Journeys Through Teaching

Journeys Through Teaching

Building Community During Online/Virtual School

Understanding why

This year, all of these are still true. However we also now have a whole generation of children who have been out of school, or at the very least disrupted, for a long time. We’re going to have children who are all experiencing this very differently. Building community has arguably become even more important than ever. But we face 2 significant challenges;

  1. The pressure to ‘catch up’
  2. Figuring out how when access/engagement is so varied and hard to impact

Below we’re going to take a look at a few suggestions, firstly looking at whole school community building and then at classroom ideas. This is mostly focused on elementary schools, but some will be transferable.

Whole School Community Building Ideas

Read Alouds

Sharing whole school read alouds using videos or live meetings is a great way to rebuild a familiar routine, set up a sense of community and give everyone some shared expectations. At AKA Maputo we recently had every PYP teacher/leader read 1 page of the fantastic book ‘All Are Welcome’. The book has a lovely message and sets out our values in a way which is easy to relate to. We followed this up with break out discussions in small groups to share how we had each been welcomed to school this year.


School wide (or grade wide) assemblies aren’t always easy. Lots of kids to mute! But they work, everyone gets to feel involved. We strongly recommend making sure you have a clear plan, aim for 30 mins or less, and have at least 2 people officially hosting so that you can share control of the meeting (1 person to share the screen, 1 to manage participants for example). Short activities such as mini-work outs, silly action songs, etc. have been big hits!

House Events

A house system is great for developing community at any time. But fun house events can add some excitement online. We set challenges and have students post to Seesaw, allowing our teachers and leaders to check in an encourage participation. Some fun ideas so far have included;

  • Wear as many pieces of outer clothing in your house colours as possible
  • Dress everyone in your house in your house colours
  • Draw a picture of our school using only your house colours
  • A challenge to make your bed by yourself
  • A challenge to help make dinner at home
  • Make a chant for your house

Online Community Building for Classes

Daily Video Message

It’s hard videoing yourself at first, but that personal connection goes a really long way for the children we work with. Keep it simple, 1 take and done, keep it short and have some fun.

Play Games

Use some of your live call time to play games! We would all do this in class usually and its a great way to help kids get to know you, and each other. Great ideas include;

  • Show yourself if – have everyone turn off their camera. Call out a sentence such as ‘Show yourself if you have a cat’ and students who do turn their video on.
  • Find something _________ – great for younger kids, ask them to find things that are different colours, start with different letters, etc. (maybe warn the parents in advance if its complicated!)

Talk About Values

When you make your essential agreements focus less on compliance (although you can of course still set high expectations) and more on values. Talk about doing the best we can, valuing differences, supporting each other, acting with kindness etc. Find a digital way to source these idea from your students, and create them into a PDF poster to share.

Call or email home

I know you’ve seen these kids online all week, and perhaps seen family too. But still call or email home for every family in that first week. And then again in the 2nd or 3rd. Share something great the child did, show that you care, that you are getting to know them. You need parents to support you now more than ever, so building that relationship with home is also important.

Have other great ideas? We’d love to hear them! Share in the comments below

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Emma Wheatley
Emma Wheatley


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