In Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, just above safety and security is a feeling of belonging. For many students that is the most important thing that was suddenly ripped away from them as they were abruptly isolated from their peers and classmates. While your child may be in contact with a few friends here and there, maintaining a sense of belonging to a group is harder to achieve. Your little kiddo especially needs your help maintaining these social ties.
Luckily we still have video conferencing. Although it requires high bandwidth and can sometimes be finicky, video conferencing is the next-best thing to IRL. It’s an invaluable tool we can use to provide opportunities for group socialization during self-quarantine.
Here’s a (fairly) simple way to do it: regular group Zoom* calls run by you, the parent/teacher.
*Zoom allows you, as host, to mute other participant’s microphones. This is critical with young children.
Step 1: Contact the parents of your young child’s friends and classmates. Maybe post on a school Facebook group or message board. Set a time for a regular call (at most daily, at least weekly) for kids to drop in when they can. Explain that you will be using Zoom and will send out links that people can click to join.
Step 3: At the time of the meeting, launch a Zoom call. Click on “Invite” and “Copy URL”. Paste the URL into a message to the other parents. And, you’re in!
Structure of the Call – One Success Story
Seth at BGL has been running these all week with his first grade daughter and her classmates. Here’s his recipe for success:
1. Allow students to slowly roll in and chit chat.
2. Inevitably with young kids the call will devolve into loud noises and general silliness. That’s fine for a minute or two. Once it’s no longer fine, mute all participants.
3. Now, you take charge. Start with a general feelings check in. How are you feeling today? What other emotions would you like to share? Do a share around the circle by unmuting each kid one by one to let them answer before muting them again. Don’t forget to let your kid respond, too!
4. Next, do another share around the circle. This one can be a variable topic, different every day. So far Seth has done:
– choose an artifact from your home to share (show and tell)
– what is your daily schedule like now that you’re learning from home?
– tell us a joke!
– choose a picture from your home. Tell us about it.
5. Then, do breakout rooms. Create enough for 2-3 students per room and let them run for 3-5 minutes. Check in if you can, but they basically run themselves when they are this small. If you have time, mix up the rooms and do another round.
6. Finally, come back for a quick dance party. Play a song through your computer and just be silly for a few minutes. Thank everyone for coming and tell them you’ll see them tomorrow.
We hope this strategy helps connect kids to each other during this weird and challenging time.
At BGL we used to just work with schools and teachers. Now that parents have suddenly become homeschool teachers, we think you might be interested in some of our free content, too. If so, give us your email and we’ll include you in our announcements. No pressure!
March 20 UPDATE – New Kids
Seth managed a call today that extended beyond his daughter’s friend group (it was advertised on the school’s FaceBook page as the first of a recurring Friday event). The call spanned 5 grade levels and included students who did not know each other. The following adjustments were made:
- The first few minutes were spent on introductions – just grade level, name and a general how ya doin? As the host of the meeting, Seth used the dropdown menu in their video feed to rename their account from their parents’ name to the students’ name so he’d be able to call on them later.
- Time was spent sharing general knowledge about the nature of this pandemic. Why are we here and not at school? Why can’t we be near people right now even if we won’t necessarily get that sick? What is scary and sad about this? What is hopeful and good? This took about 10 minutes.
- With older kids who were more willing to share and actual subject matter (the pandemic) the dynamic was more call-and-response than circle-share. Seth tried to make sure he was calling on different people each time.
- In breakout rooms, Seth created groups of kids that were on similar grade levels and seemed to at least be familiar with each other.
- The dance party was a fail. We’ll need to try a different closing next time. One of Seth’s favorites from his days in the NYC DOE was having everyone whisper their wishes into their hands and then hold on to them with their hands closed. On the count of three everyone releases their wishes into the air. It sounds corny but it’s pretty powerful when a whole room does it. Next time!