Kids staying connected to classmates while learning virtually

Staying Connected 1.pdf

Social and emotional learning is an important element of development across all school aged children and adolescents.  Many social and emotional skills are learned naturally throughout a school day when in person; listening, following directions, problem solving, waiting, taking turns, regulating emotions and interacting with peers.  With many students learning remotely from a computer screen, questions and concerns about social development have been asked.  How do we teach or promote social and emotional development remotely?

Fortunately, we do have technology to help us out with this.  Using video chat options provides all of us an option to still be present in each other’s lives and remain safe from the comfort of our homes.  Student’s learning remotely are still in need of this social and emotional instruction, we can use the tools available to us and get creative.

Social and emotional development is taught in a classroom both directly and indirectly.  Lessons can be directly and actively taught to support this development.  Indirect teaching occurs when we comment or praise students for being prosocial and supportive to one another.  We can still provide these lessons and support virtually.

Kids connected

Start by setting up your virtual classroom for success

  • Establish clear and positive expectations/rules for behavior both online and when working independently
    • Examples while online
      • Be on time
      • Camera on (let parents know a quiet work space without interruptions is encouraged)
      • Be muted when not talking
      • Listen to others when they’re talking/presenting
      • Be ready to learn (dressed, finished eating, remain seated, etc)
  • Provide a predictable daily and/or weekly routine.
    • Provide time management tools; checklists, calendars, weekly planner, etc. Visual cues are important for younger students and helpful for all.
  • Set up routine whole class meetings, small group meetings and one on one check in times that are available and/or expected weekly.
    • It is important to have virtual face to face contact with all students 3-5 times a week. Students are more likely to participate and share in smaller groups both in the classroom and virtually.  Providing this small group will help encourage the natural development of peer-to-peer relationships. One on one check ins help maintain teacher-student relationships which are important at all ages, however critical for younger students.

Develop, create, establish and encourage the building of healthy peer to peer relationships and teacher-student relationships.  Positive healthy relationships are critical to academic success and even more so when remote. We learn from those we feel safe with, for students, teachers need to feel safe and the first step to achieving that is by building a relationship. Relationships can be built by listening to each other, discovering each other’s interests and finding common ground.  Students will need more direct help facilitating these conversations, interactions and relationships when remote.  Most get to know you activities and ice breakers can be adapted for an online component.  Directly calling on students by name is more helpful than waiting for volunteers.  This technique will also help with time management.


Additional tips for social development learning online

Other ideas to help address social emotional development in an online format are:

  • One on one emotional check ins between teacher and students
  • Incorporate social emotional learning into stories and language arts lessons. Labeling and identifying the emotions of a character in a story help enhance reading comprehension by bringing the character to life.
  • Journal prompts about social situations, what if’s or emotions can be voluntarily shared during small group sessions. Students are more likely to share during smaller group sessions than in the large group.
    • What emoji are you today?
    • If you were a snack, what kind of snack would you be?
    • What music genre or song are you relating to today?
    • What would be your theme song and why?
  • Art projects to help identify and share how they are feeling allows students to express themselves in a safe way using drawing, singing, dancing, sculpting, through a collage, poem, slideshow and so may more ways. Allowing them to creatively express themselves helps them reflect on their own feelings and received positive emotional support from peers.  Be sure to create a safe place for sharing these thoughts and ideas by setting up clear rules and expectations for the projects and peer’s responses.
  • Using more project-based learning in small groups or with partners will help facilitate peer to peer relationships and enhance learning.
  • Host a weekly social event online where the purpose is to socialize and have fun with each other.
    • BINGO
    • Scavenger hunts
    • 20 questions
    • Pictionary
    • Scategories
    • Charades
    • Virtual tours
    • Learn a dance together and so much more.


Uncertain times are stressful Get creative and have some fun together.  Providing students with clear expectations, routine, structure, relationships and some fun will help give them a sense of safety, consistency and trust which allows them to learn and grow.

Child and Adolescent Behavior Health's Early and Middle Childhood Program Manager Larissa Haring is the author of this blog post. Haring is an expert in the field of early/middle childhood mental health with 20 years of experience and leads our Triple P programs. If your child is struggling learning virtually, please call C&A at 330-433-6075.