There is no “one size fits all” approach, and you will likely need to customize these ideas to meet your unique needs and circumstances. As you make your plan, be sure to review and comply with local guidelines, which may help guide your decisions, and remember that not all of your students have the same access to technology and other resources. As you plan, try to be as equitable and inclusive as possible. Finally, don’t let this situation be limiting. In fact, look at it as an opportunity to honor more students than ever before because you are not bound to the limitations of time or space.
Let this list of ideas be a “fire starter” to help ignite your imagination and help you find the best ways to celebrate with your students in a virtual setting!
Sometimes, we simply need to celebrate our classroom or school community. We want students to feel like they are part of something special and to feel a bond with their classmates. This can happen through special events, through ongoing routines, and by integrating community building into your learning activities and assignments. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Facilitate student collaboration and encourage study partners.
- Build a classroom connection into your assignments (like using the Flat Teacher activity).
- Facilitate a student of the day challenge (guess the student).
- Include a message of the day from a staff member within school announcements (video is really fun!).
- Publish school-wide read-alouds from the principal or from rotating teachers.
- Deliver a “porch drop care package” for each student (home delivery).
- Deliver summer starters (a bag, basket, or bucket filled with summer learning fun).
- Have students take turns presenting a pet of the week.
- Have students add entries to a classroom distance-learning diary (rotate each day).
- Each day, have a student pick the song of the day, and play part of it to start class.
- Schedule digital spirit days and dress up during live video classes.
- Conduct virtual morning meetings with a different student facilitator each day.
- Pose class challenges and offer incentives.
- Host virtual field trips as rewards or a regular part of learning.
Featured Tools: Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Zoom
You can use live virtual delivery tools to host many community events. To learn more about which delivery tool you might want to use, you can visit: Choose Your Live Remote-Teaching Delivery Tool. To learn more about how to use live virtual sessions to show how you care for your students, you can visit Caring for Your Students During Live Remote Learning.
It’s common to walk into a school and see student work posted in the hallways, and classrooms are often decorated with bulletin boards full of student work. This public display and recognition of student work not only honors our students, but it also helps them feel like this is “their” school. In a virtual classroom, it is important to find ways to continue recognizing and displaying student work. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Create and share a slideshow highlighting student work.
- Display the best work of the day (teacher’s choice and students’ choice awards).
- Host a virtual art show or create a virtual art gallery.
- Publish a virtual arts magazine of student writing, visual art, music, etc.
- Create and publish photo galleries to highlight students and their work.
- Create class websites to host exemplary work.
- Host a virtual talent show and let students vote for the winners.
- Use Padlet to create and publish a virtual classroom bulletin board of student work.
- Create and publish virtual hallway displays.
- For each published work, link to a video of the student talking about the project.
Featured Tool: Google Sites
Google Sites is a free, teacher- and student-friendly website creation tool that is part of Google’s G Suite of production tools. Using Google Sites, teachers and students can create simple or robust websites with many forms of embedded media (text, images, video, audio, and more). This makes it a great tool for creating, publishing, and sharing student showcases. The designer can decide who has access to view the published site. This makes it ideal for sites that are only intended to be shared with a closed audience or classroom.
Create a class website to showcase student work: This example shows a class website showcasing cars that students created, tested, and redesigned at home.
Keepsakes and Memories
When students form a bond with their classmates, they often want a way to capture their memories. These can be created individually by each student, jointly as a class, by a small group of students on behalf of the class, or by the teacher. Below are some popular options:
- Create and distribute virtual memory books.
- Create a class blog (and share with parents/guardians or other classrooms).
- Create a virtual classroom or school-wide yearbook (and allow students to contribute).
- Produce a feel-good highlight video of the school year.
Featured Tool: Book Creator
Digital books can include drawings, pictures, text, and video. Books can be created by teachers or students and shared within the Book Creator library or published online.
Create a virtual memory book: Below is the cover of a memory book for twins graduating from kindergarten. Books can be made for individual students or as one book for your whole class/period/grade.
Classroom Recognition and Celebrations
Teachers love to celebrate important events and dates with their students. Not only is this a fun event, but it helps to build community and create lasting, positive memories. While this will feel different in a remote learning environment, there are many ways to both recognize students individually and celebrate as a community.
