How do you survive teaching with social distancing in K-3? Try these simple classroom social distancing ideas and activities to help you set-up and manage a primary classroom.
Classroom Social Distancing Ideas
Instead of dwelling on the notion that everything is vastly different now, realize that you still have the same goals as a teacher. It’s not about HOW you modify your approach to something.
- If you had stations before, how can you use them now in a safe manner?
- What can you do to adapt your classroom lending library?
- How can you make morning meetings fun and engaging, even if you are spread out across the room instead of altogether on the rug?
The same principles apply; we need to be creative to be successful. Like we teach the kids, we need to think outside the box.
These tools, tips, and tricks will help you navigate the new norm in your classroom. All the while, you will still connect with your kids in a safe and fun manner. With a little organization and some creativity, social distancing can be fun!
Personal & Individual Items
Instead of using stations where children gather, individual “stations” are the new normal. For example, create a binder, container, and folder per child, so everyone has their own supplies.
Group centers can transform into individual centers with some creativity. Fabric or plastic cubby bins stored under or near each child’s desk can hold each kid’s belongings.
Here are a variety of ideas you can quickly implement:
- Keep hand sanitizer well-stocked – Start by making individual hand sanitizer bottles for each kid in class. Label them and place clear packing tape over them, so the sanitizer doesn’t wash away the name.
- Keep small things tidy – Grab some inexpensive containers or pencil boxes at a dollar store. These can hold pencils, dry erase markers, scissors, hole punch, clothespins, playdoh, tweezers, buttons, mini erasers, glue stick, dice, clothespins, buttons, mini manipulatives, and more. Create a cute label for each kid in class.
- Individualized storage – Create individual tubs for the kids with food storage containers, mesh bags, Ziploc bags, poly bags, or inexpensive plastic tubs and covers. Check out these ideas from Natalie Lynn Kindergarten to see how she is using individual math centers.
- Portable centers – Pick up some binders or poly folders with brads to maintain individual centers and keep paperwork together.
- Name tags and labels – Make fun name tags for the kids’ personalized supplies and socially distanced spaces. Grab a FREE set here!
Start with these Classroom Social Distancing Ideas
The act of social distancing can be hard to wrap your brain around. Prepare your room for the new normal with desks arranged appropriately and sanitizing stations setup as needed.
These tips and recommendations offer insight into social distancing.
- Handwashing habits – Teach your kids how to wash their hands. Keep it fun and make up a fun classroom song to accompany the hand washing. Be sure to review the sanitizing stations and policies in the classroom. Read this cute book to make it crystal clear how important it is!
- Visual Reminders – Hang visuals with safety measures (mask, washing hands, etc.) and the rules of the classroom. Include social distancing, what it means, and what it looks like in action. For instance, imagine a broom handle, a door on the floor, or a twin bed can fit between each kid in line. Make up a cute poem or song that reminds the kids how far apart to stand. Rachael from Literacy with the Littles has a set of free posters you can download in addition to ideas for math and writing.
- Flexible seating can still work – Try flexible seating options, including poly dots, colored masking tape, or hula hoops.
- Practical room setup – Stacy Harmon of Preschool Plans provides visuals of room set up to show what social distancing looks like in a preschool classroom.
- Floor markers – Create fun floor markers with entertaining sayings to show kids where to stand in line. Design your own, use a Cricut or Silhouette machine to create them, or purchase them. You could even have a contest at the beginning of each month with a kids’ design and change them monthly.
- Lots and lots of movement! – Use movement as brain breaks or to reinforce answers. Go Noodle is a fun website that uses movement and mindfulness to enhance learning. The kids are going to need to stretch their legs desperately.
- Video guest speakers – Add video conferencing to allow visitors to join the classroom and participate.
- Need a “sanitizer supervisor”? – Rethink classroom jobs and be creative. Line leaders, caboose, and attendance keepers can still be assigned, but those who sharpen pencils or handout papers are not needed. Maybe you can have a human timer, noise monitor, or sanitizer supervisor instead.
- Virtual Field Trips – Establish Fun Day Field Trip Friday to venture to new locales. Add some books, music, and crafts to make it a full experience that the kids will look forward to weekly.
- Protect reusables for cleaning – If you need to share materials among the kids, use surfaces that you can wipe down. For instance, use laminated printables, paper in a page protector, or Press-n-Seal covering.
- Effective classroom management – Use this classroom management bundle with eight powerful tools to make the most of your classroom.
- Give the kids ownership of their space – Have each kid decorate their “office” or “work station.”
How to Survive Social Distancing in the Classroom
Times are different, but there are countless resources, tips, tricks, and strategies that will help us survive social distancing!
Read along for some practical ideas for survival that I’ve found on the web.
- Teach engaging units – Coordinate reading, writing, and math skills with science and social studies topics, so the information is captivating for the kids. This way, kids will have fun while reinforcing the necessary skills. Check out this nonfiction & life science units bundle that will inspire curious young minds.
