Back to the classroom - Back to face to face learning

Kathleen Witte
Are you also going back to the classroom? And are you also wondering how this might go after having had students learn from their homes?

We all know that this past year has been challenging for everyone, students, teachers, and families. However, I am looking forward to returning to the classroom and seeing my students again.

With the return to school, I am also thinking about how to prepare my students. They have missed out on social interactions, communicating face to face with their peers, and simply having a good time with their friends. 

I want to make sure that my students can connect with one another but still be safe by keeping their distance.

Conversation stations

One activity I want to share is ‘conversation stations’. The goal for students is to share and reflect on their distance learning experience and create a way of connecting with one another again. This activity can also easily be adapted to other purposes, such as comprehension questions after reading a text. 

  1. Prepare your questions. For my purpose, I prepared the following reflection questions on the distance learning experience: What did you like about distance learning? What did you not like about distance learning? What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about others? How does it compare with your experience as a student in a physical classroom? What are you looking forward to most? 

  2. Write each question on a large piece of paper and put them up around the classroom. At the same time, also write the questions on the whiteboard. This will allow students to think about their answers while they wait for their turn.

  3. Have students rotate and write their answers on a post-it or directly on the large paper. 

  4. Share students’ answers and discover similarities and differences.

Of course, you can do this activity digitally by sharing a Padlet or any other digital format where everyone shares their answers. However, after such a long time of online learning, I would prefer to have students move around the classroom and use hands-on materials except if you have students with accommodations who require digital tools. 

Adaption for younger students: Paper cup telephones

To keep it simple, I only have 2 to 3 reflection questions. Again this activity can be adapted to any other purpose and/or content that you are teaching.

  1. Make the telephone: pierce a small hole in the bottom of the paper cup and pull through a thread of string. Tie a knot on the inside to secure the string. Attach the other end of the string to a second cup in the same way.

  2. Students take their paper cups, pull the string tightly, and can now communicate through their telephone. 

  3. Write the reflection questions on the board for students to remember what they should talk about. 

  4. Have partners share their thoughts about the reflection prompts. Once finished, each partner shares with the class what the other partner responded. 

Final Thoughts

Participate and share your thoughts. Students also want to know how you feel and what you think. It will strengthen your connection and relationship with your students. Create a safe space where everyone is welcome and respected. And that’s what matters, especially after a long time of distance learning. 

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