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Ways to Connect with Your Students During Distance Learning

April 30, 2020 by Emily

Winnie the Pooh with Piglet, holding hands with A.A. Milne quote


Connecting with our students during distance learning has been a struggle for many of us.  As teachers, we have an innate tendency to nurture, praise, and engage with our students on a daily basis.  Distance learning does not easily lend itself to making these connections.  Many of us are searching for ways to continue to reach our students and help foster their growth academically, socially, and especially emotionally during this difficult time.

student on the computer, connecting with his teacher during distance learning

We’ve been researching all of the ways our wonderful teachers have been connecting with their students during distance learning and have listed some of our favorites for you.

Small Check-Ins

Some of us are not able to Zoom or do Google Meetings with our students, but there are other ways that you can “check-in” if it cannot be in a virtual face-to-face.

  • Make a quick Phone Call (kids love when it rings and is for them and not Mom and Dad – LOL)
  • Send a Post Card (our kiddos also enjoy getting things in the mail 😉 )
  • Create a Yard Sign for each of your students and secretly put it in their yards
  • Drop off a Small Gift on porches (teachers have left books, play doh, coloring books and crayons)
  • Mail a Book (Scholastic has their dollar deal books and it gives your students something to add to their home library – jazz it up by sending a small book buddy with the story).  To save on postage, drive around and drop them off in their mailboxes!
  • Record a Book Reading (read a story and record yourself while doing it; then post on your classroom website, Dojo, or email to families to share with their children)
  • Participate in the “Flat Teacher” phenomenon (based on the best-loved book Flat Stanley, teachers are creating flat versions of themselves, mailing them to students, and asking them to take a picture of something fun with their “flat teacher” to share virtually)
  • Paint rocks with special messages or pictures to your class and hide them around the neighborhood.  Tell your students to go for a walk with their family and keep an eye out for them!
  • Go on a Bear Hunt.  Have all of your students place a teddy bear or other stuffed animal in their front window.  While going on a walk, the class can find each other’s homes.

Make Virtual Meetings Fun

  • Have Dress Up Days for a week during your class meetings (kids can wear pajamas, certain colors, wear hats, clothing backwards, be a superhero, etc.)
  • Set up an easy Science Experiment (send parents the materials needed a few days before that and have all of your kiddos complete the experiment with you during a class meeting) – some easy ideas can be found on this website… 50 Easy Science Experiment for Kids
  • Engage everyone in a Directed Drawing (Art for Kids has a bunch of great directed drawings for kids of all ages)
  • Play a Game (hold a Scavenger Hunt, play Hangman, BINGO, etc.)
  • Use Show and Tell Strategically (send out a schedule for the week… Monday – show something that rhymes with “cat”, Tuesday – share something that begins with the letter “M”, Wednesday – share something in the shape of a circle, etc.) this way students can share, but it relates to academics
  • Let kids send a Joke/Riddle for the Day (students email a joke or riddle prior to class and if picked get to read the joke during the class meeting) This is great for older students!
  • Send students on a Nature Walk (prior to a class meeting, ask students to go on a nature walk and record their observations… have them bring an item they saw/found to share with the class)
  • Have the students each build their own Blanket Fort and have class while everyone is in their forts.  Many are calling this “Fort Nite”. LOL
  • Have a Virtual Tour!  Everyone can show their favorite part of their home.   This can be done slowly over the week letting only a couple students a day show their spot.

Continue to Celebrate the School Year

  • Make it a point to Showcase Students’ Birthdays (those kiddos having birthdays right now are already feeling down because any plans they had for their birthday have had to change; singing Happy Birthday, or making sure they are recognized goes a long way)
  • Have an End of Year Celebration (have a “beach themed” party, where everyone joins class sitting on towels and wearing leis/sunglasses; hold a class “picnic” where you all eat lunch together, either inside or outside in backyards during the class meeting; participate in a class “dance party”)
  • Create a Virtual Field Trip (many of us had a spring field trip planned that students will now not be able to experience) – Create that “being there” for them!  Go to the zoo, aquarium, national parks, and even the farm.  Add a few activities that kids can do at home to add to the experience.
  • Send your students and families a Slideshow (use pictures from the school year and ask students to send you some of the fun things they are getting to do at home right now) – if you are new to slideshows, use the Clips App; it’s super simple to learn and use virtually
  • End the year with a Talent Show (hold a class meeting and let students share a talent with everyone – this is a project that will have to be planned/worked on prior to the day of the show)

student on the computer, connecting with his teacher during distance learning

Whatever you do, it’s important to try different ways of connecting.  If they’re unavailable by email, try a phone call home.  If a phone call doesn’t work, try sending a postcard.  Any type of contact will make the world of difference.  We have to understand that even though our worlds were rocked, our students worlds were equally rocked if not more. Your students are thinking of you just as much as you’re thinking of them! They miss you and you matter to them.

two drawn kids with an E.B. quote on friendship

This quote sums it up.  Our students need us to be a friend now more than ever, as we connect with and teach them in nontraditional ways.  We hope that you find some great ways to continue connecting with your students during distance learning.  Please add any wonderful ideas and activities that you have done with your class while in quarantine.  We would love to hear them!

-Written by Janessa Fletcher

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