Sunday, May 3, 2020

CLASSROOM MEETING : THEMES & ACTIVITIES

One of my biggest joys in teaching is building relationship with my students and fostering our classroom community. Class Meetings are one of my favorite ways to check-in with students and set the tone for our learning environment and "family." During this challenging time of Distance Learning I knew that I wanted to keep my Classroom Meetings as a staple each week. Today I'm sharing with you a few of my favorite "themes" and activities for Classroom Meetings.


The themes and activities I'm sharing with you today are not only my favorites, but have been popular with my kids during our digital classroom meetings. Some of these ideas are specific to the online setting... but most of these ideas come from brain breaks, class meetings, and other community building exercises I already did with my kids when we met face to face. In these challenging times my goal each meeting has been to check in with my kids on a social/emotional level, go over any questions/announcements for the week, and spend time just laughing together and making sweet memories. I hope that you can come away with some fresh ideas to try in your digital classroom meeting tomorrow or tuck in your back pocket to try the next time you're in your classroom together. 


An important part of my classroom culture is allowing for student choice/voice as much as possible. I knew that I wanted that component to continue throughout this digital learning adventure. The themes and activities you'll see below are from me and my students. Some were inspired by other educators, but I'm sharing how I using my teacher style to incorporate them into my classroom meetings. I hope that these ideas will spark inspiration in you to use them or even put your own teacher style on them. Stick around to the end and you'll find a link to a freebie checklist for all 20 of these Classroom Meeting Themes & Activities ideas. Alright, let's go!


1. Would You Rather
This is a tried and true favorite! In the classroom I've used this for instructional purposes and just for fun. Typically I will pose a question with two different options and have students choose which one they prefer. Students then have to walk to a specific part of the room to "cast their vote." It's fun to see students go through the decision process and commit to an idea. Then I call on a couple of kids from each side to share their thinking with the class. I knew the typical style wouldn't work during our online meetings so I decided to utilize some of the tools/features to give a similar effect. My students and I meet via Zoom. When they click on the "Reactions" button there are two different emoji options that pop up. If students prefer the first option they can react with 👏 and if they prefer the second they react with 👍. It provides a quick and easy way for all students to be involved and then I call on a couple of individuals to share the rationale behind their choice. 
PRO-TIP: Search for kid-friendly "Would You Rather" prompts on Pinterest. Some of our favorites have been holiday/seasonal and Disney.

2. Highs & Lows
This has been my favorite way to check-in with students all year long. Once a week we (used to 😥) sit in a circle on the rug and share 1 "high point" and 1 "low point" from the week. I always preface this sharing time by reminding students that as a family we can celebrate each others successes and happiness while also learning how we can extend grace or support to each other through challenging times. I also have taught my students the sign language for expressing sympathy and showing that they can relate. Whether students are literally on mute in your digital meeting or being a quiet and respectful listener in person, they can show care for their classmates through these signs and other gestures such as a thumbs up or making a heart.

3. Scavenger Hunt
I have seen SO MANY fun versions of this activity on Instagram. Whether you're doing a themed scavenger hunt or asking your kids to search for random household items (like I did) it's a great way to get your students up & moving and LAUGHING! I would suggest that you come up with a list of items you want them to search for ahead of time. Go over the ground rules before the game begins. I told my student that they needed to leave their device where it was and then get up and search for the items. I would announce what the item was, but they couldn't start until I said "go." Then they had to run to find it, come back to their device, and hold up the item so I could see it. We repeated the process until we had made it all the way through the list. I was laughing so hard during this activity and I had several parents reach out to me afterwards thanking me for bringing giggles and joy to their household. 

4. Dance Party
Everybody dance now!! Not only is that the song I played, but it's the perfect activity for a fun little brain break. I started off as the "leader" and students had to copy my every (corny) dance move. Then I called out the name of another student to be the "leader." They led a few moves and then they called out the name of a new leader. The process continued until everyone had the chance to lead the dance. Even my shyest students participated and would throw up a dab or two when it was their turn to lead. And my "Tik Tok" lovers were thriving!

