If you’re looking for help with a virtual first day back to school, you’ve come to the right place. It’s a pretty safe bet that most teachers will have to do some form of online teaching this year. Most states are creating their back-to-school plans with an emphasis on three different models for students and teachers: 1) full in-person, 2) full digital/distance learning, and 3) a hybrid model.
In a previous blog post, I laid out all my lesson plans for my in-person first day back to school. Since releasing that blog post, I’ve heard from many of you that you may start the year with distance learning or you will be required to create lesson plans for both in-person learning and for distance learning. The positive thing is, you won’t have to jump into distance learning without any warning, plans, or resources this time.
Whether your first day back to school is in a classroom or in a Zoom meeting with students, I’ve got lesson plans you can use.
I understand some of you are anxious to embark on this new era of teaching. I get it. However, once you dive in and get familiar with all of the nuances of distance learning, I promise that you’ll see how enjoyable the experience can be. In this post, I share a complete virtual lesson plan for your first day of distance learning so that you’re ready for anything.
You can grab my free virtual first day of school lesson plan HERE.
Virtual First Day Lesson Plan
In this virtual first day back to school lesson plan, I break down the day with team building ideas, free science lessons, a character education read aloud, a writing prompt that emphasizes diversity and inclusion, a technology scavenger hunt to familiarize your students with the tools they will be using this year, and so much more.
Before you begin your virtual first day back to school, make sure you share the schedule with students. Much like posting your schedule in your physical classroom, it is just as important for them to know what to expect on this virtual first day. I have two versions of these schedules ready to go for you in Google Slides. One version is filled out to follow this lesson plan. Another version is left blank for you to edit as you see fit.
The link to the complete schedule can be found HERE.
The link to the blank, editable schedule can be found HERE.
Zoom Meeting Invitation
In addition to sending students a detailed schedule for the day, you should also email students an invitation to the first Zoom meeting. I created editable invitations found HERE that you can use to invite students to the first Zoom meeting. Complete the invitation, save it as a PDF, and send it to students’ or parents’ email addresses. When you send out these invitations to students ahead of time, they will know exactly when they are to log in to the first Zoom meeting on the first day of school.
Even if you’re doing a virtual first day back to school, I suggest that you devote time to building a community with your students – just as you would in your physical classroom. I’ve developed some fun and creative ways you can do this during Zoom meetings.
I created a Digital Team Building Resource for you that will allow you to establish relationships with your students and still have fun on those first days.
With my virtual first day back to school lesson plans, you will begin the day with a Zoom introduction so students can get to know each other. Students will have the opportunity to go around and introduce themselves using alliteration. You can read more about the activity by checking out the lesson plan HERE.
Continue to build community and get to know your students by having them fill out this All About Me Hot Seat page shown below. In the lesson plan, you can see that there is an option to do this activity individually or collaboratively with a small group of students or your whole class. In addition, I offer ideas on how to use this activity with a Zoom Meeting so students can share about themselves to their classmates.
Giving students breaks throughout the day is very important. Too much screen time can cause students to become overwhelmed and irritable. You will see this even more at the beginning of the year. Encourage students to spend their break grabbing a snack, going outside to do things like ride bikes, play with Legos, read a chapter book, etc.
Character Education Read Aloud and Writing Prompt
Now that students have had the opportunity to take a break and re-charge, bring them back for a read aloud.
It’s so important to incorporate SEL or character education lessons into these first days. When you do this, you set the tone for a positive classroom community on those first days back to school.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold is a great story to read aloud at the start of the year. You can choose to read this aloud to students via Zoom or you can choose to share the YouTube link of this story being read aloud online.
Here is the link to the book on Amazon:
If you do decide to read the story on Zoom, use that opportunity to have a quick discussion with students about diversity and inclusion.
Here is the link to the book being read on YouTube:
After students listen to the story, they can respond to the digital writing prompt. You can access the digital writing prompt on this blog post HERE.
Now is a great opportunity to move students into some content to switch it up a bit. You don’t want to start with anything too difficult on this virtual first day. Keep the content simple, light, and fun. For this activity, students will go to the Wonderopolis website. They will have the opportunity to watch a short video, read a quick passage, and answer some questions about whether or not animals can get sunburns. Again, students will get excited for digital learning when the content is clear, interactive, and fun.
Wonderopolis is a fantastic site with additional science, social studies, and math content. Feel free to explore this site to find a different activity that suits your learners.
Break / Recess
Again, encourage students to spend their breaks grabbing a snack, going outside to do things like ride bikes, play with Legos, read a chapter book, etc.
Encourage students to use this time to eat a healthy lunch and rest. Students should make their own healthy lunch and clean up after themselves when they finish.
Digital Logic Puzzles
Now that students have had the opportunity to take a rest and lunch break, invite them back to learning with some fun digital logic puzzles. These games are back-to-school themed and ask your students to solve real-world, first-week teacher problems. You can click HERE to see more.
Google Slides Scavenger Hunt
Another important tip is to allow your students the opportunity to practice with whatever digital tools you’ll be using throughout the year. For that reason, I created a free Google Slides Scavenger Hunt. Click HERE to check it out.
With this scavenger hunt, students will have the opportunity to complete tasks, manipulate items, and submit assignments in Google Slides to familiarize themselves with the technology.
This activity is part of my Meet the Teacher Open House resource found HERE. I decided to make it free for you all to use on your first day of distance learning!
End the day on a high note with some fun, collaborative team building. For this activity, students will work together (or individually) to complete a silly back-to-school newsletter.
Final Zoom Meeting
Use this opportunity to wrap up the day. Keep it simple and upbeat for students.
During this Zoom meeting:
- Allow students to share their character education writing prompts from earlier
- Allow some students to share their findings or interesting facts from the Wonderopolis science lesson
- Go around the room and have students share their favorite thing about the day
An additional option would be to end the day with my Zoom Only Meeting idea: Show Us Your Talent.
With this Zoom meeting, students will have the opportunity to share a special talent with the class via a Zoom Meeting. You can read more about this idea in my Back to School Team Building Resource found HERE.
Below are the links to the free resources in this blog. All of the links can also be accessed in the First Day of Distance Learning Lesson Plan.