Why lockdown might affect your classroom community and relationships:
This is a concern for a lot of teachers as no one has been in this situation before: these are unprecedented times. No one is quite sure how to navigate the situation and no one is sure what kind of lasting effects this will have, in particular on staff and student relationships.
You can still build a classroom community and develop relationships while teaching remotely:
1. Understand each student’s needs and struggles during remote learning and social distancing
This can all be easily achieved through a journal; you can access a back to school journal for free here that is Google Slides ready, meaning you can share it with your students via Google classroom, or whatever platform you are using to communicate with your students. They can then type directly into the document and share it with you. This will give you the opportunity to read what each student has personally experienced during lockdown and what their struggles and fears are. This will enable you to differentiate support based on their particular needs, and maybe even find connections between students to help build student relationships with one another.
For example, if you know some of your students might have learnt a new skill over lockdown, then you could team them up and they can communicate their experiences with one another. This will also help build community and bonds, especially if your class are new to one another.
2. Check-in on your students’ well being:
You could also incorporate whole-class activities such as Fun Themed Daily Morning Meetings. This particular resource, as an example, focuses on a different theme every day of the week and your students can have discussions or type responses to these prompts. They are a fun way of helping your classroom community bond together even while remote learning. Your class can still have a giggle together on “Funny Fridays”, they can focus on their well-being and supporting each other on “Well being Wednesdays” and so on and so forth.
In addition, it is possible to help build classroom community by using different check-in style questionnaires such as theseGet to Know You Forms. These include “Would You Rather” questions and could even be shared publicly with a whole class, especially if the class is newly formed and doesn’t know each other yet. By sharing the form with the whole class, everyone is able to see each student’s responses and this can help students find commonalities with one another as a starting point for building friendships.
3. Encourage your class to bond through online activities:
Activity 1 is a scavenger hunt. This is really easy to complete and is ideal for the first few minutes of a call or even at the end of a call to encourage students to stay right until the end of the lesson. All you need to do is create a list of items that are often round around the home, then reveal these items one at a time to the students. The idea is that they quickly, but sensibly, look for the item in their home and show it on their screen. You can even award points or rewards to whoever finds their items first! You can ask them to find a plant pot or some colourful socks and you will see a hilarious range of random products! Students find scavenger hunts really enjoyable and it helps them bond too.
Activity 2 is a virtual show and tell. The idea works exactly the same as a regular show and tell, whereby students will prepare something they want to share with the class, and they can talk about it in front of their peers: it's just presented online instead of in-person, but the benefits are the same. Students will be learning about one another and hopefully finding things in common as they do these show and tell activities.
Activity 3 is a virtual contest. You could arrange for students to prepare for a talent show, for example, everyone has to perform a special talent of theirs, that could be music, art or even their favourite TikTok dances! By sharing their special talents, each student feels valued and listened to and gets to share a side of themselves to help their peers get to know them better and find things in common: all contributing to a sense of belonging and a strong classroom community.