5. Pet Parade
This has been our highest attended Zoom meeting yet! Students got to introduce us to their pet or stuffed animal. They shared their little friend's name, fun facts, and let us see them in their "natural environment." We also spent some time pondering what our furry friends might be thinking about us being home so much these days. 😂 I got to meet several dogs, cats, a gerbil, 30 chickens, bunnies, a lizard, and lots of cute stuffed animals. This meeting was so special to me because even though I always hear stories from kids about their furry friends, I've never had the chance to actually meet all of my students pets before!

6. Digital Vacation
A "Digital Vacation" theme was a great way for my kids to try out one of the fun Zoom features they'd been dying to use while also having the opportunity to get a little escape from reality. I always let my students know the upcoming themes beforehand so they have time to prepare (when needed). For this theme I told them all they needed to do was find a picture of their dream vacation and save it to their camera roll. Once the meeting started I showed them how to change their Zoom background so that it looked like they were actually in that vacation destination. Then we all took turns sharing where we'd want to go and why. I had so much fun "traveling" to Ireland, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Laguna Beach, Australia, Sea World, Paris, a Golden State Warriors game, and more! 

7. 2 Truths & 1 "Lie"
love 5th Graders. I've played this game so many times with adults, but kids make it SO FUNNY! It was a great way to get to know each other even better. Beforehand we talked about how honesty is important and then we dove right in. 😂😅 Each person shared 3 statements and it was everyone else's job to detect which one was false. One person shared at a time and held up 1, 2, then 3 fingers to correspond with the 3 statements. The other students had to hold up their fingers to represent which of the 3 statements they thought was false. Then the student who shared their statements revealed the truth and gave us a little more context about each of the statements. It was great!!

8. Directed Drawing
There are so many awesome drawing YouTube videos for kids! The possibilities of what you could do during a Directed Drawing themed meeting are endless! I'll share briefly about what I did with my kids... First I read the picture book "It's Not All Rainbows" to set the scene. We talked about how not all days are filled with rainbows and happiness  -- but just like Kevin, the Unicorn -- you're never alone. I let students know that our art activity would be something they could keep and use to encourage themselves or others. I screen-shared a video showing how to draw a rainbow. Then we talked about how rainbows can be a symbol of hope and happiness (especially during these times). We drafted a list of affirmations and words of encouragement. Then students spent time decorating their rainbow while listening to some rainbow-themed songs (because if you know me I have a playlist for everything). I encouraged students to hang their rainbow in their house or window for others to see.
PRO-TIP: Look up "Art for Kids Hub" for great tutorials that are positive and easy to follow. Even my little perfectionists give themselves grace when following these videos. 

9. Simon Says
Everyone knows this one! Enjoy playing with your kids! When there's one student left you can let them lead if you have time. 

10. Work Out
So many possibilities! You might want to do some mindful stretching and yoga or get the blood pumping with some cardio. Encourage your kids to dress in work out gear, screen share a kids workout from YouTube, or facilitate the work out yourself. 
PRO-TIP: I highly recommend "Yoga with Adriene" for your own personal use but also for her classroom yoga videos!

11. Make 'Em Laugh
All that students had to do to prepare for this meeting was find a school appropriate joke to share with the group. Some kids created their own but I also suggested that with parent permission they could look up jokes for kids online. Everyone had a chance to share a joke to make us laugh! Once again, 5th Graders are the best! The jokes (and deliveries) brought a big smile to my face!

12. Creation Station
This student-suggested theme is so pure! 😍 They wanted to see everyones creations of any sort -- Lego builds, origami, drawings, and more! It's basically like show and tell but with this theme your kids get the joy of showcasing something they are the proud creator of. 

