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Saying a Virtual Goodbye to our Classrooms and the Communities we Built Together.

The last few weeks of school are typically some of the best few weeks of school. This is when we get to enjoy all of our hard work and efforts together through writing celebrations, field trips, poetry slams, sharing our favorite reads, and reflecting on the year we spent together while looking ahead at our futures.

So as I  sit here separated from my students by a computer screen, I’m not only mourning the loss of our in-person connections but I’m also pondering how to honor the community we built with an asynchronous goodbye. 

First and foremost, I know I need to give my students choice with how they close out their school year. I realize this school shut down has presented a vast array of challenges for my students. While most deal daily with the boredom and loneliness of social isolation, others have become full time workers, some are trying to navigate online learning while sharing a computer with siblings and a home with 10 or more people, and a few are grieving lost or sick family members. With this in mind, I want to honor the school year we’ve had together while respecting the various hurdles they each have to jump in order to finish it. Accordingly, the following is how I plan to invite students, in their own ways and on their own time, to celebrate the community we’ve built before saying goodbye to it:

Virtual poetry slam: Since we’ve spent the few last weeks reading and writing poetry through our online learning platform, I want to take some time to communially celebrate the creative work we’ve done by inviting students to participate in any or all of several sharing options.

  • Visual poem – using Adobe spark or paper and pencil combine a few lines from a poem you wrote with a meaningful image
  • Video recording – Using Flipgrid or a different video recording platform, record a short video of you reciting one of your poems
  • Post-It poem – Using our Padlet board, post-it a powerful line or stanza from a poem you read or wrote – be sure to cite the poem if you quote one you read
  • Submit a poem – if you wrote a poem you want to share with me but not with the entire class, turn in a copy of the poem

SGNSome Good News: Early in the quarantine I shared some segments of John Krasinski’s Some Good News  YouTube videos with my students and invited them to share some of the positive entertainment they’ve been turning to with each other. As a closing activity I plan to revisit the series and then invite students to post their own good news in any of the following ways:

Pictures:

harper

A typical teach-from-home-moment – coplanning with my teacher’s assistant

  • Of something beautiful or inspiring or interesting you have encountered in nature
  • Of your pet
  • Of a funny or typical quarantine moment
  • Of some really good food you’ve made or ordered
  • Of anything else that might make us smile

Videos:

  • Of you or your family doing something to keep yourselves entertained – a new sport or game you invented, a tic-toc dance, etc.
  • Of your weather forecast
  • Of a celebration you’ve still been able to enjoy
  • Of you giving advice for how to thrive or survive quarantine or online learning
  • Of anything else that might make us smile

A Tweet-Type Post:

  • Of something good that has happened to you or someone you know
  • Of something new and interesting you have learned
  • Of a recommendation for a way to keep ourselves entertained during quarantine – good book, movie, webseries, video game, etc.
  • Of a recipe for an at home meal you’ve prepared or enjoyed
  • Of anything else that might make us smile

Share our Reading: Since independent reading is such a focus of our class routine, I have tried to continue to embed time for it in our virtual learning. Accordingly, I want to make sure I provide opportunities for us to close out the school year by sharing our reading with each other so we enter our summer breaks with a long list of to-reads. As a side note, our school librarian and administration are currently working on a plan to distribute books from our school library so students can enjoy independent reading over the summer.

  • Reading minute – Using the Online Voice Recorder, record yourself reading for a minute from of one of your favorite books – be sure to share the title and a quick overview of the text (We share in-person reading minutes regularly throughout the school year, so students are already familiar with this task)
  • Social Media Post – Using Adobe spark, create a post that shares one of your favorite reads from the school year – consider including any of the following: a visual connected to one of the major themes, the book cover, a brief and meaningful quotation, a star rating, anything else you think might help sell your book
  • Top 5 List – Create a top 5 list of your favorite reads from the school year that includes the titles, authors, and genres
  • Book Review – craft a short book review for one of the ebooks or audio books you’ve read over the past two months – be sure to let us know what platform you used to access this text
  • Create your own – design your own way to creatively share a reading recommendation with your classmates

agReflection: At the end of the school year I typically give students several opportunities to reflect on the learning and experiences they have encountered together and to look forward to their individual futures. We do this by gallery walking and praising each other’s published writing, commenting on a class graffiti wall, crafting found poetry from our writer’s notebook entries, revisiting our writing portfolios and reflecting on our own personal growth, and writing letters to our future selves. I want to try to capture some of the spirit of these reflective practices through our virtual discussions. So this year, after I share a commencement poem from youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman,  I will invite students to pick and choose their own commemorative type activities.

  • Craft a commencement speech – Commemorate our “graduation” from this class with your own commencement speech written in either poetry or prose – feel free to record and share yourself delivering it or post the text of the speech
  • Virtual Graffiti Wall – Amanda Gorman calls your generation the “Bright torch that never stops burning, never quits learning.” Use our Padlet board to share one valuable lesson you are taking with you from this school year – it could be something you learned in class, from these past few weeks of at-home learning and social isolation, about yourself or your community, etc.
  • Letter to Someone – Early in her speech, Amanda Gorman says “We didn’t mount this milestone alone. This took a village.” Write a letter or email to someone who has helped you get to where you are now – a teacher, friend, classmate, administrator, mentor, coach, etc. – and be sure to send it to them!
  • Letter to Self – Amanda Gorman ends her speech by saying “today we don’t just burst into a new world, we begin it.” Use Futureme.org to write and send a letter to your future self to share some of your goals and dreams for the new world you will be beginning after this school year ends

How are you inviting your students to take time to celebrate your learning communities before you say your virtual goodbyes?


Kelly Virgin

Kelly Virgin teaches English for the Kennett Consolidated School District and has been a PAWLP teacher consultant since 2010. She is a proud bookworm and loves sharing her passion for reading and writing with her students.

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