As students head back to school this fall, we’re not just recovering from the “summer slide”, those couple months off that throw off routines and result in a need for a refresher course in school at the start of the year. We’re battling against an extended absence from school as well as – for most students – a far from typical six months. Students coming back into the classroom this fall, or students logging on to virtual platforms, will need an even more intentional refresher course on how school works. And frankly, teachers probably will, too!
So this fall as you plan your virtual or physical classroom, take some time to remember and remind students how to do school again.
Pay attention to systems and structure. Think through every part of the day, how students enter the classroom, where they turn in their work, how they put materials away, how they participate in class discussions, how they line up, etc. In a virtual space, consider similar systems, such as how students log on, how work is completed, ensuring students know how to submit completed work, when to be available for group or individual work, etc.
Consider adaptations for systems in today’s climate. If students typically drop work into a basket as they enter the classroom, how will they now do so in a way that accommodates social distancing? Consider adding dots and arrows to the floor to control spacing and movement throughout the room. If you greet students at the door, consider elbow bumps or air high-fives. Plan ahead for any adaptations that will need to be made to systems and teach these to students early.
Practice, practice, practice. It is important to practice new and old systems, even when they’re working well. It may feel silly to have students practice lining up when they’ve been doing it successfully, but the more they practice, the easier it becomes. Don’t wait until there’s an issue to practice as that can lead to frustration. Make practicing routines a normal part of your classroom, and that way if an issue does arise, it’s not a consequence or an insult to have students practice the routine again.
This year will be anything but typical, so plan as best you can, and be flexible as needed. Don’t forget to be patient with students who struggle with routines at the start of the year. Remember, they’ve been out of practice for awhile now! And don’t be hard on yourself if systems don’t work as planned either. Remember, you’ve been out of practice for awhile now. And this is a whole new world in teaching and learning, and we’ll all have to be patient with each other as we adapt and refine our practices over this coming year.