In 2020, schools had to transition from a traditional classroom setting to remote learning. Educators have adapted to create curriculums and lesson plans quickly. However, teaching is much more than just creating lesson plans. A successful classroom involves human connection, and students thrive in an environment where they feel most comfortable.
As the holiday season rolls around, this is an excellent time to establish a class culture that helps motivate students to be excited about coming to school every day. We’ll cover six ways to build an online class culture through the holiday season, which will help prepare students for the next semester.
What Is Class Culture?
Class culture involves the tone, feel, and environment of the classroom. A positive class culture occurs when students feel engaged and safe.
Virtual learning creates a barrier because students aren’t in the same physical space as their peers and teachers. It’s much harder for teachers to read body language virtually, and students might lose the feeling of connection with their teachers and classmates. Students should be comfortable expressing how they feel and be eager to learn. A positive class culture empowers students to take responsibility for their learning and sparks an interest in learning outside of just getting good grades.
As an educator, you should ask yourself these four essential questions about building a classroom culture:
- What does an engaging and vibrant class culture look like?
- How can I coordinate and help students work together?
- How can I build a strong relationship with every student?
- How can I create, share responsibility, and hold students accountable for classroom norms?
Developing a class culture means setting the tone and communication of clear expectations. Also, this culture should encourage students to hold each other accountable in reaching their goals.
6 Ways to Build Class Culture Online
Building a positive class culture is critical to the success of your students. Without trust and acceptance, a student’s focus may be distracted from learning. Establishing culture online may seem difficult, especially without the physical presence of a traditional classroom. However, we’ve compiled a list of eight tips to establish a beneficial virtual classroom culture.
1. Use surveys to check in with students
The holiday season is a great time to get feedback from both students and parents about your class. A survey will help you analyze and make adjustments to any critiques that students may have about your class. Surveys can also be used at the beginning of each semester to better understand your students and determine whether you’ll need to provide more personalized instruction. Find out each student’s likes and dislikes regarding pace, learning style, and subject matter.
Make sure to include relevant questions, such as “Are you enjoying learning?” or “Is what I’m doing working for you?” These questions show students that you are invested in their education and want to help them improve. Surveys are an excellent way to gain an improved understanding of how to serve your students better and personalize your teaching to suit their needs. Surveys can also help your students feel heard and seen.
2. Have students share their holiday traditions with the class
Students will come from different family backgrounds and upbringings, which means they likely celebrate their holidays differently. Use the holiday season as an opportunity to learn about each student’s cultural background, traditions, families, and religions. Students can empathize with one another and celebrate their unique individual backgrounds.
You may be wondering, how can this be done virtually? Have students create and present a video or visual collage representing their family holiday traditions. As a teacher, you should also participate in the sharing. It’s important to remind them that this is a judgment-free zone so that students won’t feel embarrassed about their culture or traditions.
3. Send personalized holiday cards to students
Holidays are a festive time of year, especially Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. There’s no better feeling than unexpectedly receiving a nice card or gift from someone. With 2020 being a very turbulent year filled with lots of isolation, sending personalized cards is an easy way to make students happy and build their confidence.
4. Incorporate ice-breakers or discussion-starters
It’s much easier to coexist and work with peers when you develop genuine relationships with them. Students can work together on school projects, hold each other accountable, or help each other study. In a virtual learning environment, students may not see their classmates in person, making it difficult to form relationships.
You can create breakout rooms in which students branch out into smaller Zoom calls with their peers. Give groups a prompt question to answer that includes an ice breaker or several open-ended “get-to-know-you” type of questions. Here are a few questions to start with:
- What would your dream home be like, and where would it be located?
- If you could only eat one thing for the remainder of your life, what would that food be?
- What’s your favorite TV show or movie to watch?
- What’s one surprising thing that your classmates don’t know about you?
Students should be on a face-to-face call when answering these prompts and share their answers in a roundtable style.
5. Establish classroom routines and norms
Part of feeling safe in an environment is having a consistent set of routines to follow. Most students find comfort in the normal structure of a traditional school environment, such as daily routines, office hours, and bell schedules. Even online schooling feels more comfortable and familiar when routines are in place. Here are a few questions to help you determine how to set up routines and norms for your virtual classroom:
- How and when should students ask questions?
- When and where should students check for updates from you?
- Can you share a calendar or virtual agenda to help students stay organized?
- Is there a way or specific location that you want work to be submitted?
- Will there be a weekly synchronous meeting that students can expect?
Give your students a voice by allowing them to participate in creating the rules of the classroom. Empowering your students to take charge makes them feel like the classroom is a democracy in which they help guide their education.
6. Promote kindness
Anxiety, depression, and loneliness have become an increasing issue in the wake of COVID-19. School has always been a place where students can come together with their peers for a common purpose. However, this lack of social interaction with virtual learning leaves a void. Encourage and celebrate when students perform acts of kindness to one another. A few ideas to suggest are:
- Write a thank-you email or letter.
- Compliment a classmate.
- Contribute to an idea that would make eLearning more efficient or solve a problem.
- Share an uplifting paragraph from a book or an inspirational quote.
- Laugh and smile during synchronous meetings.
Establishing a class culture through virtual learning can be quite challenging. However, in these times, teachers need to be creative and innovative when building camaraderie in their classrooms. When they enjoy working with the people around them in an environment built on trust, students are more likely to take their learning seriously and engage in your lesson plans. We hope these six strategies help you build a robust classroom culture that leads to your student’s success!