Building Community in the Classroom: Flipgrid
I’ve been thinking a lot about next year. The next school year will look nothing like past years, and most likely school will be some sort of hybrid where I never have a class of all my students in the same place at once. Building community will be hard.
This past spring my kids had a number of reports to make on Flipgrid. At first, I didn’t like the tool, but as time went on with the pandemic, I saw how much my kids (grades kindergarten and second grade) enjoyed seeing their classmates and friends.
I’ve heard some foreign language teachers used this as an easy way for students to practice the language, and my kids’ music teachers were using it for listening to songs and music.
I was thinking about how I could weave it into my work at the high school level, and it seems like a great tool for building community. It’s extremely easy to use, and if incoming eighth graders were using it in grade school, it’ll be a tool they may be familiar with already.
Each year, I kick off the year having my students write a few things about themselves:
- What do you have in common with a lot of people?
- What do you have in common with some people?
- What is something unique to yourself?
For example, I usually share this:
- I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan.
- I am a military spouse and have moved many times.
- I was an aunt the day I was born.
Usually, we try to guess who the student is in class, but in an online environment, I could tweak this and have them listen to their cohort or class and find two people you have something in common with and share what that is.
I think my game plan will have students do an ice breaker every week for at least the first quarter. Some may be with smaller groups; others may be with the larger group. I know this is not “necessary work”. It’s not part of teaching the English content, but it is part of teaching the whole person. It will be much, much harder to create community in an online environment, and if there’s a second wave with more restrictions, we will have to create community completely online.
We are constantly told on commercials, in the news, in our social media feeds how this year “unprecedented”, “challenging”, “unique”, “uncertain” … the list goes on and on. Think of how challenging life is normally as a teenager. Then throw this in the mix. How do you make friends virtually? How do you handle always being by an adult at school? How do you handle wearing a mask all day? No one can read your facial expressions. It’s going to be an extremely challenging year, but I want to make sure my students feel like they belong so as I plan out my icebreakers, I’ll post ideas on here! If you have any ideas, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.