20 Creative Ways to Build a Classroom Community Virtually

20 Creative Ways to Build a Classroom Community Virtually

The beginning of the school year is the time to create a class community where children feel accepted, celebrated, and supported. According to Scholastic, students who feel that “all are welcome” in their classroom will experience more academic and social successes than those who feel they don’t belong. Recently, many teachers have been wondering how they can create this same sense of community virtually should the school year begin online or if there is a shift back to distance learning at any point in the 2020-2021 school year.

Here are 20 ways to develop your class community while teaching from home.

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1. Read aloud: Our Class is a Family

This book is written by Shannon Olsen, a second grade teacher that you need to follow on Instagram. This book was intentionally written with the purpose to build a class community where students feel like they are a part of a special family, and that they are safe to be themselves. Read alouds kick-off great conversations about inclusion and acceptance! Grab the book HERE.

2. Introduce Virtual Counseling Rooms

A virtual counseling room is a digital resource for students to access when in need of a pick-me-up. This resource contains links to helpful websites/resources (i.e. cosmic kids yoga or guided meditations). By accessing these self-help tools, students will find some positivity, relaxation, and peace during these stressful times. You can make a Bitmoji classroom counseling room, or you could simply create a list of links on a word doc to share out with students. Providing these resources to students shows that you care about everyone’s mental health! 

3. Make time for Zoom or Google Meet activities

It’s important that students see one another regularly, and not just for academic purposes. Providing activity times, like doing directed drawings with students, allows time for students to get to know their peers and laugh a little, while also demonstrating that there is so much more to a class family than just learning math together. You can simply “present” any directed drawing from Youtube to your virtual meet and students can follow along.

4. Include virtual Morning Meetings regularly

Morning Meetings are another chance to foster social interaction and build that strong sense of community. Students can personally greet one another by saying “good morning” to one person each via Zoom until all are greeted, have a chance to share something important (this could be showing off a new puppy OR sharing an academic success… the sky’s the limit) and, finally, the meeting can be ended with a reminder of expectations and setting the tone for the academic day. Meetings should run anywhere from 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of your class. Teach Create Motivate has some great Morning Meeting ideas and activities

5. Work together to decide on a Class Mascot (silly but oh so fun)

We can’t pass up the opportunity for team building! Use the decided mascot in your virtual newsletters, assignments, and more. Kids will be so excited to see it!

6. Create a Bitmoji Classroom Makerspace

Makerspace is a safe place where students with shared interests can work to build their knowledge through creative outlets. Teachers can create virtual Makerspaces by allowing time for students to form groups based on interest, then scheduling times for those kids to meet virtually to “create” together. Although an adult may be able to provide more materials for students in-person, fostering discussions and focusing on the social aspect of Makerspace will be rewarding virtually. Providing time for students to find common interests with peers from afar will build mutual respect within your class.

7. Acknowledge the change to virtual learning and embrace the opportunity to discuss with students how the class can stay connected

During the first week of school, it’s a great idea to set up a virtual meet with your students to discuss how the class plans to stay connected while learning remotely. Discuss Zoom opportunities, being pen pals with kids in class, attending Morning Meetings, and reading books like The Invisible String to foster that class connection.

8. Implement some fun through Photo Challenges

Each week, provide directions on a photo challenge that students can complete. For example, have students dress up like their favorite book character then send a photo to you! Teachers and students will learn so much about each other during this community builder.

9. Plan for Fun Fridays virtually!

Many teachers plan “fun time” on Fridays, so it’s important not to exclude this important part of the class community during distance learning. You can plan to play games, like virtual Scattergories, or play trivia on Kahoot together!

10. Write a class book together celebrating each student’s uniqueness

This is a great way for students to get to know each other at the beginning of the school year! It also demonstrates and encourages the “all are welcome” mentality as well.

11. Implement routines that make students feel at ease

Routines have ALWAYS been a vital part of teaching and learning to ensure that students are safe and on-task. The same should be true while learning virtually. Laying out routines and expectations will make students feel secure in their learning environment, which is essential in developing that class community.

12. Use “Pick-a-stic” to foster deep class discussions

One great way to build trust is to engage in deep, meaningful conversations with students. By using the stick method, conversational topics can be pulled to better learn the cultures, interests, and knowledge of students. Virtually, a teacher can have sticks ready to pull on their end that will foster these discussions. Stick prompts could include “How are you feeling today?” “What hobbies have you been getting into while at home?” or “Has your family started any new traditions recently?” If students are interested, they could start creating their own sticks (or pieces of paper) to pull from at home to use when the teacher gives the opportunity for kids to lead.

13. Allow students to form Book Clubs

Provide time for students to find common interests with peers then form Book Clubs. Even if students don’t have access to hard copies of books from home, teachers can provide articles virtually or assign topics to research within Book Clubs. This is another opportunity for team building and social interaction!

14. Create the chance for students to present themselves to their new class through a Digital Flipbook

Students can use Google Slides, Flipgrid, or even just a Google Doc for this community builder!

15. Encourage students to create an affirmation station at home

Discuss the importance of self-esteem and self-love. Loving your classmates is easier done when you love yourself first.

16. Teach what a loyal friend looks and feels like

17. Start each day with a morning slideshow!

This provides the opportunity to build routine, share some jokes, and start each day on the right foot.

18. Shout out each other for being awesome

Shout outs can be incorporated during any virtual meeting by giving time for students to shout out any peers who deserve some recognition. Students will certainly feel proud to be a part of your class during this activity!

19. Start the year off with a Digital Kindness Unit

The conversation of kindness should never end! Remind your students of this from Day 1!

20. Check-in with students as often as needed

You can still check in on your students virtually. Try making a Google Form check-in, a Google Slides check-in, or set up weekly virtual meets or phone calls with different kids to ask how everything is going.

There are so many meaningful and fun ways to build a class community virtually, and students will be sure to appreciate their teachers’ efforts in bringing the class together during uncertain times. The show must go on!

20 Creative Ways to Build a Classroom Community Virtually

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Jenna Marcal

Veteran Legend

Jenna is a 5th grade teacher in Upstate New York! She loves to cook, dance, and dance while cooking! When she's not taking care of her succulent babies, Jenna can be found grading a stack of papers with one hand and holding a chilled glass of white wine in the other.

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