How to re-introduce students to the classroom after a year of distance learning

Kendall Vick is an IXL Professional Learning Specialist with six years experience as an elementary classroom teacher.

The disruptions during the past school year made consistent learning a challenge for students and caused some to disengage with school, battle emotional challenges, or struggle with uncertainty and anxiety. 

As learners shift back to in-person instruction and get ready for a more “normal” 2021-22 school year, there are a variety of strategies educators can employ to keep students motivated, enthusiastic, and on the road to success. 

Create a welcoming environment 

One challenge teachers might face in the new school year is creating an environment that mimics the safety and comfort of at-home learning for students. To help create a welcoming classroom, try greeting your students individually as they come in each morning. You might choose to meet them at your classroom door with a handshake, high five, or funny dance move. 

Incorporating more flexible seating options into your classroom is another great way to make students feel comfortable back at school. Exercise balls, standing desks, and beanbag chairs can help create a space designed for learning and engagement. 

Build classroom community 

It’s more important now than ever before for teachers to help foster a sense of community within their classrooms. Connecting with students and their families on a personal level is key to making them feel safe and at home in the classroom. 

One way to do this is by celebrating student successes with a verbal shout-out or something more permanent, like a brag board or bulletin board. Or, try motivating your class with IXL’s new Leaderboards, as a way to create personalized online classroom competitions! 

You can also try starting each day with a morning meeting to encourage empathy and collaboration. These meetings can take any form, and are a great way to get students involved in classroom decisions and encourage them to take agency over their learning. 

Make learning fun 

After a year spent learning at home and in front of screens, it’s time to get creative and make learning fun again! A good way to keep the school day engaging is to schedule time for brain breaks and movement-based activities. Have students write a song to memorize the 50 states and capitals, play ball-toss spelling, or use the playground for a math field day

Student-driven engagement is another effective way to make learning fun and build confidence. Encourage students to take on responsibilities, such as helping peers with an assignment or assisting with classroom upkeep.

Finally, inject some extra fun into your learning routines with an energizing and educational Vocabulary Jam session! Students can play a jam as an incentive, whole-class competition, or community building activity, and practice their vocab skills while they’re at it!

Looking for more ways to introduce students back into the classroom and set them up for a year of success? Check out our Elite 100 for inspiration!