How to Boost Classroom Community During Digital Learning

How to Boost Classroom Community During Digital Learning

If you clicked on this post, you're probably planning for or in the middle of digital learning or at home learning! Digital learning tools have become NECESSARY while I'm writing this, as we're amid the Coronavirus quarantine. Whether you are required to have digital learning plans mapped out for your class during extended school closures or not, checking in with your students will help ease everyone's tension and keep you all connected outside of the classroom. These are my favorite ways to boost your classroom community during digital learning without being in your school building! 

Connect with your students during your digital learning experience.

Digital Learning Morning Meeting

If you know me, you know how vital Morning Meeting is to my daily classroom routine. It is the most significant way to boost your classroom community, and my students and I genuinely miss it when school is closed. The good news is that you can hold video morning meetings as a digital learning strategy!

Zoom is my favorite tool for video conferencing, and it is the perfect digital learning platform for your digital morning meetings! You can create a free account that includes sessions up to 40 minutes (during this extended quarantine, they waived the time limit) with up to 100 people. Here is a FREE guide for your students on how to use Zoom from The Techie Teacher!

So, how do you use Zoom for your digital morning meeting? This is what my digital learning class meeting looks like:
  • Send Zoom link, time, and directions in Google Classroom AND Remind (send it out any platform your school uses)
  • Start call about 5 minutes early, so I'm there when the students are.
  • When everyone logs on, give them a few minutes to chat freely and catch up.
  • Mute all, and welcome all; before starting, give some guidelines (ex: hand signals, raise your hand to speak, one person speaks at a time, stay focused, etc.)
  • Do a feelings check-in (show on your face how you're feeling, call on 2-3 students to expand on their feelings)
  • Greetings: air high fives or tens, air hug, air fist bump, etc.
  • Share: Question for them to answer, raise hands to respond, call on a few students.
  • Activity: exercises, mindful breathing, dance break, drawing challenge (have students get pencil and paper and draw something in 30 seconds and then hold it up to show everyone)
  • Message: before class, write a message and share it through your screen or on a whiteboard you hold up.
  • Action Plan: share what they should be working on that day, what to do if they have questions, etc.
  • Closing: everyone can chat for a few minutes before signing off
To make things easier for you, I recommend using my paperless Morning Meeting slides during your digital learning class meetings! Then you can share your screen, and your students can see the slides, just like usual in class! They keep everyone on task, and the social-emotional support will help your students as they work through their big feelings.

Morning Meeting Slides for your digital learning video morning meeting.

There are LOTS of Zoom tips and tricks to make these digital class meetings even more successful. Ashley (@itssimplyelementary) has a highlight on her Instagram of suggestions, so I recommend checking that out, or searching online 

Building Relationships when Digital Learning

Building relationships with your students is one of the most crucial parts of being a teacher, along with fostering relationships between students. It is harder to do during digital learning days, primarily if your students differ in their access to technology. Here are my digital learning solutions for continuing to build relationships and checking in on your students.

Snail Mail Chain

Who doesn't love snail mail?! Everyone loves getting fun things in the mail, so let's start a snail mail chain when your students are learning from home! This will make your students' digital learning experience brighter. Get enough envelopes and stamps, so you have four for each student in your class. Preferably, find one larger envelope and three smaller ones per student. 

Then, write to each of your students! You can make your own, or print these free cards from The Creative Classroom. At the end of your note, tell your students to PASS IT ON! Make three cards for friends, classmates, or family members, and use the stamps to mail them! Once you've finished the cards, put them in the bigger envelopes with three small envelopes, three pieces of paper, and three stamps inside. Use the fourth stamp on the outside to mail them off! 

Your students will be so excited and will cherish those sweet notes when they're missing you! You can also do this during the summer or Christmas break. It's always a good idea to send some love to others, whether you are digital learning or not!

