For many educators, the last school year was filled with constant change as schools fluctuated between in-person, online, and hybrid instructional models. While some districts may still offer hybrid instruction in the 2021-2022 school year, many will likely head back to in-person learning this fall.

Returning to school can bring forth a wide range of emotions for both students and teachers. As we collectively fall back into more traditional routines and re-familiarize ourselves with in-person instruction, here are some tips to help make the transition go a little bit smoother.

5 Tips for Transitioning Back to In-Person Learning

1. Make relationships a priority

It may feel like a huge adjustment to just simply be around each other again. For so long, any relationship building teachers could facilitate was through a computer screen. And while many teachers certainly did prioritize relationship-building during remote and hybrid learning, the in-person environment presents even greater opportunities to create strong relationships between you and your students.

Whether you spontaneously pull students for one-on-one chats, greet them at the classroom door, or form small group “get to know you”-style discussions, being in the classroom allows teachers to more easily interact with students while keeping an eye on the rest of the class. Make these small group or one-on-one exchanges a priority in the first few weeks back in the classroom to get students comfortable with you and acclimated to their peers. If you need to ease students back into in-person interactions, consider starting with digital relationship-building resources and slowly progress to in-person activities.

Take it from Miss May from One Fab Teacher, who starts building her relationships with students before the first day of school.

“I call each and every one of my students the night before school starts…and then I tell them, ‘I’m so excited for you to be in my class this year. I can’t wait for us to have so much fun.’ And then I go on to tell them, ‘And you know what? Miss May’s a little nervous. I’m nervous but I’m super duper excited for tomorrow to start…’”

Whether it’s a quick phone call or pre-recorded video message that you send the day before school, building those relationships early on can help set you up for a great year.

Relationship-Building Resources

All About Me Worksheet First Day of School Activity by Terrific Teaching Tactics
Not Grade Specific

Virtual Meeting Games | Editable | Sixty Second Sketch by Teaching 3rd with Mr G
1st-12th Grade

2. Shine a spotlight on social-emotional learning

If you begin by prioritizing relationships, you’re already on your way to implementing a comprehensive social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum. While relationship skills are a core part of SEL, they’re just one component. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the five core competencies of an effective SEL framework include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills.

Implementing a program that covers these five components can help foster a more inclusive learning environment, nurture the interests of all students, and lead to increased academic outcomes. After a year filled with uncertainty and social and emotional trauma, putting SEL at the top of your curricular to-dos can better serve both students and teachers. Here are a few ideas for how to put it into practice:

  • Start each day with a self check-in to get students in tune with their emotions, which promotes self-awareness.
  • Provide ample opportunities for peer interaction to foster collaboration and build relationship skills — things like think-pair-shares, small group work, and cooperative learning games.
  • Strengthen decision-making skills by giving students opportunities to have choice and voice throughout the day — for example, letting them choose a format for a creative project or deciding which book to read next.  

Social-Emotional Learning Resources

Emotions: What’s That Emotion? by YNot Counseling
PreK-2nd Grade 

Daily Check In For Social Emotional Learning | Google Forms™ by Mikey D Teach
3rd-8th Grade

3. Create new routines and clearly communicate them.

Students thrive in routine, and the school year that they experienced throughout the pandemic was anything but routine. During the first few weeks back in the classroom, teachers can create a sense of stability and predictability by communicating new routines and practicing them together often.

Whether you start every day with a morning meeting, implement a daily brain break, or give out a creative exit ticket for dismissal, don’t feel discouraged if a certain routine needs to be changed. As long as you tell students what they can expect, they will likely be on board. 

In addition to creating new routines, consider bringing some of the practices from remote and hybrid instruction to in-person learning. Continuing the use of the digital tools that students spent so much time with during the pandemic not only creates familiarity, but gives you instructional flexibility as you decide which format makes the most sense for each lesson. Tools like Easel by TpT make it possible for teachers to model activities live while allowing students to complete them both in person and online.

Back-to-School Activity Calendar

TpT Back to School Activity Calendar

4. Over communicate with parents and guardians.

Students aren’t the only ones who may experience anxiety with the transition back to in-person learning. Parents who have been heavily involved with their child’s remote learning may feel left out of the discussion if there isn’t regular communication. Sending home a weekly newsletter or a check-in email every so often can go a long way in making parents feel a part of their child’s education.

In addition to communicating what you’ve been up to in the classroom, it’s also important to validate any concerns parents may have about the transition back to in-person instruction. Some students may feel nervous about leaving their guardians for a full school day. Let parents know that you’re here for them and will work together as a team to ensure that their child feels comfortable in the classroom again.

Parent-Teacher Communication Resources

Digital Weekly Newsletter Template, Editable Calendar 2021-2022 Back to School by The Little Ladybug Shop
PreK-6th Grade

Parent Connections by Read Like a Rockstar
PreK-3rd Grade

5. Take the pressure off.

As you head back into the classroom, the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to be perfect. Feeling “normal” again will take time for students, parents, teachers, and administrators — and sometimes, things won’t go as planned. It’s unrealistic to think that school will be exactly how it was before the pandemic, or to expect that you address every student’s unfinished learning immediately.

Ultimately, it’s important to be patient with yourself and your students as you make the transition back to in-person learning. It’ll be a work-in-progress, and that’s more than okay.

Check out more resources for in-person instruction on TpT. If you have a TpT School Access subscription, click here to access resources.