- Virtual cards
- Flipgrid messages
- Collaborative documents with crowd-sourced messages
- Personalized video messages for each student
- A physical card or note mailed to a student
- Email to a student
- Eating lunch together
- A phone call
- A personal video call to celebrate a student accomplishment
- Virtual games and challenges – Kahoot! (Tip Sheet), virtual breakout challenges, virtual puzzles, etc.
- Augmented reality (like scavenger hunts with GooseChase)
- Happy birthday sung over live video
- Digital bingo or other games
- A virtual party (which can be themed)
- Online show and tell
- Playing “masked singer” on Flipgrid
- Classmate awards (be sure that each student is honored)
- Scavenger hunt challenges (find items in your house)
- Breakout rooms, where students can play in small groups
Featured Tool: Flippity
Flippity is a free website, packed full of customizable templates. The templates make creating your own activities fast and easy. You simply choose an activity, copy and customize the template, and then you’re ready to share it with your students! Flippity even offers a “Skip the Spreadsheet” option for an even easier rollout. With this one site, you can create activities to both recognize your students and energize your group celebration.
Recognize your students: Badge tracker, certificate quiz, progress indicator, and more.
Energize your celebration: Quiz show, scavenger hunt, BINGO, Mad Libs, and more.
Honors and Awards
When our students are successful, we want to honor them. This recognition validates their accomplishments and can motivate them to strive for continued success. In fact, schools routinely dedicate formal events to presenting student awards. Even when we can’t bring people physically together, we can still find ways to publicly recognize our students’ success. Here is a list of some virtual options:
- Digital awards
- Live video ceremony (awards can be passed out in the chat!)
- Social media
- School or classroom website
- Virtual voting on class awards
- Student-generated awards (create and vote)
- Congratulatory phone call
- Digital badges and stickers
- Virtual Hall of Fame
- Virtual trophy cases
Featured Tool: Google Drawings
Google Drawings is literally a blank canvas waiting for your creativity. This simple but versatile tool in the Google Suite allows you to design badges, digital stickers, certificates, posters, or almost anything else you can dream up to honor your students. By setting the canvas to 11″ x 8½”, you can create documents for display both digitally and in print. You can also use free text creators, like textGiraffe, to generate unique fonts and give your work a little extra style.
Create stickers and certificates: Stickers can also be used as badges!
Live Virtual Events
- Video streaming allows many simultaneous viewers.
- Slideshows can be presented in real time during virtual events (a way to honor students).
- Speakers can share their message in real time.
- A full virtual ceremony can be broadcasted.
- Guest readers can join the event virtually from any location.
Recorded Virtual Events
- Video-record the event ahead of time (can be student- or teacher-created).
- Record commencement addresses.
- Speeches, videos, and slideshows can all be included.
- Flipgrid speeches allow more students to contribute their message.
- Photo galleries can highlight memories:
- Grad photos and bios
- Grad cap decorating
- Virtual grand march for prom
- Academic, arts, athletic, and club letter winners
- Scholarship winners
Beyond The School and Into The Community
- Drive-by or drive-through events:
- Pick up your diploma and take a picture.
- Drive by, wave, and honk at graduate homes.
- Honk for birthday greetings.
- Teacher car parades through student neighborhoods.
- Drive-up events using an outdoor screen and FM transmitter:
- Drive-up movie
- Celebratory slideshow
- Yard signs
- Porch photos
- Porch balloons
- Street banners
- Collaborate with local media:
- Notify them of upcoming events.
- Leverage their audience and platform to bring more attention to your students.
- Use local broadcast television when available.
Featured Tool: WeVideo
Video is a powerful way to help celebrate virtual events. It can be used to capture events, speeches, performances, or tribute videos that honor graduates and others. These recordings can then be broadcasted widely or shared individually with students and their families. There are many video editing programs available, and you can choose whichever one works best for you or is the most available and affordable. WeVideo is a Chromebook-friendly option that will let you create a video up to five minutes in length with a free account.
Extend Your Learning
- The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Museum Resources, E-Learning, and Online Collections (Museum Computer Network)
- 8 Epic Ideas for Ending the School Year (Edutopia)
- eCelebrations: Virtual Graduations to Celebrate Online Students (Troy University)