Mail letters to your students during extended breaks, like when you are digital learning

Google Check-Ins

I'm all about checking in with our students to see how they're REALLY feeling and support them. Halee has a BRILLIANT plan to do this in and outside of the classroom! She has created Google Check-Ins. She uses Google Forms to ask her students a couple of questions every day, and then she is able to see their responses immediately. I love this because it's private and it's quick and easy. You need to check out her blog post about Google Check-Ins and get the template for FREE!

One quick tip for digital learning I learned from her on Instagram is to make the google form an ungraded QUIZ because you can respond to their comments right on the form! It will give you opportunities to build those relationships and support them.

Digital Learning Journals

One of my favorite digital learning tools is a journal. Encouraging your students to keep a journal will not only help them to write each day and document your extended school closure, but it will also give them a space to get out all of their feelings, thoughts, and questions.

Obviously, they can write in a physical journal or notebook. But the students can also create a digital journal using Google Slides or a Google Doc. For this, create a template you want them to use, and share it with them in Google Classroom. When they make copies of their journals, they can share them with you, so you can read what they write! It will make digital learning for students even more impactful, as they're able to reflect on and process what they're learning and experiencing.

You can also give them a specific writing prompt if it's hard for them to come up with what to write. I love using these elementary writing prompts because there is such a variety of prompts! This resource comes with digital and printable writing prompts, and it differentiates the writing activities for different levels of students. You can assign a specific prompt each day or give them several to choose from. My students love getting to choose which prompt to write about!

Digital learning activities for writing in and outside of the classroom

Digital Learning Days Events

It's also fun for extended digital learning days especially, to hold a variety of events for your students! Special events are a great way to make them feel part of the community when they're stuck at home. These digital learning events are my favorites:

Spirit Days for Digital Learning

Several teachers and schools have encouraged Spirit Days for digital learning and teaching! Let the students know what the theme is for a specific day, and everyone comes to your video meeting dressed up! You could also have them take pictures or videos of themselves to upload to your digital learning platforms.

Here are some digital learning spirit day ideas: bring a stuffed animal, pajama day, dress like your teacher, rainbow day, superhero day, crazy hair day, fancy day, and so many more! Which one will you do with your students for your digital learning day?

Social Distancing Parade

Holding a teacher parade is super creative for those teachers and schools where all of their students live in the same neighborhoods! Announce that there will be a teacher parade in the community at a specific day/time with the route they'll be driving. 

At that time, you can drive through, and the kids can come out of the house and wave to you as you drive down their streets! You could even decorate your cars and beep the horn when you see your students!

This is an excellent idea for extended closures due to sickness because everyone will be home and needing some fun! Families can make signs for the teachers and staff to see too! Build that community!

Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

Again, this activity would be best for schools with students in the same vicinity. For this digital learning activity, tell all of your students to make the same picture or shape and to put it in the front windows of their houses where those on the street can see them. (Example: everyone makes a rainbow, or your school mascot, or a heart)

For example, I might send out an announcement that everyone should make a rainbow and put it in the front window of their house for others to see by Friday at 9:00 am. Then, I would encourage families to take a walk around the neighborhood sometime on Friday after 9 am, and the kids would see how many rainbows they can find!

This digital learning experience gets families out of their houses, getting fresh air, and the kids have a mission. How many can they see?

I hope these ideas and activities for digital learning will help you as you work to boost your classroom community without the classroom! My goal is to help your digital learning experience be the best it can be! I would love to hear from you: how are you connecting with your students? How can I support you in digital learning and teaching?

Also, I created these free digital learning resources for teachers to give to families to encourage learning and practicing life skills! Parents can use them to spark conversations and activities that aren't academic but still have students learning tons!
Life Skills resources for kids while digital learning at home
BONUS! If your school is distance learning right now, check these out for more resources and digital learning strategies:
Find out what is the best platform to use during distance and digital learning!
Use this Preschool Visual Schedule for your littles during at home learning!
Here are some tips for how to teach online for home learning!
Get some distance learning support for gifted students here!
Need Math online learning resources for students?
Read The School Counselor's Guide to School Closures.

Keep on loving and supporting your students!! You're doing great things!