Every August, teachers around the country began to flock back to their classrooms in droves. It is one of the more stressful times for teachers, but it is also one of the more exciting parts of the year. We get our new rosters. Sometimes we even get new classrooms. It’s the time when we plan out our new classroom themes, and it’s the time when we plan our new curriculum or how to implement our old curriculum in a fresh, new way.
It’s the bitter ending to summer and the sweet beginning of the school year.
Gamify Me, Captain!
Okay, some of you may be too young to remember those old cereal commercials. What does “gamify” even mean? Well, teachers around the nation have been tasked with delivering their content in a virtual platform. Even the teachers who are in person are being told to use laptops and Chromebooks in hopes that less paper will translate into fewer cases of sickness. In turn, many teachers help students feel a sense of community by turning their classroom into a game. Literally. They are using online platforms to transform their students into teammates.
Each assignment becomes like a quest. The virtual teams are made up of actual students who must work together, even when spaced far apart, to learn new materials and succeed in their group quests.
By gamifying their classroom, teachers can keep their students safely spaced apart from one another. The best thing is they can do this without sacrificing the camaraderie and socialization that children and adolescents so desperately need. Leave it to teachers to figure out how to make learning fun and safe. Gamifying your classroom takes a little bit of time upfront, but the result is well worth the work.
Make It Colorful
It can be a little scary for students to come into a classroom and see “Xs” taped onto desks and floors. The “Wash Your Hands” and “Prevent the Spread of Covid-19” posters on the walls in the hallway can feel a little daunting to an adult teacher, let alone a first grader or even ninth-grader, for that matter.
Many of the orders regarding how to structure your classroom, content-wise, and physical space-wise, are coming from the top down for uniformity across classrooms, school buildings, and even districts. But that doesn’t mean we can’t jazz it up a little bit.
My classroom requires desks are crossed out with masking tape, so students know they can’t use desks that are too close to one another, spacing wise. Instead of using the blue painters’ tape we were provided, though, I chose a cute rainbow Washi tape. My classroom theme is “Shine Bright like a Rainbow,” so I picked tape that would still meet the requirements of our district health plan but would also mesh well with my theme and not seem so jarring to my kiddos. Don’t be afraid to add a little flair to your social distancing!
Make It Thematic!
Odds are, you have to have a specific seating chart this year. For the sake of social distancing and contract tracing, we have to know exactly where the kids sit all day. So, we might as well make it fun. If your classroom is rainbow-themed, like mine, give each student’s desk a colorful label. Johnny sits on indigo, and Sally sits on orange! If your classroom is ocean-themed, give each desk a sea critter to designate it. This concept can be applied to literally any classroom theme. It can be content-related (authors, historical figures, scientific theories!), or fun and cutesy.
2020 is no different for teachers in a lot of ways. We are still getting our classrooms ready and preparing to meet our new students. But 2020 is also a brand new world for us. We are taping our floor with “Xs,” so the students know where it is safe for them to stand when lining up at the end of the day. We meet new students with face shields over our masks and meet their entire family over our webcams. Teachers are really pioneering a new world here. But if anyone is capable of traversing this new land and doing so in a way that makes it both safe and fun for kids, it is the teachers.