Back to school planning is different this year. Many schools are starting the year partially or completely online. Even schools hosting in-person classes will likely have restrictions in place during the traditional get to know you night.
But meeting with families at the start of the school year is still important. That’s especially true during this pandemic. It’s still possible to have productive and useful back to school nights. Here are some ideas and tips for a virtual meet-the-teacher night or spirit week.
One back to school night activity that’s valuable for students is a classroom tour. Even if you’re teaching remotely, you still have a classroom. It’s just a virtual one. And a tour would be useful to help students feel prepared when they log in for their first day.
You could host an online classroom tour by recording your screen for your students. Show students (and their parents) how to access and turn in their assignments, see their grades, and find their messages.
A virtual classroom is also a good chance to go over the video meeting software your class will use and answer common questions about it.
If there’s a chance classes will resume in person, you may want to post video of a walk through your physical classroom as well.
More Ideas for Virtual Back to School Night
Here are 15 virtual back to school ideas for teachers to let your students know more about you and what to expect for the school year. Consider recording your meeting and posting information online for students who might not be able to come to your back to school session when it is scheduled.
- Create a Meet the Teacher slideshow to introduce yourself and share some fun facts.
- Find or create unique virtual backgrounds for your digital classroom. You could also have students create their own backgrounds, too.
- As part of your virtual meet the teacher night preparation, digitize and post the parent forms that you need them to fill out.
- Plan designated office hours when students can log in to chat or get help. Make sure parents and students know when these hours are, and also that they know how to schedule one-on-one meetings. You may want to give families a phone number to call or text you with any additional questions, especially if they don’t have reliable internet access. If you don’t want to give out your cell number, you can set up a free personal Google Voice number to use for these calls.
- Play Back to School Bingo.
- For younger learners, a virtual show and tell is a great way to encourage them to share about themselves. Email their parents beforehand to help their child select three favorite items to show when you first meet together. For older students, play some get to know you games online, like Would You Rather. You can create your own questions or find examples online.
- One teacher suggests creating a Wish Jar in Google Forms. Instead of using strips of paper like you might in person, students can leave their wishes and hopes for the upcoming school year anonymously.
- Share an ‘About Me’ Google Slide (see number 3 on the link). Students can also create slides, which you can turn into one slideshow or PDF booklet to post, so your students can get to know each other even if they don’t meet often in person.
- Make sure parents and students know something about you and what to expect at your virtual back to school night by sending a get to know you letter or email beforehand.
- Hold a Virtual Scavenger Hunt to get students engaged and interacting.
- Create a virtual pair and share: Have students pair up, get to know each other, then introduce each other to the rest of the class.
- Share live (or record and post) a read-aloud story about going back to school.
- Go over your classroom rules and procedures. And go over them again the first few times you meet. Remember, these will also need to cover expectations for online behavior.
- Plan a few online icebreakers to help students interact and learn about each other. One we like is a guessing game about interests and hobbies. Have each student post three links that reflect their hobbies or interests, and let the other students try to guess what those are based on the links.
- Remember to share your contact information and important sites with your students and their parents.