13. Disney Day
When you wish upon a star... makes no difference where you are! When my students logged into our Disney Day Zoom they were greeted by a welcoming slide featuring Cinderella's Castle and that classic Disney font (with Disney music playing, of course). To prepare for this meeting students were instructed to share a favorite quote from any Disney movie or Walt Disney himself. I also told kids that they could "bound" as their favorite Disney character, wear any Disney merch, or have Disney toys with them. Basically all things Disney!! We ended with singing along to some Disney tunes at the end. 

14. Beach Ball Q&A (with a twist)
At the beginning of the school year we spend time getting to know each other by playing Beach Ball Q&A. To prepare, I have a beach ball with numbers on it and a list of questions with corresponding numbers. To play, students toss the ball to a peer and one at a time I ask them the question that corresponds to the number closest to their right thumb when they catch the ball. When one of my students asked to play this game over a Zoom meeting I had to get a little creative and come up with a twist. I have the same list with numbered questions, but instead of a ball I'm using a digital spinner. I will call out the name of a student and then spin the wheel on their behalf (I'll use the share screen feature). Then that student will answer the question that corresponds to that number. When they are done they will call out the name of a peer and the process will continue until everyone shares! 

15. Room Tour
Think MTV Cribs, but not. 😂 Students will pick one room that they feel comfortable showcasing to the class. This is another student-suggested form of show and tell. I know that my kids are longing to connect with each other and I'm sure yours are too! This might be a fun and chill way to do that.

16. Talent Show
Everybody has talent! This meeting idea gives your kids the chance to showcase a hidden (or maybe not-so-hidden) talent. I would encourage you to keep it open ended! My kids prepared magic tricks, stand up comedy, playing instruments, singing, dancing, and more! One student suggested that I could act as a judge and choose a winner. I didn't go that route, but I think it could be really fun!

17. Show & Learn
VERY similar to show and tell! The difference -- your kids get to TEACH the group something that they are an expert at. This will take a little longer so I suggest either splitting it up amongst two meetings and assigning students a day to present or planning a longer meeting. To practice giving good feedback you could have students respond after the lesson by sharing something they learned. 

18. Book Bound
Time to play dress up! "Bounding" gives people a chance to play dress up without actually wearing a costume. You just need to style clothes to replicate the look of favorite characters. For this digital meeting theme ask your students to pick a favorite book. They can "bound" or dress up in a way that represents their favorite book character or setting. Then have students take turns revealing which book they chose and what or who their outfit represents!
ADAPTATION: For the secondary setting you could increase rigor by asking students to dress in a way that represents a symbol or theme in their favorite story.

19. Build a Story
I took one of my favorite family campfire traditions and brought it into my classroom. It's fun do to in Zoom meetings too! Your ultimate goal is to build a cohesive story together. Each person works on contributing to the story by adding just one word, popcorn style. It's fun to see how many twists and turns the story can take. One of the funniest one's my class "wrote" together this year was about the adventures of a dragon who played basketball and loved chicken nuggets. 😂

20. Lunch Buddies
Last but not least, try doing lunch buddies with your class! I got this GENIUS idea from Shaunda at "Upper Elementary Adventures" at the beginning of this school year. Once a week, students are given a "lunch buddy" that they need to sit by at lunch. Their job is to find out what they have in common and learn new things about their buddy. After lunch they share what they learned. It's so fun to hear the connections they made! During our distance learning adventures we haven't done lunch buddies every week, but I am planning on using the "breakout room" feature to do one final lunch buddy session before the year ends. 

Thinking about trying one or more of these Classroom Meeting Themes & Activities?? I hope so! I've created a FREE checklist on my Teachers Pay Teachers account that has all of the above ideas listed. You can check it out HERE...



If you try out any of these Classroom Meeting Ideas (in person or digitally) I'd LOVE to see! If you have any questions or want a "thinking partner" as you plan out your next Classroom Meeting, feel free to leave a comment!

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