I know we never thought we'd say it-- we missed our students, our coworkers, and our classrooms so much.
After spending March to August at home with my husband and three children, I was dying to get back to what was my normal life. Naturally, I enjoyed the time at home with my family-- as teachers, we typically spend more time with our students than our own children, so that extra time was nice.
But y'all, I was ready to get back to normal.
Early mornings. Coffee. Teaching. Grading. Being teacher exhausted all week long, you know? The norm.
I returned to work the first week of August and welcomed students back virtually on August 12. I have been ever so fortunate to have 99% of the same students I had when we went remote in \the fall. They know my teaching style and expectations. I know their personalities and who needs a little extra guidance while learning virtually. Last year, there were no expectations for synchronous learning. I ran a classroom online still delivering instruction of British Literature classics, but pre-recorded lessons for students to watch on their own time to my Kinda Sorta Teacher Youtube.
This year, I have been holding live class daily, as many of you are/will be doing. I started the year off with building relationships, per usual. We all know, if the students don't buy into the course and know you care, they won't learn.
I won't drop all the science and research on you-- but yes, your kids have to like you. Not a burning love for you or the class you teach-- but like you enough to be like "yeah, Mrs. Tiger is cool, I guess."
We started with virtual ice-breakers that I created. I had already started creating some social media related ones and came across a Netflix Bitmoji themed classroom in a Facebook group and decided to modify and create a spin-off of the Netflix Bitmoji classroom and instead create a virtual ice breaker.
I attempted to brainstorm other modern topics and interests for them and did my best to make all slides interactive with either text boxes, drag-and-drop images/logos, or requesting students to insert images to Slides on their own. I ended up with tons of ice breakers and welcome back stuff including themes of Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Snapchat, TikTok, Sports Center, Snacks, Travel, Texting, Social Media App Preference, Educational Website Usage, and more.
So, seeing those topics above... imagine completing 1-2 of the activities per day until they've all been completed and shared during your online meeting time.
While this seems like it may be time-consuming (it is), but think about how long they've been out of school. Just as long as we have been out of work.
This is not busywork. It is not heavily content related. It is not boring. It is not wasteful.
Students will be practicing skills of navigating Google Classroom and its updated features, opening Google Slides, manipulating documents, communicating virtually with video, audio, and the chatbox, casting screens to share, implementing live meeting etiquette (raising hands, cameras on, delivering attention to the speaker, remaining muted, raising hands, and utilizing the chatbox for commentary).
You can also be crafty in the delivery of the welcome back activities. Here are a few ways you can implement these activities:
Low Tech for Students: Create an assignment where each student will get their own copy on Google Classroom. Allow them to complete and turn in their own document.
Medium Tech for Students: Create an assignment where each student will get their own copy on Google Classroom. Require students to complete the activity on their personal slide. Also, have a "Paste Here Slide" on the assignment tab that is posted as "edit." When students are done, require them to copy and paste their slide to the "Paste Here Slide" to turn in.
Medium Tech for Students: Assign a whole edit document, where you make one copy of the Google Slide. Assign it to Google Classroom for students to complete. You will take the slide template and copy and paste it for each student to complete on that document. In the speaker notes, make the names enlarged for each student. Be sure to remind them that on a whole edit document you can see each change they make, what time it occurred-- directly attached to their Google Account, so to be sure to stay on their own slide.
High Tech for Students: Breakout Groups, but that literally is a whole blog on its own coming soon.
To view all of my current teaching resources, click here.
All of these promote practicing vital skills of working in a remote setting and are preparing them for engaging and collaborative content-related assignments when you turn it up a notch.
It may seem complicated the first time having them work on the same document simultaneously or copy and pasting a completed slide to a "turn in slide" but these are skills that will come in handy when you are prepared to begin more complex assignments and group work as the online days tumble on.
Y'all, I swear it. You'd be amazed at what the ice breakers and welcome activities as technology practice can teach them.
My students by week 3 moved into working collaboratively on numerous documents, some individual and some group edit mode, while in a Google Meet run by a group leader, and successfully accomplished the task to my standards after having the first two weeks to play with manipulation and transfer of assignments on Google Classroom while we got acquainted with the new virtual setting-- for formative and summative grades.
Don't sleep on the welcome back activities and relationship building!
Wishing you an oh-so-happy back to school!
Be sure to grab my free fall and Halloween slides over on my Kinda Sorta Teacher Insiders Facebook Group.
Hugs, Kisses, and Lots of Love,
Ty Tiger | Kinda Sorta Teacher