Student on laptop

When schools transitioned to remote learning in the spring, educators moved swiftly to replicate the traditional classroom model in an entirely digital setting. Creating a virtual community is just as important as great teaching and learning. So how can educators develop meaningful connections with scholars and create a sense of belonging in our new digital reality? During this period of remote learning, distance does not have to mean disconnected. Here’s a round-up of recommendations on how to build community during remote learning.

Get to Know Each Other
Before diving into the day’s lesson, begin class with an icebreaker or a brief so students can share out and learn more about each other. “This is my favorite toy!” “This is my favorite snack: Doritos!” These are just a few things you might hear during the “Me Bag” activity.

The teacher should ask students to fill a bag with 5 items that will help the class get to know them better. For younger students, be sure to coordinate with parents so they can help them complete the activity as necessary.

Morning Meetings
Beginning the school day with a morning meeting is one way to make new connections and strengthen existing relationships. It’s also great for social-emotional development and an opportunity to develop social and emotional skills.

Connect One-On-One With Students
When schools shuttered to slow the spread of the virus, no one could have predicted ending and beginning a school year in a digital setting. Prolonged isolation can take its toll on mental health and wellbeing, so it’s important that students feel heard and seen. Sometimes this is hard to achieve in a virtual group setting with a checkerboard of faces.

Build Routines
The pandemic’s disruption to daily routines is just another part of our new normal. With the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic’s path and so much outside of our control, it is particularly important to create new routines. When the only thing that seems certain is uncertainty, routines help create structure and serve as anchors throughout the day.

Celebrate Virtually
Celebrating student success is a key element of a strong classroom community and culture. Find creative ways to hold space for celebratory moments—whether it’s through a point and reward system or written feedback.

Meditation and Mindfulness
Zoom fatigue is real. Studies show that video meetings require more mental processing than in-person interactions. Meditation and mindfulness practices can be used as Mindfulness practices help students re-center, cope with trauma, and access and process difficult feelings. Teachers can break between lessons for a mindful minute—60 seconds of controlled breathing—or dive deeper into a guided meditation.

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