The return to the classroom, Part I
Create meaningful student connections this school year
After a year in virtual and hybrid classrooms, K-12 teachers are back on the front lines with a different mission – Helping students transition back to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year.
It is no surprise that students may have a harder time reorienting to the classroom environment. A year of distance learning has separated them from their friends, minimized everyday social interactions, freed them from many essential classroom behaviors, affected their mental wellness, and, for some, left them academically behind their peers.
Like all challenges teachers face, transitioning kids back to the classroom will require teachers to do more of what they do best: re-engaging children back into a productive class. This ultimately challenges teachers to think of new tools and new techniques for transitioning kids back to school.
To help, LanSchool offers some different approaches to achieving three major transitioning goals that are especially critical this year: connecting with individual students, reteaching classroom behaviors, and providing students opportunities to make social connections. This blog series begins with some creative ways to forge connections with returning students.
Educators may find that building individual relationships with students is critical in the first few months. Teachers have invented a number of ways to quickly build meaningful relationships with students from day one:
Teachers take time regularly to sit down and chat with an individual student during unstructured class time, lunch, break, or waiting for a bus. These “student interviews” are deliberate, scheduled, and include every student, unlike ordinary ad hoc conversations. One teacher once compared student interviews to hospital doctors making their rounds: the goal is to talk with every student. The purpose of these interviews is to let the student talk, ask the right questions, listen carefully and supportively, and help them problem-solve. More importantly, make a mental note of what they like, what they do not like, and any problems or anxieties they may have.
Daily or weekly check-ins give teachers a useful snapshot of each student’s well-being. They can be done individually, in groups, or with the entire class. They can be done virtually, on paper, or in less-structured chats. Some teachers do them in the morning, some at the end of the day, and some once per week. The important part is getting students to tell you how they’re doing today and to find out what they’re struggling with.
Personal experience assignments
Personal experience assignments are valuable tools for making connections with students, so try something new by adding personal experience components to normal academic work, like science experiments or encouraging a daily journal entry. While personal experience assignments are time-tested and traditional, they are vitally important this year. The goal is to give students as many opportunities as possible to tell you how they’re doing in their transition back to in-person learning.
Open office hours
Some teachers opt to hold open office hours. This is the year to implement or expand office hours, even if it means meeting kids before or after school. Let children know that office hours are for talking, chatting, and problem-solving. Let the students control the conversation. Listen, validate, and use that time to determine what the student needs to succeed in the classroom.
Using interactive classroom management tools such as LanSchool’s Messaging and Raise Hand features allows students to privately connect with the teacher with problems, frustrations, and questions. Some teachers keep chat hours open for the duration of the class, allowing availability for questions or problems while students work in class.
It may take a while for teachers to forge a trusting relationship with learners, particularly after a year of teachers being just a video thumbnail on computer monitors. The great value of many of these ideas is that they’re designed for the long term. In the next part, however, we need to tackle a topic where results need to happen a bit more quickly: reteaching classroom behaviors.
Find out more about LanSchool’s Messaging and Raise Hand features in “5 LanSchool features you can’t miss.” Both are powerful tools for engaging and connecting with students in a digital classroom, especially students that are normally hesitant about speaking up.
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