Ask Hello: Building Relationships while Teaching Virtually
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NAEYC’s HELLO online forum is a great place to have conversations and create connections with peers around important early learning issues.
Excerpts from Hello have been edited for style and length.
I am a kindergarten teacher teaching virtually on Zoom. Could anyone share strategies to get students communicating with each other and building relationships while online? I’ve tried to initiate conversations and participate in role play and puppet play in small breakout rooms to no avail. They seem to just stare at each other as if they are watching them in a movie.
—Kathleen, North Carolina
One teacher I work with signs on at least 15 minutes before class and uses this time as a sort of virtual recess to just casually chat with students as they sign on. She finds that this is helping her build relationships and gets the children more comfortable talking to her and to each other.
We are a preschool of 3- to 5-year-olds, and we ran a robust program while teaching virtually last spring. We invited children to bring a favorite stuffed friend; introduce their pet; share a picture or a project; and introduce a sibling. We had great luck with “lunch bunch,” during which we shared stories and sometimes guided conversation as we ate. Families wanted the social interactions for their children, especially those who were only children. We also encouraged them to create playdates with each other.
One time I got a box of animal postcards from Amazon and mailed each child a card with animal facts. Those cards came to our Zoom meetings clutched in their hands—they loved getting mail! We will be encouraging pen pals in the classes should we need to close again.
Do you think they are silent because they do not really know each other yet? You might ask them to bring something that is important to them to share during the virtual meeting. That may help them open up. You could also read aloud a children’s book about making friends. You could ask them to draw pictures of their families or bring photos to share with each other. Perhaps start by sharing about yourself—something important to you, something you love to do, photos of your family, or a little story about yourself.
—Nora, New Jersey
Do you have questions or suggestions to share with your peers? Are you simply interested in reading different takes from early childhood educators around the country? Tap into the vibrant discussions on Hello.