- Simplify what you can – You’ll be doing a lot of “extra” tasks such as cleaning supplies and managing anxious and antsy children. Boom Cards are self-correcting digital task cards that the kids love. By incorporating these in your classroom, you will save time correcting paperwork, and the kids “play a game” to reinforce learning.
- Literacy – This Literacy Life shares some unique fun literacy games in a socially distanced world. Mrs. Richardson’s Class also offers some practical tips for making literacy stations safer.
- Digital presentation – Incorporate digital materials like Google Slides to introduce and review the skills presented in class. If distance-learning is necessary, digital resources allow for continued education at home.
- Practice new technology – Prepare for distance learning, so you are ready, just in case! Introduce technology and use it consistently. Learn about Google Classroom, Seesaw, Schoology, Flipgrid, and other popular platforms. Scroll to the bottom of Think Grow Giggle’s post for tutorials on laying the groundwork for remote learning. Find a program to connect with your kids’ families at home like ClassTag, Remind, Class Dojo, and Bloomz.
- Technology insights – Kristen’s Kaboodle shares technical details. Specifically, she explains how to use Google activities with various school platforms like Canvas, Schoology, Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom, and Seesaw. Della Larsen’s Class has some insight for using Google Classroom with kindergarteners.
- Make logins easy – Make a password ID card for each student so they can keep track of logins on their own. Give them simple login and passwords that are easy for them to remember. Play a game to learn them!
- Science labs – Two Teaching Taylors offer ideas on incorporating science labs without sharing materials.
Morning Meetings & Social Emotional Learning
Start the day on a great foot with morning meetings and social-emotional education. Most importantly, our attitude as teachers will set the pace and tone of the classroom.
Try these classroom social distancing ideas for morning meetings and social-emotional learning lessons.
- Create a starting routine – Set up morning meetings that highlight the plans for the day and expectations. Include a bit of movement and, perhaps, a read-aloud. You can read more about using morning meetings here. Then, simply adjust the ways of presentation to allow for social distancing in your classroom.
- Shared Calendars – Set up a digital calendar that kids can access at their desk or work station, or wherever they are – even at home! The benefit to everyone using a digital calendar is that nobody is left out!
- Bitmoji engagement – Create a Bitmoji classroom with all of the activities available in one easy file. Kids can click and explore on their own or together as a group. Bitmoji classrooms can include a variety of things like online books or read-aloud, classwork, games, videos, reinforcement, movement, etc.
- Social-Emotional Learning – In this time of social distancing, social emotional skills are more important than ever! Just as important as academic! This complete curriculum will give kids the social-emotional tools they need to be successful.
- Build classroom community – Try this SEL community-building resource that focuses on community, confidence, self-esteem, relationships, kindness, and empathy.
Manipulative Tools for Social Distancing
Sharing manipulatives is not encouraged now and for good reason. But how do you get around that in a classroom?
Here are some great online tools you can use. Many thanks to Bonita Blooms for reminding us of these virtual manipulatives below.
- Toy Theatre has a large variety of digital math manipulatives (among other items), including a timer, decimal strips, hundreds chart, place value cards, and so much more.
- Didax offers digital math manipulatives, including spinners, dice, and a variety of other items.
Online Resources to Supplement
Sometimes, it will be best to find online programs to supplement your curriculum and materials. Sharing won’t be a concern, and it helps prepare the kids for distance learning if needed at a later date.
- Prescreened Youtube videos – Here’s a listing of over 80 YouTube channels to add to your plans this year. Videos with engaging clips and rhyme can enhance the learning experience. The list sorts the channels by categories including general education, reading, language arts, grammar; math; science; social studies; art, and music, movement, and more.
- Reading helps – These online reading programs help build literacy skills. They are easy to use in both the socially distanced classroom and with distance learning. There are general programs and apps along with phonics programs, reading comprehension and fluency, and online books and libraries.
- Use this vast resource list – 91 distance teaching and learning resources activities has excellent ideas. The article sorts them into categories, including literacy, online books, math, virtual field trips, art, and more.
Library, Games, Celebrations for the Socially Distanced Classroom
A classroom library may not be permissible, or at the very least, will look different than we used to have. And yes, you can still play games and celebrate in class.
Instead of sharing books among students, or a game among players, try a few of these options.
- Quarantined books – If you still want a lending library in your classroom, try incorporating a one week quarantine for borrowed books. Erin from Mrs. Beattie’s classroom, shares how she will still have a lending library in times of social distancing.
- Multiple copies of games and pieces – Make enough game boards, die, spinner, and pieces for everyone in the classroom. Now, you can play the game altogether.
- Digital games! – You can also have a virtual digital slides game setup where you move the pieces on the board and have a digital spinner or dice roll (see the manipulatives section above for components). A huge bonus when using digital games is that the child cleans up everything with the click of a button!
- Celebrations – While this post offers end of year ideas for distance learning, these suggestions are easily adapted to use at anytime of the year. Use them for various celebrations, like achievements, or just for fun!
Times have changed, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are adaptable! Remember why you became a teacher and keep those goals intact. We can survive with the above classroom social distancing ideas.
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