By: Rhonda Ekwunoh
It was the week of March 9th and some schools across New York City had started to close due to the coronavirus. My school had not yet announced its closing, in fact, my school had a staff meeting that Friday, March 13th informing staff that we would be following the guidance of New York DOE (public schools in NYC) and therefore; remain open until they had announced their closing. With that information, I was expecting to return back to school on Monday and see my 29 scholars. That Sunday March 15th, Mayor Bill de Blasio made the decision to close the nation’s largest public-school system to help slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
I’ve tried to make the best of remote learning and continue building community with my students as much as possible. Here are some ideas I’ve tried in my own classroom to make remote learning fun and build community:
1. Themed Weeks
Each week in my class, we do themed spirit days. This gives students the opportunity to experience spirit weeks just as if we were in school. Some themed days we’ve done in my class are “Movie Monday,” where we choose a movie and watch it together. “Tik Tok Thursday” where we watched different tik toks and learned the dances together (definitely harder than I thought it would be lol). We’ve done Crazy Hair Day, Talent Show Tuesday, etc. Here is an example of a post about themed sprit week on Google Classroom in
2. Virtual Field Trips
Virtual field trips are exactly what they sound like. You can have your students experience a field trip via the computer. In my class, I shared my screen with students via the video meeting platform we use “Ring Central.” We took a virtual field trip to zoos and aquariums. Here is a link to the google slides presentation I created for the field trip: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1x7EP4-pB7Q-NQJp6UcRGYfQAYwIk-hpkcLBGDLclacU/edit#slide=id.g83a53f05fb_0_11
These websites also have ideas for virtual field trips: https://www.weareteachers.com/best-virtual-field-trips/
3. Student Shout-outs
In my classroom at my school building, I definitely loved shouting my students out for their accomplishments. In my classroom, we had a “Mamba Mentality” Wall that was used to post exemplar writing work from students. I decided to keep this going on Google Classroom. Each week students are shouted out for their exemplar work, participating in office hours, collaborating with each other, and completing all remote learning assignments for the week.
Here is an example of what I post for writing shout-outs:
I’ve also seen teachers do Student of the Week. On Teachers Pay Teachers, there are digital templates for Student of the Week. You can also make your own templates using google slides or PowerPoint. The app “Canva” also allows you to make digital flyers and posters. There is a free version, and teachers can apply for the pro version for free here: https://www.canva.com/education/
4. Morning Meeting
At my school, morning meeting is something that each class does nearly every day. Morning Meeting is a time for students to start their day on a positive note, teach social skills, and engage in activities. With remote learning, we do morning meetings every Wednesday in my class. I use a Power Point and adjust it each week to include different greetings, activities, and announcements. Teachers Pay Teachers has digital templates for morning meetings or you can make your own. One activity that I did in my class for morning meeting (I made my own version from @mshoneysclasshive on Instagram) was having my students watch the short film Hair Love and then I had them make a digital poster with a picture of themselves and 3 words to describe their hair. There are also virtual gaming sites you can use with your students such as Kahoot, online bingo: https://bingobaker.com/ , and scattegories: https://scattergoriesonline.net/new-game-create.xhtml
5. Mail to Students
Another way to continue building community during remote learning is to send mail to students. One way I do this in my classroom is to mail prizes to students who complete 100% of their remote learning assignments. I usually send them a toy, candy, and a note. I’ve sent them things such as slime, Rubrik’s cubes and puzzles. Oriental Trading has affordable prizes that you can buy in bulk: https://www.orientaltrading.com/ I ordered candy in bulk from amazon and I ordered these post cards from amazon:
I’ve also seen teachers drop off gift bags to their students. @ ___savedbythebell on Instagram also has an awesome tutorial on a digital letter you can send to students linked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSgZfPmGwXQ
I hope this post gave you some new ideas to try in your classroom! Feel free to reach out to me via Instagram or email if you want to brainstorm ideas (:
Rhonda Ekwunoh is in her fourth year of teaching at a charter school in Brooklyn, New York. She currently teaches 3rd grade all subjects and has taught 4th grade mathematics previously. She graduated from Relay Graduate School of Education in 2018 with a degree in Masters in Teaching: Elementary Education. She is a Teach for America alumna and continues to be involved with the organization, such as by coaching incoming first year teachers. Rhonda values culturally responsive teaching and building relationships with her students by being her authentic self. She recently started her own online tutoring company to provide affordable tutoring services to families.