There’s nothing quite like that first day of school. You’ve spent the entire summer reflecting on last year’s class and hoping for them to succeed with their next teacher. Maybe you’ve revamped some of your lessons that maybe flopped last year. Maybe this is your first year teaching and you spent the summer anticipating meeting your first students in your first ever classroom all by yourself!
And then the truth of teaching in 2020 hits you. You know that you more than likely won’t actually see your students in your classroom for the next few months. The name tags you spent hours making look just right are mocking you as you stare at all the Zoom memes on social media. You’re trying to figure out how in the world you’re going to keep students engaged when they’re at home with siblings, pets, or other such distractions as you try to connect with them online.
As I thought back to my classroom days, I started thinking: what are some things we can do to keep our younger students engaged? So here are a few simple ideas for things that will attract your student’s attention!
- Give them an “I Spy” challenge! Our younger kids LOVE “I Spy”, and you can do it many different ways. My top idea is to let them know at the beginning of the day that a certain image/character will appear several different times throughout the lesson/day. Give them different code words every day that they have to remember and type in when they see the image. There’s a very handy “Chat” window on Zoom that allows for students to comment. The first student to comment the code word AFTER they see the image gets a prize. These prizes can be anything! Yes, it will take a little extra time and may pause learning for a few minutes. Don’t we need brain breaks, though? Be creative! And let them know if they comment the code word before the image appears, they’re disqualified from that round.
- Round Robin Spelling! You can do this with different grade levels and the words don’t have to be difficult OR on an upcoming spelling test, though you can do those words as well. You can even have them do the alphabet or counting. Again, that “chat” option comes in handy for telling your older students when their turn is. This idea could also go for popcorn reading.
- Simon Says! Obviously this is a well-known game to us all! Though “Heads Up, 7 Up” and many other games are nearly impossible on Zoom, this is one game your classes can definitely do for a moment here or there when you need a break. For a game like this, I would suggest starting with everyone unmuted. As your students forget to listen for “Simon”, you can mute them. Then you’ll know who’s still in the game. If you, the teacher, mute them, they have to request to get their sound back on.
Granted, there are many difficulties we are facing through this tumultuous time. Remember: this is new for everyone and there WILL be bumps along the way!
My advice? Have fun, give yourself grace, and seize the day! 😉