Celebrating Students during Distance Learning

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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.Articles
  • 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.Distance Learning Snail Mail

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!Brown Bag Teacher
  • 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.

Virtual Options

  • 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)
  • 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.

  • 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…

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