a way for students to communicate during online learning is imperative. Having a non-verbal way to communicate how well students understand the material you are presenting helps you assess a child’s level of understanding and engagement.
Non-verbal forms of encouragement and positive reinforcement can really help create a positive classroom connection. If a friend says something they love, encourage kids to send a virtual heart or high-five!
9. Virtual Jobs
Classroom jobs have always been an important part of the elementary classroom. These leadership roles give students a sense of responsibility and help develop the classroom community. Although finding jobs for students in a remote classroom is a challenge, there are creative ways for students to be helpful.
Eventually, we will be able to be back in our classrooms, but for now, we will send virtual hugs, email words of encouragement and create classroom connections in a new way.