6 Virtual Back to School Activities
The 2020-2021 school year is going to create a lot of unique challenges for teachers and students alike. Those of you who are starting the year virtually, might be wondering how you can build classroom community and grow relationships with students you have never met in person. During a traditional school year, so much of the first few weeks of school are spent growing relationships, making friends, and establishing routines and procedures. How to we accomplish these vital tasks while we are teaching remotely? I have never had to go through a “socially distanced” back to school season before, so I do not claim to have all the answers. However, after pondering for a few weeks I have thought of 6 activities that you can do with your class over Zoom, or other video conferencing software, to help you get to know your new students.
Share a Favorite Book
You can start this activity by reading a favorite picture book to your students. Share a few reasons why you love the book you chose. One of my favorite back to school reads is How to Get Your Teacher Ready by Jean Reagan. I created a free activity pack to go along with this read aloud. It would be fun to see what ideas your students have to help you get ready for the upcoming school year, since is going to look so different.
Have your students bring a favorite book to share as well. If you are short on time, you can just have each student hold their book up to the camera. If you have more time, you can let students share why they like the book they chose. Students who do not have books available at home can share the title of a favorite book
Virtual Spirit Days
Students do not have to miss out on spirit days just because you are meeting virtually. Many spirit days can be done online. Send out a schedule of themed days for a special spirit week. Pajama day, crazy hair day, class color day (everyone tries to wear the same color), hat day, college gear day, character day (wear a shirt with a favorite character), and book character day (dress up as a book character) can all work well over Zoom.
I always like to start the school year off with a few scavenger hunts. I usually take my class on a walk around the school to look for shapes, or to find specific locations of interest (cafeteria, bathrooms, library, etc.) A scavenger hunt may look a little different during virtual teaching, but it can still be a fun way to start off the school year.
For example, you could do a scavenger hunt to learn the locations of the controls on your video conferencing software. If you are teaching from your classroom or have set up a classroom backdrop, you could have your students play “I Spy” to find items that you will be referencing from your backdrop (calendar, posters, etc.) If you have provided your students with at home learning supply bags, you can have your students go on a “scavenger hunt” by holding up each item as you teach them how it will be used this year.
Virtual Morning Meetings
This is an activity that you can start at the beginning of the school year and continue all year long. Each day at the end of your morning meeting, ask a get to know you question. Using choice sticks, or a rotation, call on 1-5 students a day to share their answers with the class. Other students could type their answers into the chat. Alternatively, you can have students write their answers on small white boards or pieces of paper and show their answers to the camera.
Decorate Name Tags
Help your students learn their classmates faster. Have students fold a piece of paper longways (hot dog style). Allow them to write their name in large letters and decorate their name tag however they wish. They can then prop up their name tag in front of the camera for the first few days of virtual school. You may wish to combine this activity with a discussion about names, individuality, and culture. The books Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, and The Name Jar by Yanksook Choi are both great options for sparking a discussion about loving the names we have been given.
Video Show and Tell
Show and tell allows each student in your class to have a chance to shine. Have a video show and tell during your class Zoom meeting. You can leave this open-ended and allow students to choose any special object to share with the class, or you can have a theme such as stuffed animals, school supplies, something green, or something that starts with “a”. Note: When considering a having a show and tell activity, please by mindful of students who may not have many (or any) special possessions to share.
Stand Up/ Sit Down
Let students share about their interests with this easy game. To play, simply present two choices to your students (i.e. stand up if you prefer soccer, sit down if you prefer baseball). I love this game because it allows students to see what they have in common with their classmates.
Will you be starting the school year virtually? Let me know what you are doing with your class in the comments below.