Going Back To In-Person Learning
Classroom Activities for Returning to the Classroom
Believe it or not, many classrooms are opening up following the pandemic. While we are still experiencing positive cases and deaths every day, we have learned that young immune systems tend to do better, and schools are not the culprits of spread as we thought they might be. This reopening comes very late in the school year, but it is a welcome change for many parents, teachers, and students. First in-person days are very different from the typical first day of school. Students have been in school for three-quarters of the year. Here are a few things to get your in-person days off on the right foot!
One of the first things you do in any school year is to go over the rules. This late in the school year with students you already know may make going over rules feel odd. However, if you do not review the in-person rules, students will mess up or just not follow them. No matter how late the first in-person day occurs in the school year, it is vital you review rules and routines. You can make it a little more fun this time, though.
Have the kids review the online rules before beginning the in-person rules. Remote learning and in-person learning will have different rules. You can ask the students to try to make that rule make sense for in-person learning. For instance, if everyone is supposed to mute their mic on remote lessons, how might that also apply to the classroom? The answer is probably to remain quiet while others are talking. See if they can figure out all the classroom rules based on the online list.
Make Their Own Rules
One of the best ways to make classroom rules is to have the students help design them. They will have a stake in the rules and classroom management, which often makes following the rules more important to them. Elementary-aged children are especially apt to follow the rules better if they feel that they designed them. Guide them to design rules that you approve of having for your classroom.
Ice breakers are very common at the beginning of the year. However, these are designed to be ways to get to know each other. At this point in the school year, we often already know our classmates at least a little. Some of the students may have been in classes with each other for years, but other students may be relatively new to the school. You will still want to make everyone feel welcome.
How Well Do You Know Your Neighbor?
Pair the students up with each other. Have each student introduce their “partner” before speaking to them. Try to tell their first and last name or at least preferred name and last name, something they like, and their favorite color. Then, have the partner tell the class if they were right. If they are wrong, correct the mistakes. No one should make another student feel bad for making a mistake, though. This game should be done in fun.
Two Truths and a Lie
Since everyone already kind of knows each other, see if they can tell when someone is lying. Each student will introduce themselves with their preferred name, last name, and two things that are true and one that is a lie. Students in the classroom can then guess which is true and which is a lie. You might even take a vote where the whole class votes on statements one, two, or three. Then the person reveals which is the lie. The key to this one is to make the lie believable. We don’t want a classroom full of secret spies.
Tips for Dealing with Parents and Paperwork
One of the most complex parts of being an educator is dealing with all the paperwork and maintaining relationships with parents. Let’s face it—no two parents are ever alike. Even a couple will often have one outgoing parent and one more reserved parent. Teachers, administrators, and staff also have a million different personalities. It can be difficult to navigate working with so many different people.
Parents have been trying to juggle online or remote learning all year, sometimes for several students. They are eager to return to the classroom, but they may also be frustrated. Be patient with the parents and offer them empathy and understanding whenever possible. You are not required to accept abuse, but you should not ignore their frustrations either.
If you are an administrator, you are likely dealing with several different things. Staff members may be entering the building for the first time all year. They may be new to the school building and need time to get acclimated. Second, parents will want to vent to you about their frustrations with teachers. This venting is not new, but many parents have not felt heard while students have learned remotely. Be kind and offer an ear, but you shouldn’t take it too personally. Lastly, you might have teachers struggling to teach both in-person and online. It is hard to juggle this for one class. Please help them feel like they are making a difference.
Be clear with due dates for paperwork and what is required. Many things have changed during the pandemic, and more is required than before. Be clear in your expectations and when things need to be returned or completed. Send reminders when possible. Generic all-classroom reminders for paperwork return are acceptable to use. Use apps like Bloomz, Remind, and Class Dojo for these reminders.
Final Tip: Be Supportive
This tip is true for parents, teachers, administrators, students, staff, and anyone else involved with students. Being supportive means understanding when mistakes happen, doing your best to make the year great, and acknowledging everyone’s efforts. This year has been challenging for everyone. This year can be fantastic, but you have to commit to helping one another make it what you want.