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Fun Socially Distanced Classroom Ideas

Looking for fun and engaging socially distanced classroom ideas you can implement with your upper elementary  students? Here are a few.

Teaching in 2020 has been nothing less than challenging. Whether you are teaching face-to-face, virtually, hybrid, or using dual modalities, these times in the classroom are not what any of us ever thought we would be doing. As co-teachers, I honestly do not think there has been a time more important time than these to share ideas with each other of things that are currently working for us. Therefore, today, I am sharing some socially distanced classroom ideas that have been successful as I work with my face-to-face students. 

Let me preface this by saying that this year, I am working in the most unusual situation I have ever worked in. I am currently teaching two 4/5 combo classes. One is virtual and the other is face-to-face. It has been a challenge and anything but perfect, but I thought I'd share some things I have done with our face-to-face students that are working well and helping us stay engaged while still being socially distanced.

Individual pouches to hold supplies in a socially distanced classroom.

My co-teacher and I used some school funds and donations to give each of our students zipper pouches which they hang on the side of their desks with Command hooks. Inside of these bags we've included supplies students can use for brain breaks, Flashlight Friday, and response engagement tools.

A few tools can help keep students engaged in a socially distanced, face-to-face classroom.

1. Brain Break Items:

Small party Play-Doh containers have been a fan favorite. Students enjoy using them to make different creations. It is a quick way to give students a few minutes of a brain break. It is also a fun engagement tool. Students can be asked to spell out words, make a creation that represents an idiom, etc. 

During our first quarter, we learned that we had a few Lego loving students. We decided to add individual block sets for each of them. We purchased a large set, split them up, and added them to mini zipper pencil pouches (which fit perfectly in the large pouches) in order to make a mini set for each student. 

Response boards are a great engagement tool to use during face-to-face or socially distanced instruction.

2. Response Items:

One thing we didn't want to give up this year was giving students access to individual response tools. We placed a white cardstock inside a page protector as a response board. We then got each student one black dry erase marker and a felt square to use as an eraser. The zipper pouches we purchased were large enough to fit the response boards perfectly. 

Students are able to grab the materials quickly and absolutely love the novelty of being able to use the dry erase markers. We love that they can all participate and that we can see their answers while socially distanced. 

Flashlight Fridays are a fun way to engage students who have to socially distance in the classroom.

3. Other Engagement Tools:

Although we have been told not to have classroom libraries open, we needed to find ways to engage our readers. We have continued to do read alouds and class novels. In order to help students continue to be excited about reading, we are still incorporating Flashlight Fridays. We gave each student a mini flashlight to keep in their pouch. 

Brain breaks in the socially distance classroom are important. Here are a couple of ideas.

Get Them Up and Moving in the Classroom

Another way I like to get students moving in class is by providing a chicken dance brain break. My students are in the same room for hours at a time in the same area. Allowing them to get up and move is important. I recently purchased a chicken hat on Amazon which the students have elected to call Clucky. Whenever Clucky shows up, students know it is time to get up, push in their chairs, and do the chicken dance behind their desk.

Go Noodle is always a fan favorite when it comes to indoor recess. My students already have favorite songs and dances they like to request. It's another fun way to get them moving in place.

Celebrating Each Other

Although hugs and high fives are a thing of the past in our class this year, we still like to celebrate each other's accomplishments. We mostly love to acknowledge participation or clever answers by "Whoop, Whooping." I'm not even sure how to explain that in a post, but pretty much I or one of the students will shout out, "(student's name) gets a whoop, whoop." Then, the entire class responds "whoop, whoop."

Students love to recognize each other as well as receive recognition. Every once in a while we will also knock shoes. It's kind of like a high five but with our shoes. 

Boom Cards or digital task cards are a great way to continue to engage students while teaching during Covid.

Other Methods of Teaching in a Socially Distanced Classroom

We have said good-bye to worksheets and task cards and said hello to Powerpoint slides and Boom cards. Many of our lessons are now whole group or individual with a few pair activities sprinkled about if we can work outside and sit approximately 4 feet away from our partner (while of course keeping our masks on). To see more on how I run our grammar lessons with slides and digital task cards, you can head on over to the Types of Sentences blog post where you will be able to download a set of slides and see the progress of the lesson.

Suggestions for Funding

I realize that even though these suggestions are great options, funding all of these items can be costly. You can pick and choose what you think will give you the most bang for your buck. Also, you can find thrifty ways to gather these resources.

Some ideas for funding are to reach out to your PTA, set up an Amazon wishlist and share it at school and on social media, send out a donation list to your students' families, apply for a Donor's Choose project, or reach out to companies to see if they are willing to donate items.

I hope you found at least a few things you can use amongst these socially distanced classroom ideas provided. Wishing you a smooth rest of the school year.

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