When we transitioned rather abruptly to online school last Spring, I wanted to make sure that I kept my students connected with one another in our new virtual classroom. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that, but I knew two things right away:

  1. I was not going to teach in my meetings.
  2. My class meetings needed to be about connection and shared experiences.

One of the only things I actually liked about online learning was the ability to easily differentiate instruction. I could create my own lessons with PowerPoint, screen captures, or videos, and I could link lessons from outside sources as supplemental resources. Students could use all or none of the lesson materials. They could work on slightly different assignments or even totally different units without worrying about what others might think. I was also able to have about half of my class doing math at their own pace (or rather, as quickly as I could make the materials and lessons; those kids were keeners!). Taking all that into consideration, teaching a live lesson to the whole class at the same time just didn’t make sense. I also knew that some kids would be bound to miss content if it was taught in the meetings. I knew everyone’s schedules were out of whack and several students were sharing devices with family members. I was lucky that my district pushed asynchronous learning for the same reasons, so I was supported in that sense.

The format I ended up settling on for my meetings was super simple. We had ‘mandatory’ meetings on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10 and 2, and an optional picture book read aloud meeting on Fridays at 10. On Mondays and Wednesdays, students just came to the time that was most convenient to them and I did not bother having them sign up. Sometimes I had meetings with twenty students and sometimes I only had four. Our meetings usually lasted thirty to forty-five minutes. I wanted to be conscious of the amount of screen time that kids were getting, the fact that many devices were being shared, and the knowledge that some parents were taking time out to supervise the meetings.

Related Post: Games for Online Class Meetings in Upper Elementary

Meeting Structure

Text reads: Games for Online Class Meetings in Upper Elementary

Mystery Readers!

Friday meetings were all about picture books. Although I posted regular picture book read alouds on a channel in our classroom, they weren’t getting may views. However, I usually had at least half the class show up for our Friday picture book read aloud meetings. I scheduled these meetings so that I was the reader every other week. On the alternate weeks, I invited a **mystery reader**. The mystery only lasted until the reader logged on, then the kids could see their username. Once the read aloud started, they could see their face and hear them too. I used this as an opportunity for the kids to connect with staff members they would have interacted with regularly at school but wouldn’t have spoken to in the online environment. Because everyone was scrambling to set things up at first, I didn’t start the mystery readers right away and we only got to have three. We were joined by our principal, music teacher, and teacher-librarian. Watching the kids interact with them made my heart so happy.

I hope you found these ideas helpful! If you are teaching online, what are your favourite ideas for online class meetings? I’d love to read your ideas in the comments below!

Text in the foreground reads: How I structured online class meetings for my fifth grade class. In the background, the image is of a laptop with a class meeting on the screen, flowers and an agenda are to the side.

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