Going back to school face-to-face: 10 tips

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Going back to school face-to-face: 10 tips

After enduring remote learning, teachers and students are heading back to the classroom. Here are some things to keep in mind.

After more than a year of remote instruction, some schools are going back to school face to face for the first time.

For others, they've been face to face for a while, but the remote instruction experience is still fresh.

For both, there's a big question at hand.

What did we learn from remote learning? And how does it affect how we teach?

I recently polled educators who are undergoing that same transformation -- from remote to face-to-face -- or have already gone through it.

They provided some sage advice.

1. Offer lots of choice.

When students were at home, many of the mechanisms we use to maintain routine weren't around. Getting back to a sense of routine and structure may be tough. Giving students choices can ease that transition. Plus, it's not just a remedy for getting back into school. Choice gives students agency over their learning!

2. Utilize tech in new ways.

After teaching remotely, many of us have learned new ways to use our technology. Some of us have learned brand new technology! We now have more tools in our instructional toolbelts than ever. When we look at what we want kids to accomplish in class, we can pull out the best tools for the job.

3. Model procedures.

I love the way Christian Perkins puts this: "Assume nothing; model everything." Clear and explicit modeling of expectations, instructions, etc. has been a part of many classrooms. But as we go back into the classroom face to face, it's especially crucial. Students understand better when they can see it, and when they see us doing what we expect, it can go a long way.

4. Use daily agendas to keep everyone on track.

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." Knowing where you're going is key. Many students and parents had to work extra hard to make sure everything was covered and completed in remote learning. Daily agendas and routine can go a long way to help.

5. Take time to be a trauma responsive educator.

The pandemic was rough on a lot of families in a lot of ways -- medically, financially, emotionally, etc. Learning can happen once students' basic needs are met -- including safety and security, and that includes perceived safety and security.  As educators, we can do our best to respond to that trauma that students have endured by taking action.

6. Play!

The classroom can be a theater of happiness, laughter, and togetherness in a way that the virtual classroom could not. A little play can go a long way right now! Research is clear on the powerful impact of play on learning, as you can see in Creating a Playful Classroom, the free online course linked below. A smile can make a memory and make learning stick.

7. Build and maintain relationships with families.

This is a crucial key to learning that educators constantly point to. Build relationships with students. But also build relationships with families! Parents have become co-teachers of sorts during the pandemic. Keep that connection and communication going when returning face to face. Students will benefit. 

8. Teach kids conflict resolution.

When coming back from remote instruction, students have a lot to reacclimate themselves to. Social interactions are one area -- and an important one. It takes some time to build up communication and empathy skills again. A little guidance in conflict resolution and other areas can be very handy and helpful right now.

9. Practice talking to one another.

Here are those social interactions again! Communication and collaboration are two of the 5 C's and 21st century skills. Not only does it build students' social skills, but it also helps them to see how their peers think and feel. After all of that time in isolation during the pandemic, this can help students ease back into socialization.

10. Build in lots of breaks.

There's only so much the human brain can take at once. Cognitive load is the idea that the brain can only hold so much in its working memory at once. Give the brain some time to consolidate that new learning and store it in long term memory. Plus, breaks where students move are powerful. Physical movement can give the brain a jolt that will improve cognition.

BONUS: Going Back to In-Person Learning by Wesley Glossen

In this post, educator Wesley Glossen offers some tips and activity ideas for teachers making their way back to face-to-face classes. He includes strategies for rules, icebreakers, dealing with parents, dealing with paperwork, and being supportive.

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