Creating Classroom Community Virtually! Part 3: Keep it Simple, Seriously!

First of all, why on earth does the acronym KISS stand for keep it simple stupid… I REALLY don’t like that. There is not an educator I’ve met who is stupid…

Bitmoji Image

Second, you may be wondering how Keeping it Simple, could possibly be related to building a strong classroom community… The answer is easy peasy… The less time kids have to spend learning new tech platforms the more time they have to focus on the community you’re trying to build! Just because you spent all spring and summer learning ALL the new platforms and preparing to deliver using multiple sites, doesn’t mean you should right away… and it also doesn’t mean our KIDS spent all that time learning these platforms.

super stressed

My proposal, is at the beginning of the year you use as few platforms as possible. You know ALL too well the stress of learning new tech, that is not a feeling we want our students to experience from the get go. It is stressful, and frustrating enough for them to not be “in person”. If possible, you should encourage other teachers within your school to do the same. In fact, if LOTS of you have the capability to use the SAME platform to start the year, even better! My entire school is pushing out our asynchronous lessons through Google forms, and our synchronous lessons are through Zoom. Eventually, I will build in PearDeck, but for right now I am keeping it simple.

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The first two weeks of school, we are focusing on culture building. We are meeting synchronously every morning from 8-8:30 (this will continue all year) and then for an hour from 1-2. These synchronous times are all centered around “getting to know you” activities and SEL lessons which also aim to help kids learn the various “tools” within Zoom. We want them to get really comfortable using the tools before they have to use them in content classes come week 3. We have played lots of fun games together. Here are some of my favorites:

  • This or That- kids pick one thing or the other. For example: YouTube or TikTok, Netflix or Disney Plus, English class or Math class, Black Panther or Batman, Takis or Hot Cheetos, Summer or Winter
    • Kids can vote using the yes/no buttons in Zoom. Important though that you’re narrating what you’re seeing… THAT is how you’re building the community… finding connections between kids! All the while saying their NAMES...
  • Which wins? …. – or as our kids renamed it World War of Foods- You pick two foods (it can really be ANY item but the kids always went with foods), kids decide which wins. Majority wins. Then you try and think of another food that can beat the food that won. For example (this was the real example from my class and I swear there were SO many smiles and SO much community and laughter it felt like we were IN PERSON! Even the new kids were cheering and SO excited)- Spaghetti vs. Pancakes– then — Pancakes vs. Takis— then— Takis vs. Hot Cheetos — then Takis vs. Snoballs—- then — Takis vs. Chicken and Waffles (which won… EVERY Child in our class votes for Chicken and Waffles.
    • Kids use the thumbs up thumbs down buttons in Zoom.
    • Kids can recommend the next food item in the chat.
  • Would you rather? Kids choose between two extremes- Go to school every day of the week but have summers off, or go to school year round. Would you rather live on a beach or in the mountains? Would you rather speak every language in the world or play every instrument in the world? etc.
    • Kids can vote with buttons or you can get them up and moving if you want using their bodies to show which they’d rather
      • make your hand big if you’d rather_____ make your hand small if you’d rather_____
      • Dance if you’d rather ______ jump if you’d rather ______

I’ve talked a lot about using Google Forms as asynchronous lessons but I do love how students can’t accidentally hit submit before all of the questions are answered. My first two weeks of Google forms are ALLLLLL focused on community building and learning about the kids… but before I ask them questions about them, I share my own answers. Then I always ask them to find similarities and differences between myself and them. My forms are also VERY short because I know it is going to take some time to ease back into school and I’ve seen other teacher’s forms… they’re LONG…

That’s it! Keep it simple. They’ll be much more ready to jump into French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese,  ASL, Cherokee, English, or any other language you teach if you intentionally focus first on making them COMFORTABLE and happy in your new virtual classroom environment. (They’ll especially thank you if other teachers in your building are jumping straight into content and using ALL the platforms).

Give yourself grace, give them grace, ease into this year as much as possible.

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Until next time,

Stay happy, stay safe, stay well, stay sane, and

Happy Teaching!

Love,

La Maestra Loca

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This is the face Memphis makes when you ask him to make “pretty eyes” …. melt… 

8 comments

  1. I really needed to hear this today! I have been trying hard to learn all these digital platforms and Bitmoj classrooms and am attempting to make a digital notebook…and you are right, it has been overwhelming for me too! We will be attending in a hybrid model, teaching and livestreaming simultaneously…I was worried that I should teach them everything now in case we go 100% virtual soon.
    But what you said makes so much more sense. None of it will work well if you don’t build relationships! Thank you for setting me straighr!! 😍😍

  2. Thanks for your down to earth insights and suggestions. I will begin F2F and e-learning on Monday and this post was like a balm to my soul. I agree we have to focus on building community but at the same time I need to prepare my kiddos to handle e-learning in case we get quarantined or closed. I don’t want a repeat of 4th quarter 19-20. So I will build community and sneak e-learning bit by bit.
    Be well. Know that you’re my inspiration!

  3. Thank you. I so appreciate everything you do and all of the wonderful ideas that you share so freely.
    Are you doing these lessons in Spanish? Just wondering for beginners. Thanks again.

    Kathy Leaf

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. I agree, growing relationships is the very most important part of the culture so you can set the stage for learning and teamwork! Loving your posts!!

  5. Thank you so very much. Wow I panicked when I was told no curriculum for the first 3 weeks. Seeing and reading how you are making it work is exactly what I needed to rewire my anxiousness. Keep It Simple Silly… I’m with you!

  6. I sooooo needed to hear this! Building relationships first absolutely makes sense! Thank you so much for sharing this! It has helped me refocus what is important and now instead id spinning my wheels how to start my year off I have a focus and have lots of ideas on how to build a community with my students! Thank you as always for all your amazing insight that always seems to help me take a step back and breathe!

  7. You are awesome! Thanks for sharing all of your smarts and wonderful ideas so freely. I appreciate you so much!!!

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