Distance Learning Activities for New Students in a
Getting new students each year always poses some uncertainty, as there is so much to learn! However, this upcoming school year holds even more potential uncertainty as teachers are unsure if they will be teaching remotely, in-person, or a hybrid of both. The last few months of the 2019-2020 school year demonstrated that remote teaching had its challenges, even with students that you had already established a rapport with. However, as teachers prepare for the 2020-2021 school year, the new question at hand is: how am I supposed to gain trust/build rapport with new students through distance learning? To help with this transition, I have compiled suggestions of distance learning activities to help you tackle the first 3 days of distance learning with new students in your self-contained classroom. I wrote this post with students in grades pre-k through 2 in mind, however some of the ideas can be adapted for older students.
Before school starts, I recommend asking parents to fill out a survey which inquires about their child’s interests. You can download my free parent survey at the end of this post. My survey asks parents about:
- favorite toys
- preferred songs/TV shows
- favorite snacks
- favorite characters, and more!
Beginning the school year with this knowledge will provide insight into topics to talk about/refer to with your new students. Also, this gives you ideas for earns for those teaching sessions. The student loves Elmo? Allow the student to earn 1-2 minutes of an Elmo video in between tasks.
Distance Learning Activity 1: Bring your favorite toy to “school” day
On this day, encourage your students to bring their favorite toy(s) to your video session. The first day of school is always stressful for students, and video meetings bring an additional level of uncertainty. Allowing the student to bring a toy will provide them some comfort. Added bonus… (depending on their communication abilities) ask the student about the toy- its name, the color, where they got the toy, etc. The student will love sharing this information, and you can assess some of their communication! As a teacher, grab your favorite book or one of your child’s toys to share as well!
Day 2: Bring your family (and pets!) to “school” day
On this day, ask your students to bring their family members and pets to your video session! This will help build rapport with your new student’s family members. This is crucial as you will be working closely with them during distance learning activities. Most importantly however, you are allowing the student control in the session and the opportunity to discuss something they are familiar with! Again, you can access the student’s vocabulary, communication, engagement level, ability to ask questions, etc.
Day 3 (and 4): You pick!
I am providing you 2 options for this day. You can use these suggestions as distance learning activities for day three AND day four. (Yay bonus activity!!) You could also just choose the one that makes the most sense developmentally/behaviorally/cognitively for your students.
Option 1: If your students are accessing your video meeting via a phone, a tablet or computer (really any mobile piece of technology), ask the student (with a family member’s help), to give you a small tour of their house. Ask them to show you their kitchen and family room. Maybe you can visit their room or basement. You can even incorporate a scavenger hunt into this tour! Again, as I am sure that you have noticed a theme here, seeing these different rooms allows for great communication opportunities and gives the student some control of the session, while also building a relationship with you.
Option 2: In option 2, you will be introducing some work into the student’s video session. Based off the student’s IEP and present levels, select skills that the student has mastered, as you want to make the first work session as frustration free as possible. This will allow you to build your instructional control, while simultaneously helping the student feel successful. Of course, these skills will vary immensely depending on the student’s skill levels. However, some skills that are relatively easy to work on remotely are: tacting (labeling) and identifying pictures in the following categories: nouns, verbs, numbers, letters, shapes, prepositions.
I am hopeful these suggestions will provide you valuable ideas for your first few days of distance learning with new students, as well as lower your stress/anxiety levels.