In a world we are expected to social distance how could I make my students feel connected?

432 days is the number of days that have past since my students last sat in a classroom filled with their peers. The only question I kept asking myself is, how do I make my students feel connected in a world that practices distance? As a Panda Cares fellow, I was given the opportunity to do something that wasn’t really thought of or done before. This year I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Panda Cares New Leaders Fellowship. The purpose of this fellowship was to provide early service teachers with professional development that would strengthen how they teach writing, by making them explore who they are as writers.  Teachers were given guidance and support through a monthly online course, where topics ranged among the theme of building relationships with their students’ families. The culminating project was to plan and conduct a family literacy night. This was not an easy task as the pandemic didn’t allow for this to be an in person event.

Naturally, my planning stage went through so many ideas.  I wasn’t sure how I could bring the fun into each of their homes. I thought long and hard about the activities we could do together. Then, one day it hit me! What better way to make my students feel connected and bring the fun to them then by making pizzas! Once I had this seed of an idea, I cultivated and let it grow. I decided my event would be Pizza & Pijamas! I envisioned my students and their families along side myself making pizzas on Zoom ,each of us from the commodity of our home. 

It took a bit of planning and coordinating, but I was able to distribute to all 18 families in my classroom their own Pizza & Pijamas Kit. Each family received a pizza pan, a Chef Boyardee Pizza kit which contained a crust mix and pizza sauce. Each family just had to  add some of their favorite ingredients to prepare a perfectly flavorful pizza. In addition to their pizza kits, students received 2 chapter books,(one in Spanish and one in English) and 1 Picture book in Spanish and a gratitude journal.

The day of the event was so fun! I had 15 families participate.I am a dual language teacher so I hosted my event in Spanish, but made sure to have an English and Spanish book for our read aloud. We started off our night by reading two books all around the theme of food. Our first book was  La Fiesta Secreta de Pizza by Adam Rubin.

I turned this book into a video narration where my students were the ones reading the story! They absolutely loved the experience and I could see how excited they were to hear themselves reading the story. After playing the first read aloud, it was my turn to read to my class. I read How to Feed Your Parents by Ryan Miller. The kids thought it was so funny how the parents were the picky eaters instead of the kids. The kids enjoyed both stories, but were very anxious and excited to start our pizza making.

We got to move things into our kitchens where we would get started. I showed the students the materials they would need and we started our pizza dough. I had made some slides to have a visual of the directions. Everyone was mixing and making their dough. Soon enough, everyone was ready for the next step! We rolled out and extended our dough to put down on our pizza pan. During this time we were listening to music and kids got to ask questions. Some shared how this was their first time making pizza from scratch. The kids who had experience making pizzas and shared some advice with their classmates. After, families got to top their pizza with their favorite ingredients before putting it in the oven. Once the pizza was in the oven, families got to work on writing their own pizza recipe. I had 3 students want to share their recipe with the class. Soon after, pizzas were ready and students shared their masterpieces before logging off to enjoy their delicious homemade pizza! Pizza brought together my students and their families for a fun family night!


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