Back to School: How to Build a Classroom Culture and Routine, Even Remotely

Inspiration for Educators Planning the First Week of School

Aug 31, 2020 By Libby Simpson, Director of Education, FIRST




Back to School

As a former middle school technology education teacher, I fondly remember getting prepared for my students on the first day of school and the excitement of sharing with them the amazing lessons I had carefully planned. This year I empathize with the variety of challenges facing the education community around the world as we embark on this year of uncertainty and change. 

Thinking about what I would be preparing, if I was getting ready for my students during this uncertain year, the one thing I know I wouldn’t change is my plan for getting to know my students. Building a routine and classroom culture is the most important element of having a safe, successful, and fun educational experience. Including students in that process empowers their voice in the learning journey that they will experience in your classroom. With that in mind, I want to share some of my resources that cover five things I would recommend incorporating into your plans for the first week of school this year:

  1. Make norms and procedures part of the process of the first few week, not the main objective of the lesson. 
  2. Create activities that allow for getting to know your students.
  3. Give opportunities for students to share and have their voice and choice present in the classroom.
  4. Focus on turning lesson and activities into points of learning, not just tasks to be completed.
  5. Always start the first day with a hands-on activity that focuses on learning and fun.

Here are some ready-to-go activities that you can incorporate or get inspiration from to start off your year: 

  • Let your students get to know you and give them a voice so you learn a little about them. It also gives you a way to talk about your assessment, quiz/test and homework procedures.  In a remote environment, you can practice how to access content, turn in assignments, and take tests/quizzes. Try adapting this trivia quiz about you and me for you and your students.
  • Gracious Professionalism® Check-In - One of the philosophies at the heart of FIRST is Gracious Professionalism , our embodiment of social, emotional learning. This resource is a template to use for your FIRST team meetings or in a FIRST classroom to ensure all students have a platform to share and be heard, even in a remote environment.  
  • Start building your classroom culture in STEM and fun on the first day with a hands-on activity from FIRST. Our free and flexible PreK-12 STEM activities are designed for remote or in-person settings.

Download our free 12-session STEM activity series

No matter what challenges and difficulties this year holds, remember that you have the superpower of an educator to create an innovative learning space where students can explore and learn! 

If you have an inspiring story or piece of wisdom that you’ve picked up through your experiences in the FIRST community, please reach out to us at and inquire about becoming a guest contributor for Inspire.

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