Author: Brittany Roa
Education Thought Leader
As teachers, it’s easy to get lost in thought about what school used to be like. Things have changed over the years with technology. And even more so as online schooling took off this school year due to the COVID pandemic.
Now that students are socially-distanced it becomes even harder to create connections. And it has become more difficult to know how to make friends at school. Everyone is being told to stay away from each other and are usually stuck at home, isolated from others. This hinders the ability for students to make positive school memories with friends.
My favorite memories from school centered around being with other people. Whether I was in a school play or performing in the marching band, I had plenty of good times with my friends. Having the camaraderie surrounding me made the hormones and insecurities of being a teen much easier.
My high school friends were like my family, providing me comfort through all the broken hearts and embarrassing pimples. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for kids these days to not have that same sense of community.
Thanks to adaptive technology though, there are still ways for teachers to help their students foster new connections and develop deeper bonds online. This will hopefully promote more friendships and positive school memories to look back on.
Adapting to the “New School”
Since the world has drastically changed in just a year teachers have had to adapt, and quickly. While social-emotional skills may not be forefront in the curriculum, there is a desperate need for exactly that.
How can you encourage students to relate to each other and create connections while they’re online?
Implementing more socialization into your teaching will allow students time to develop bonds with each other. Since not all students know how to make friends at school or online, you can assist them. You can support by providing a fun game or activity they can all participate in.
Zoom has a function to break out into different rooms. You can encourage the students to work with different people, giving them the space to work on interpersonal and social skills. Since we’re advised to not be around large groups of people, this can satisfy that need for socialization while still being safe.
Social Skills Activities
Sadly, we have become more of a sedentary society over the last decade, as well as this past year. This means that most children aren’t getting the adequate amount of exercise they need to be healthy. School sports teams that haven’t reconvened, will surely have student athletes missing their regular exercise.
A fun way to encourage students to exercise is to get them to move at the start or end of class. Providing a “dance party” will give students a chance to move their bodies as well as be silly with their friends. Encouraging students to leave their cameras will help it to feel like they’re all dancing together. Movement will help release endorphins which will help students feel good and hopefully focus for your class.
Another socialization activity could be to have a “party.” Prepare a set of non-academic questions to ask your students and then break them up into different rooms. They can answer these questions with each other and get to know each other better. These questions can help start a conversation and encourage students to open up to their peers and potentially make good friends.
Some example open-ended questions could be:
What is your favorite book and why?
What are your future goals?
What’s the hardest part about quarantine for you?
What’s your favorite school memory?
Do you find it challenging to make new friends?
These opportunities to be in smaller group settings will allow students to connect with each other. And the predetermined questions provide a structure of what to talk about. It may push students out of their comfort zones, but also could make it easier for the children who are less outgoing.
I remember how much fun I had with my friends, spending time together after school in the band room or meeting up for an afterschool sports event. Since this is no longer an option for most students, there are ways to simulate this environment.
An Open Mic or Show & Tell can be a fun extracurricular activity for students. The former being more appropriate for high school students and the latter for younger ages. To help create connections and engagement in the virtual classroom, you can schedule a special afterschool online event.
Have you noticed a rising artistic ability of the younger generations? I am always impressed to see the creativity and innovation I witness on Tik Tok or any other social media platform. Creating the space for students to share their passions would help create social connections and encourage creative expression.
Make a sign-up sheet for students; you can make this voluntary or mandatory depending on your specific classroom and student involvement. This could range from reading poetry, singing a song, sharing a piece of artwork, or performing a monologue. Then schedule and facilitate an online event for them to share their unique talent.
Since extracurricular activities have been taken away, there are still ways for students to share and express themselves with their peers. Continual effort to create social situations and events will help to further strengthen their connections (and hopefully keep them from overindulging in isolated video games).
Helping Create Positive School Memories
Unfortunately, students aren’t getting the same school experience as we have known in the past. Fortunately, there are still ways to create positive experiences in the virtual space.
We’ve had to adjust to a new digital world and there are bound to be setbacks. However, teachers’ creativity and strong adaptation can make the best of the resources and current situation.
I try to remember that academics were not always the most important thing I learned from school. The skills learned from socialization, meeting different types of people, and hard work helped shape who I am today. This keeps me motivated as a teacher, hoping I can provide positive memories and life skills to benefit the future generations.
You never know, maybe your extracurricular and social events will be remembered as a favorite memory from school.
Foqas is founded, in 2014, with the VISION to help educators experience greater success to have a stronger impact on student achievement. We have three objectives: 1) Build supportive communities for teachers to connect with each other. 2) Promote a culture to share knowledge and experiences with others. 3) Guide teachers to become leaders in their fields of interest.
To learn more about Foqas and how we support teachers: visit www.foqas.org
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