The Long Payoff of Short Activities

Even on a good day, teaching online can induce head pounding, fog braining, energy-draining symptoms. These virtual fatigue ailments have been plaguing both students and teachers alike since the virus dispersed us into our designated isolation booths over a year ago.

There’s good news and bad news here for you all. The good news is that a simple five-minute activity at the beginning of an online session has the power to energize students (and teachers), help everyone to be present and focused, and bring all into a belonging mindset. 

The bad news is that it takes courage to add an activity into your routine. Why courage? Because it’s new and therefore may feel risky. Because it’s not part of your mandated curriculum and you might dismiss it as superfluous (which it is definitely not!). And because habits and routines are darned hard to break. But if you try it out, your future self will be extremely grateful for your bravery.

Sometimes being brave means offering to lead one of these exercises with colleagues so they get to experience the shift too. At the second meeting of a Connecticut Department of Education working group, I suggested that we do a five-minute connecting exercise to demonstrate the power of purposeful play that teachers could use to increase their students’ well-being and productivity. 

It was a simple activity: 

1. We all cover our camera with a sticky note or our hand. 

2. One person volunteers to say the following and then fill in the blank at the end, “If you really knew me, you’d know that I (love, like, enjoy) ______________.” 

3. All the people who love, like, or enjoy whatever is offered, show their face. 

After five minutes of finding out who loves xyz, and who else also loves xyz, my colleagues’ faces were relaxed, happy, and eager. Participants “saw” the others onscreen in a new light. We became connected, curious, and confident. We were extremely productive that day. People took more risks, laughed a lot, and left with smiles on their faces. 

No matter what the subject matter is you’re teaching or who is in the group, the long payoff of a short activity is priceless.

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