Tips for the First Week of Virtual Learning

A lot of us are wondering what back to school season will look like this year. Some may already know you are starting school remotely. It sounds overwhelming and a little bit scary. It’s unknown territory and with the memory of distance teaching in the spring still fresh in our minds, starting the year through a computer screen feels daunting.
Here’s some things you might consider including during your first week(s)! 
 As soon as you are able, start trying to connect with every students’ family. You could start with an email that includes a Google Form so parents can share the best number to reach them or time they are available. A personal phone call or virtual meeting with each student and their guardian will jump start the lines of communication.  During the call or meeting, get them connected with whatever platform(s) you will be using to communicate. (I love Seesaw for all things digital learning!) From there, invite them to your parent information meeting and/or class virtual meeting. Also, make sure they know when you are and are NOT available. Be explicit about setting boundaries.
Parent Communication Log (Digital) 
Make sure to document all of your communication attempts and successes. This will help keep you organized. This simple digital log by Stephanie Sutherland at The Simple Classroom is perfect!
During that first parent virtual meeting, share what your weekly schedule will look like, when virtual meetings will be and how they can locate information. A main location where everything is in one place helps families easily access everything they will need. This editable digital class information resource is perfect for parents to pull up on their phones whenever they need to. 
Something you can start to prepare ahead of time is video walk-throughs of learning platforms or how to access information students and families will need. You can easily record your computer screen and voice (no need to be on camera) using Loom, Screencast-O-Matic or Screen-castify. Make the videos short and to the point (think: one tip per video). Save them all in a Google Drive folder and make it shareable so that students and families can access whenever they need to. Refer to them often in your communication so they know they are available. Make sure to title them exactly what the video shows so they can easily navigate to find what they need.

I used Loom and Screencast-O-Matic to record many of my lessons during distance learning. They are so user friendly! I love that I can show my face on the screen while walking through lessons or directions.

While this year looks different, a lot will be the same! Read alouds are always a major part of the first week (honestly, every day) of school. Typically, I read 3-4 books every day that first week! While this isn’t exactly feasible in an online setting, I would still schedule one LIVE read aloud each day. And then, record 3-5 more for students to listen to when they can. You could also send students this Virtual Classroom library so they can listen to books read on YouTube! Click here or on the picture to make a *FREE* copy of this virtual library in Google Slides. 
There are SO many beginning of the year books. You can check out this post for some of my favorites from years past. 
While many books are obviously written from the perspective of going back to school in person, you can take time to discuss how the expectations for remote learning connect with expectations for in person learning. Many will be similar for the online classroom. 
Here’s some more of my favorites:
Back to School Rules by Laurie Friedman
Tony Baloney: School Rules by Pam Munoz Ryan
Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller
What Should Danny Do? School Day by Adir and Ganit Levy
How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander
The Library Book by Tom Chapin and Michael Mark
What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen
The Day You Begin would be a great read for in person or for remote learning.
This might seem extra challenging not being in person but it is still possible! Just like you would in the classroom, you can go over routines, procedures and expectations. These posters are a part of my 20 Virtual Class Activities resource. 
And it doesn’t have to all be boring. I have created 10 back to school activities that are versatile for in person OR virtual teaching. Some of these include fun ways to start discussions about class values. Others are getting to know you activities which will give students the opportunity to share about themselves and learn about others.
In this reverse puzzle activity, students can choose a “getting to know you” question to respond to. Or, you can ask the whole class to share answers (if virtual, have them type in the chat!). After students have had the opportunity to respond, remove the question to reveal a piece of a silly joke below. 
For this activity, have students respond to the question by standing, sitting or putting their hands on their hips–perfect for in person OR virtual instruction! 

 I saved the best for last! The world we are currently living in is full of stress and anxiety. I’ve found the best way to relieve the tension is to remember to have fun! Carve out time to do just that. Take the pressure off of yourself and your students and just enjoy some virtual time together playing games. I used this trivia game at the end of the year and it’s perfect for the beginning of the year, too!

I also have shared FREE virtual games and activities that are great for promoting a positive online environment and allowing students to enjoy this unique school experience. My goal would be to have “Fun Friday” where we take a break from online learning and just have some fun!

Even though this isn’t what any of us signed up for, remember that some people actually do teach this way! It’s not ideal and it has challenges but just like March-June, you will make it through. Remind yourself that it is temporary, you will do your best for your students and you have a network of teachers (online and offline) to support your along the way.

Disclaimer: The links to the books in this post are affiliate links. This means, if you purchase the item through that link, I will receive a small compensation as an Amazon Affiliate. This is at no additional cost to you. I only recommend books that I personally love and use in my classroom.
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