Planning a virtual first day of school sounds daunting, and more than a little scary. Teachers are planners and we don’t like uncertainty, especially when it comes to planning for back to school. We have never done a virtual back to school before, but I’ve never met a teacher who couldn’t tackle a challenge! I’ve put together lots of helpful ideas, digital back to school activities, and ready to use lessons for a virtual first day of school with distance learning. Let’s take a breath together and dive in!
How to Plan a Virtual First Day of School
In this post, I’ll help you:
- Plan and manage an engaging, virtual first day of school
- Connect with families and students online
- Get to know your students with creative first day activities
- Create simple videos that teach parents and students how to use your platform
- Share digital back to school activities designed for distance learning
- Teach routines and procedures for online class meetings
Reflect Before You Plan
Think about when you taught remotely last year. What worked well and what didn’t? What would you like to do differently this year now that you have time to plan? What resources will you need and what routines should you teach? What platforms, apps, and websites will be helpful? Where can you find tutorials to help you learn them?
In a previous blog post, I collected over 120 educational websites, apps and tutorials to help teachers and parents navigate and plan for distance learning. Everything from how to digitize your regular resources to how to record your screen is covered in this post.
Tips for Teaching Students & Parents to Use the Platform
Consider making a video giving parents and students a tour of your learning platform and how to use its features. You can easily record your own screen using Loom, Screencast-O-Matic, or Screencastify for free. Walk parents through how to log in, where to find assignments, grades, and messages. Show them how to turn in completed assignments and anything else you will be doing on the platform. Upload the video to a Google Drive folder and share it with parents so they have access any time they need it.
You might also consider sharing the video with parents if you host a virtual Meet the Teacher Night. This gives parents time to get familiar with the platform so they can help their student before your first class meeting. Learn how to hold a virtual Meet the Teacher Night open house HERE.
Invite Students to Your First Class Meeting
Before the first day of school, email students an invitation to your first Zoom meeting or video call. Include the start time and the link to the meeting so they are ready for the big day. Download this FREE Zoom invitation on PowerPoint here, add your information, save it as a PDF, and email it to your parents. Download a Google Slides version here, and share it with your students in Google Classroom.
Along with the invitation, send a schedule to parents with daily start times and expectations for parents to review with their students.
Virtual First Day of School Activities
It will be a bit different, but you can still do fun first day of school activities virtually. Help students get to know each other by going around and introducing themselves. For younger students, consider calling each child’s name, saying “Welcome, ____!” and having them wave.
I like to center activities around first day read alouds. My very favorite first day book is, You’re Finally Here! by Melanie Watt.
This book lends itself perfectly to many fun getting to know you activities that you can lead online with your class. It’s available HERE on Amazon Canada.
If you don’t have the book, no worries! I’ll read it to your class online! I made this adorable book video that is perfect for a virtual first day of school read aloud. CLICK HERE to watch the video.
These digital back to school activities are part of this You’re Finally Here! book unit with a full week of printable activities, plus five days of digital activities on Google Slides, AND preloaded into Seesaw. See the unit HERE.
For a virtual first day of school, begin by showing your students the video. Afterward, set the premise that, like the bunny book character waiting for his readers, you’ve been waiting and waiting for your new class to arrive! And they’re finally here!
One of the funniest activities to do with this book is to ask students, “What took you so long?” The responses are priceless as students describe the things they had to do before they could be in my class. Everything from being born, to waiting for my Mom to get off the phone!
During a traditional first day of school, I do this activity on a class anchor chart. You can see our class chart in this blog post.
Check On Students Emotionally
A virtual first day of school may take some students time to get used to. To check on how they are doing, assign students the, How’s It Going So Far?” activity.
Getting to Know You Games
Get to know your students, and help them get to know each other, by using the journal prompts and partner games as whole group activities. Ask students to share when, like the book character, they were very very bored waiting for something. Assign students the digital page in either Seesaw or on Google Slides.
See all the ways I use this book for the entire first week in my classroom HERE.
Teach Class Meeting Rules, Routines & Procedures
Before your first day, think about the rules and routines you want to establish. Plan your daily schedule, how you will run class meetings, and what the expectations are for meeting behavior, assignments, and anything else you wish to put in place. One way to easily share this with students and parents is to create a Power Point or Google Slides presentation. These first day of school Power Points & Google Slides templates are easy to customize and share with your class.
Each day during the first week of school, introduce a new meeting routine or procedure. Plan and present how you will have students to do things like:
- write in journals at home
- use practice websites in place of classroom centers
- complete assignments
- turn in homework
- take spelling tests and other assessments
- spend time reading independently
- take reading quizzes
- take brain breaks
As you move through your first week back to school, add subjects and short assignments for students to do. This blog post has digital science activities, designed for distance learning, that students can easily do at home. The lesson slides are narrated, so even struggling readers can do them independently.
Planning a virtual first day back to school takes a little shift in thinking. These tips and resources will help you plan and manage a successful first day of school and distance learning!
Pin this for later so you have it when you plan!
How to Plan a Virtual Meet the Teacher Night CLICK HERE
Manage Your Classroom Meet the Teacher Night Like a Pro! CLICK HERE
How to Make Science Work with Distance Learning CLICK HERE
4 Things to Teach in Science at the Start of the Year CLICK HERE
Have a fantastic first day of school!