3. Create Virtual Classroom Expectations: In the virtual live classroom space such as Zoom or Google Meet, share the screen with the students. In share screen mode, invite students to share expectations for learning using Google Document or Padlet.com. The teacher can prompt the younger students by stating, “In this virtual classroom we listen when others are talking.” Have students share other expectations for learning. Add visual images to support the expectations for younger grades. For the middle school and high school levels, allow students to use Padlet to share their recommendations of norms for online learning. The teacher can virtually share the list of norms the students created. Then, have the students help decide as a group on their top five norms for learning and interacting with peers. Presenting norms and creating expectations together allows the students an understanding of how they will be expected to work together (Edutopia, 2017).
4. Scavenger Hunts: Give the students thirty seconds to find an object that begins with the letter of an alphabet or associated with a color (Shared Teaching, 2020). This allows time for a brain break and provides an opportunity for classroom discussion on the objects they located around their home. Remind students that it is okay if they cannot find an object and they can illustrate an object instead. For intermediate grades, have students find an object in the home connected to a riddle. Provide the riddle in the chat/message area of Zoom or Google Meet. In the middle school and high school levels, create a virtual scavenger hunt that connects to the subject for students to complete in partnerships. Each partnership can create a Google Slide presentation with supporting images.
5. Collage Creations: Share with students via email or through a shared cloud a template of a heart. Students will create a collage of visual images or pictures from magazines or photos of things they enjoy in life. Students can bring their completed collages to a virtual meeting to share in class. This is a great way to get to know students and serves as an interest inventory. Additionally, these collages can serve as writing prompts. The teacher can create a classroom heart with an item that each student enjoys and loves. The teacher can share this with the students during a virtual meeting as a way of letting them know they are loved and each one is part of the learning community. This idea is adapted from Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School (1999). When considering the middle school and high school level, students can use Canva.com for creating their collages using words and photos to share about what they enjoy in life. Teachers may want to access Flipsnack.com for students to create a free flip book to create their personal collages, as well.
Creating a classroom community begins with the teacher. Building relationships with the students at any grade level is an important part of building trust within the learning community (Edutopia, 2020). In addition to the five tips, encourage students and parents to set a schedule for learning. Provide a workspace that is comfortable for you whether it be in your classroom or at home while delivering instruction virtually. Encourage middle school and high school students to create a space for learning, as well. Remind the students that just like the face-to-face classroom, the virtual classroom is a safe place where they will feel welcomed each day.
Booth-Church, E. (2003). Best-Ever Circle Time Activities: Back to School. Scholastic, Inc.
Heard, G. (1999). from Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School.
Shared Teaching (2020). 25 ways to build an online classroom community. Retrieved from http://sharedteaching.com/online-classroom-community/.
Wolpert-Gawron, H. (2017). Extending classroom management online. Edutopia. Retrieved From https://www.edutopia.org/article/extending-classroom-management-online
Dr. Angela Danley is an Associate Professor of Elementary Education and Program Coordinator of Elementary Education, School of Teaching and Learning, University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri. She served as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, and summer school administrator before entering the university setting.