Celebrations, joy, goal-setting – they all matter in the classrooms, especially when we aren’t physically sharing the same space. We are waist deep in Distance Learning – learning, autocorrecting, and figuring out how we teach new content, build classroom communities online, celebrate students’ successes, and encourage families.
Today we’re going to share and explore a few ways we can celebrate, encourage, and cheer-on our students. Again, these things can be celebrations AND they can also be just normal-every-day routines. As you are considering these ideas, they aren’t a measuring stick. Pick the ones that work for YOU, your students, and your situation. How can you tweak them to support your young learners? There is no right or wrong answer.
As I was curating ideas, I considered Distance Learning has evolved over the past few months, what routines are a natural part of our classrooms, and what is manageable (physically, emotional, and financially).
Tried & True
Distance Learning Celebrations
- Pick up the Phone: Who does your student value? Who would they want you to call to brag on them? An aunt, uncle, parent, another teacher in the building? Making a quick phone call is the perfect chance to bring joy to someone’s day AND allows the student to be bragged on twice – once when you call to ask who they would like you to share with and once when that special person brags.
- Photo Praise “Sunday”: Photo Praise Sunday isn’t a tradition that needs to die. Send a dozen or so of my favorite classroom pictures to the Walgreens app and pick them up on the way back from your grocery run. On the back of each photo, write a note to the student in the photo praising him/her and secretly place it in their mailbox, mail it, or put it in the next round of working going home. You might even send a photo digital on a Google Slide with a sweet message! Students LOVE finding a photo of themselves from the school year and love sharing the note with their families. 9 times out of 10 the photo stays above their bed or in their Home Folder to encourage them to do their best throughout the week! For $4 a month, it’s positive-encouragement GOLD.
- Snail Mail: From birthday greetings to “Way to Go!” To “I miss you!” everyone loves a bit of snail mail…even adults. Post cards and greeting cards are an inexpensive way to remind students you are proud of them, miss them, and notice any attempts they have made during distance learning (regardless of how “small” that may be.
Leveraging Classroom Traditions for Celebration
- Guest Readers: Guest Readers don’t have to end with distance learning. Asks students to pick an adult (or themselves) to share a favorite book aloud. It could be recorded and shared on Google classroom (honoring copyright) or FlipGrid, or shared during a class meeting. Two weekends ago I had the chance to share a favorite story and it was a blast!
- Lunch Bunch: You’re weekly Lunch Bunch group? Keep it going! Invite everyone OR make sure to lay the groundwork 1-2 weeks in advance so as many students have the chance to participate. Send reminders and encouragement through Remind, Dojo, phone calls, Google Classroom, and email. These are great times to check-in with students without the pressure of learning.
- Host a Virtual Party: Who doesn’t love a party? (Me, Catherine, silently raising my hand.) But really, whether it is a 15 minute dance party or a nice and simple PJ Party and Read Aloud, special occasions give students something to look forward to, and are a simple way to build community. Ideas for parties? Dance party, PJ Party, Silly Sock Party, Best Joke Party (everyone brings their best joke to share), Synonym Party, Scavenger Hunt Party (when students arrive assign them items to find in their living spaces – “Find something that could be described with the adjective “soft”, etc)
- Learning Game Leader: You know those games your kids already know and love? Celebrate a student and their efforts by assigning them “Learning Leader”. From there, they can pick a classroom favorite to lead for 10 minutes (or 1-2 rounds) at the beginning or end of a Google Meet. From “I’m Thinking of a Number” to “Splat” to “Score the Goal” – games are FUN!
- Show & Share: Did some level-up in Lexia or finish their Distance Learning Work? Show and Share is the perfect way to celebrate. This is am ideal chance to embed some of your speaking & listening and writing skills. From sharing sentences with certain conjunctions, to telling a story with a beginning/middle/end, to supporting an opinion with reasons and evidence, Show and Share is a fun, approachable way to leverage students’ interests for opportunities to speak!
Making Home Visits During Distance Learning
Full disclosure – the two next ideas are going to be more time consuming, expensive, or labor-intensive. They also involve visiting or dropping-by students’ homes. SO, do what’s best, safest, and just right for you. Again, these aren’t a measuring sticking of Teacher “goodness”. NO THANK YOU KAREN.
- Home Delivery: From a make-at-home s’mores kit (graham cracker, chocolate, marshmallow, and tinfoil) to books from Half-Price Books (see how to snag FREE books here), to school supplies and distance learning materials, a quick visit (while painting social distance) can lift the spirits. You might leave a chalk drawing behind or even share a read-aloud together from 6+ feet apart.
- Host a Class Pet for a Week: If you class pet traditionally goes home with a Rock Star student, maybe it’s time for them to travel. By week, delivering your classroom’s stuffed friend is a perfect way to bring normalcy to your routine AND give students an authentic reason to write. Again, if you are doing this, check-in with your Principal. See what precautions, washing, and safety things we might need to consider.
Well, friends – there is no magic answer for celebrating students. We do know, though, that intentionality in setting goals, acknowledging wins, and encouraging growth matter. These are simple, small ways to communication to students and families – I see you. I appreciate you. You matter. Over the next few months as we continue to grow and learn through Distance Learning, let’s not forgotten about our student’s voices. The simple question – “How would you like to celebrate your success?” might offer some surprising answers.
For more information, reflections, and resources for distance learning…
- A Personal Reflection: NTI Days and Distance Learning
- Distance Learning Resources from my Corner of Cyberspace
- What Does Phonics Look like Digitally? (Blog Post)
- Digitizing Number Talks (Blog Post)
- Sign up for Sunday-night pep talks here.