It’s fair to say that both students and teachers might have mixed feelings about starting this new school year. Once again, there are many unknowns around back-to-school and how the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to affect education. Many schools will continue to take a hybrid approach to learning, students will need to practice social distancing on-campus and more self-isolation are just a few ways that education might be disturbed this school year.
To help teachers reduce some of the stress around the start of the new school year, we have prepared 7 back-to-school ideas for the 2021-22 school year that can help simplify the experience and maybe, even make it fun.
Plan logistics ahead of time
From deciding on classroom decorations, desk and seating arrangements , to planning teaching methods and preparing resources; the days before students return to the classroom are important to ensure a smooth and successful start to the academic year. Here are a few things you can do:
- Organise the classroom space, ensuring you follow any guidelines for social distancing
- Check your technology and equipment to make sure it’s working properly
- Plan in the same space you will be recording your lessons, if you are teaching online
- Prepare your home workspace, in case all classes move to online learning
- Send out your classroom schedule ahead of time, including any important events and announcements
One of the most important things to consider is how to welcome students, who have spent months at home, back into the classroom. Many learners will experience anxiety and stress at the thought of going back to school. Icebreakers are a good way to help them adjust.
TeacherVision have prepared a list of icebreakers to help students get to know each other and make them feel safe. Here are a couple of things you can do:
- Back to School Jokes Icebreaker and Writing Activity – This guide contains back-to-school jokes with a “write your own back to school joke” activity and instructions.
- Ask every student to tell a funny story about their remote learning experience. This will help them laugh and connect as they connect about similar challenges and experiences
- Take a ‘back-to-school’ photo with your students for the last school day. Compare them at the end of the year
- Movie Night! There are a lot of streaming services you can use to watch a movie together using the Share screen feature in Microsoft Teams. This is a great way for the class to have some fun if they cannot meet in person
Students are more likely to follow the rules if they have helped to write them. Sit and have a discussion on what rules to establish for both the remote and in-person classroom. Let the students present ideas and vote on which ones they like most.
Set goals and incentivize achieving them
Setting goals is another great way to give more autonomy to students. Ask your students to write down what goals they want to achieve during the school year and whenever a goal is achieved, put a gold star next to it. This activity will give students a chance to be more in control of what they want to accomplish, helping to increase their engagement.
Mental Health Check-In
Studying from home hasn’t been easy and for some students it will be very hard to get back in the routine of attending school in-person. Erin Castillo of #okayteacher on Facebook came up with a great way to learn more about how her students are feeling. She encourages each student to write their name on the back of a sticky note and place it on a poster, depending on how they are feeling that day. This helps her create a private, safe way for students to show if they are having a hard time.
Turn your classroom into a safe and inclusive space for students
Have you considered adding a sign on your classroom door that says ‘Safe Space’ to show your students that this space is safe and inviting for everyone? This is a great way to help students from the LGBTQ+ community or any minority groups that you support them and will not tolerate hate language or bullying in the classroom.
Choose the right software
Supporting your students’ mental health has never been more important. While some schools will return their students to the classroom, other will continue using a hybrid method or stick to online learning. Software like Impero Wellbeing is designed to keep students safe and allow teachers to intervene early with any concerns that have been flagged, no matter the learning environment. To learn more about Wellbeing, book a demonstration here.