I use WizIQ to teach middle school students. Kids in Middle School want to learn, but they also want to interact with each other. We can not educate children without making sure that they have a chance to interact and play with other children.
My program is blended. The students meet monthly in person and on line weekly. They know each other and I work to create joyful shared experiences for them. I have been experimenting with different ways to make the online classroom as warm and loving as my actual classroom is.
A Staggered Opening
One technique that I have been using to warm up and “joy-up” the WizIQ Virtual Classroom is a staggered opening. This is how it works: If class starts at 9:00 AM, I will send the kids an e-mail with the link at 8:55. The e-mail will contain the following links:
Class Launch Link: The kids launch the class, say hello to me, check in about any logistical concerns, and then head off to the other tasks. We also have a minute to make sure everyone’s technology is working and fix any easy problems.
A “How are you, and why? Google document: All of the kids go to the document and type in a sentence or two about how they are and why. When we all actually meet in the classroom, I refer to the list. I might say “Jenny is feeling a bit sick, so let’s be really nice to her,” or “Patrick had a big adventure yesterday. Patrick, tell us about what you did!’ This is a lovely way to get to know your students.
A Silly Question Google Document: I might ask the kids a question like, “What flavor of ice cream is your brain, and why?” For a question like that, I would give them an example answer, like, “Maybe your brain is like ‘Ben and Jerry’s Kitchen Sink’ ice cream, because it is a mish mash of a lot of different thoughts. Maybe your brain is like Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream, because your brain is full of sweetness and a good protein source. Maybe your brain is like vanilla today, because it is smooth and calm. I might also ask “What kind of bagel is your soul?” or “What sort of shoe is your personality?” Kids that I have taught love these questions. If your students are more timid to share about themselves, you might ask them to share about something fun they did last weekend or what is their favorite birthday memory.
A Fun You-Tube Video: Sometimes the video has something to do with what we are studying. For example, if we were studying how different cultures dance and move, we might watch a “Where is Matt?” video. If we were studying an aspect of government, we might watch a “School House Rocks” video. I might assign something that is purely fun. You-Tube videos are a great resource to inject a little bit of joy into your life or classroom. A video of animals frolicking in a sprinkler or someone laughing uncontrollably are great ways to put everyone in your classroom in a good mood. Children in a good mood are in a better situation to learn!
The students will soon be doing the work for you! Students frequently forward me a video that they want everyone to see next class. They also come up with creative and fun questions to ask each other. In no time, they will be creating their own joyful and warm environment and you can just sit back and watch it happen.