I have a pretty early and pretty strict morning routine: exercise, coffee, breakfast, reading and writing. All before I even take a shower to launch the day. How do you start your day? Do you head straight for the kitchen to enjoy that first cup of coffee? Do you grab your phone and start scrolling through your feed? Perhaps you hit ‘snooze’ and settle in for just a few more minutes? The way we start our day sets the tone for what is to come, our personal one and our professional one. And if you’ve ever taken a peek into my Coaching Sketchnote Book, you know that I have an entire section dedicated to opening moves for professional learning sessions. Those first greetings, slides, conversations and activities matter. A lot.

But what about virtual soft starts and opening moves? I’d argue that our opening moves online are just as, if not more, important than those completed in person. We need connection, community and collaboration and the way we open our virtual sessions sets the tone for the learning to come. Here are some of my favorite ways to launch virtual professional learning sessions:

A Bitmoji Office Slide: This is my FAVORITE way to begin an online session! It’s welcoming, comforting and sparks conversation. I like to personalize the slide to the time of year, the books I’m currently reading and even the content of the session. I change it often and encourage teachers to spot those changes each time they join me online for a session. Here’s my current slide at this moment in time:

PD Playlists: Play music as teachers enter the room to set the tone and vary the musical genre based on your content. Play relaxing music to help teachers unwind. Play upbeat tunes to get teachers energized. Play music students like to remind teachers of the importance of learning about student interests. Ask teachers to submit their favorites and create a personalized playlist just for this purpose!

Two Kinds of People: Use these slides or these slides as a fun way to open up personal conversations from Sara Knigge READ en Espanol, Inc. and Kim Knigge Joliet SD86. Just paste one into your opening slides and ask teachers to comment which they relate more to. Or, simply use the slides to start a conversation instead. Here's one of my favorites (I’m the one on the left!):

Screen Off? Screen On?: Start your next session with this fun game, the perfect way to model how teachers might do the same with their students. Have teachers turn off their video cameras. Ask a question. If it applies to them, they turn it back on and have some fun conversation. Here are some great questions to ask from Sara Knigge READ en Espanol, Inc. and Kim Knigge Joliet SD86 :

  • I cut my own hair during quarantine.
  • I wore “real pants” every day during quarantine.
  • I have less than 100 emails in my inbox.
  • I can remember the last movie I saw in a movie theater.

While You Wait Virtual Agenda Slides: Easily welcome teachers into your sessions with an agenda slide. Let teachers know what they need, what you’ll explore and offer a question to launch reflection. Then, position your camera into the picture frame of the slide and literally pop into the session! Here’s one of my slides below:

Caption This!: Display a popular meme and remove the caption. Encourage teachers to caption it in the chat box and reveal the actual post for a fun laugh. Here’s my favorite shared by Frances L. Gonzalez-Garcia:

Pose a Challenge: Open a session by challenging teachers in some way and even offer a small treat, if you can, for the winner. My favorite? Decoding children's book titles from emoticons! Here are a couple of challenges offered by Anna Whitely on Medium. This one is my favorite: 

Start with a Quote: Rotate the inspirational quotes on your screen as teachers enter professional learning sessions. My favorite quotes come from The Natural Life. They send out a Daily Chirp with a beautiful quote and image. I use them OFTEN in my work with teachers!

Choose a Background: While you wait for teachers to enter your virtual room, encourage teachers to head to Pixabay or Canva and choose a new background for the session to change things up a bit! They are sure to generate conversation around why certain images were chosen.

So, there you have it. My favorite ways to open virtual sessions with teachers….so far. What are your favorite opening moves? Share them in the comments below!



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  1. GREAT IDEAS! Thanks for sharing.

    -Lisa Parrish

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! I hope it's helpful to have all the ideas in one post!

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  2. Love these ideas! Do you have other suggestions/ideas that might work well with students?

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    1. I think all of these could easily be adapted to work with students, but the best ones seem to be changing up the bitmoji and having them spot the changes and posting a Would You Rather question. I've got more links on my coaching toolkit if you're interested! You can find it here: https://padlet.com/stephanieaffini/VirtualCoachingToolkit

      Stephanie

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