Distance Learning: Connect with Opening and Closing Routines

I found a recent article from Facing History that had some great opening and closing routines for distance learning that are easy to use and effective ways to connect with your students. You can read the article and check out the other distance learning resources from Facing history here

Here are some of my favorite ideas that they shared:

Opening Routines

  • Mood Meter: The mood meter is a 4-square quadrant developed by Dr. Marc Brackett to help us describe and understand our emotions. You can see his original mood meter here, share it on your screen, and let kids check in with how they're feeling.
  • Emoji Emotions: Share a slide with emojis that represent a wide range of emotions. Title each emoji or invite students to name the emotion for each one. Model the activity by pointing to the emoji that represents how you are feeling and explain what might be causing you to feel this way, and then invite students to do the same. 
  • Picture This: Project a picture that connects with the content students will be learning and guide them through a thinking routine such as See-Think-Wonder to analyze it. Another option is to put the picture on a slide and insert a shape on top so that you cover up all but a portion of it. Then, invite students to infer what they think it is and how it connects to the upcoming lesson, and uncover it a little at a time until there's a correct guess. You could also make the picture your Zoom background.
  • Three Good Things: Just like we do as a Salem faculty, you could open a day or lesson inviting kids to share three good things that they've seen in their own lives or in others' work.
  • Notable Quotable: Share a meaningful, inspirational, or thought-provoking quote that connects to what you're learning and host a quick discussion about what it means to your learning community. You could also invite students to share a favorite quote from a book they're reading independently.
  • Rose, Thorn, Bud: Explain that the rose is a highlight, success, or small win that students experienced recently. The thorn is a challenge, frustration, or something stressful they experienced. The bud is an opportunity or something they are looking forward to. You can project a picture of a rose to lead this or distribute the Rose, Thorn, Bud handout virtually.
  • First Chapter Fridays: Read the first chapter of a book you think students will find interesting and host a discussion about it. You could have students maintain a "to be read" log and add the books that they like and want to read later. You could also post a link to online library book checkout for the books if it's available.

Closing Routines

  • Maintain and Modify: This quick reflection just asks students to consider what from their work that day they want to maintain and what they would like to modify. You could use this as a wraparound closing routine where each students shares one or both, they could type it into the chat box, or they could complete it in Google Classroom. This could also be used as a great peer feedback routine.
  • Compass Points: Students could choose one compass point they most identify with at the close of a lesson and tell more about their thinking: Needs, Suggestions, Excitement, or Worry. 
  • Appreciation, Apology, or Aha: Students can choose one of these to describe something that stood out for them in the lesson, either something they appreciated, something they'd like to apologize for, or an aha moment. 
  • Exit Cards: More open-ended than an exit ticket, an exit card simply gives kids the opportunity to respond privately to their learning that day. You could make one into a Google Form and drop it in the chat as a link or post it on Google Classroom. Prompts could include questions such as: What do you want me to know about your learning today? What was most or least helpful about my teaching today? What are you most interested in learning next? How are you progressing toward your goals?

Be sure to let me know if you try one of these ideas and it's a home run for you!


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