Finding your new systems to increase student engagement as we round to almost a year of teaching a virtual class has taken some trial and error. If you have not figured out your groove on how to teach a productive virtual class, we got you covered! We asked our Unruly Educators their tips for increasing student engagement while teaching online and here is what they said.
Let’s dive deeper into these tips and provide you with the resources to get you feeling more confident and ready to tackle student engagement in your virtual class!
David Kober is a PE Teacher from Illinois and he told us that keeping things simple has helped him stay sane in and out of virtual class time. No one is expecting you to become a tech magician out of nowhere. Do not feel like you have to stay up all night creating your own content and videos to use during your virtual class. Use the resources available to you. It could be as simple as a block coding Youtube video or downloadable powerpoint lesson plan.
Pro Tip: When you find a resource that is exceptionally helpful with student engagement, share them with fellow educators! Your can share you ideas and resources on Twitter using the hashtags #VirtualClass or #RemoteLearning.
David modifies his lessons based on what his students liked and adds in activities like yoga freeze dance to keep his students moving and engaged in the virtual class because they are doing an activity they picked. One thing that has not changed from virtual class to in-person class is the relationship you have with your students. Ask them what they want to learn about and base your virtual class around that. Take note of what videos and activities your students react well to. Making students feel like they have a part in deciding on what they are learning and what activities they do can help energize and motivate any virtual class.
Ashley Fort is a Digital Learning Coach from North Carolina and she works with her students to create long term and short term goals. It is important to have aspirations for future plans and having students generate goals around these bigger picture objectives. This can help students stay motivated by focusing on a better future and not on the current situation. Spending some time on short term goals can help students focus on just getting through the week, day, or hour. Ashley suggests using this simple goal setting plan to get your students started!
Now that you have your goals, have your students make a plan that includes steps on how they plan to accomplish their goals. Revisit their goals periodically and track their successes. It is also important to encourage your students to modify their goals if they become too ambitious and let them know it is okay to change goals to make them fit their current needs. Ashley recommends using Google Drawings to create a fun and colorful plan and vision board! It is a great alternative for a virtual class where before you might have done this activity with traditional crayons and glue sticks.
One of Ashley’s favorite phrases is,“grace is greater than grades!” Every student has different virtual class environments and this can directly affect their ability to learn and perform. If a student is not living up to expectations or just seems off, take a moment to check in with and see what else is going on in their life that may be impacting them. Offer up the opportunity to redo an assignment or class task and adjust the assignment so the student can complete it no matter what is going on at home.
Alexa Sorden is a Founding Principal from a school in Bronx, NYC and she encourages brain breaks during virtual class. This type of activity increases energy and gets your students re-engaged with the lesson. Use brain breaks that involve some play or movement and encourage your students to get out of their seats and move a little bit. This could be as simple as doing a quick yoga session or scavenger hunt. For more inspiration on virtual class brain breaks check out our Unruly Splats Icebreaker Activity Pack!
Heather Sutkowski is a Computer Science Teacher from CT and she creates easy-to-follow visuals for students to follow during virtual class. One way to do could be taking screenshots or a screen recording of the steps on how to complete a coded activity. It is also helpful to use the same devices that the students use. So if some are using Chromebooks and others are using iPads, make two recordings to share with the class. Visuals can make things a little easier for students to follow when they are at home!
Heather does this with her lesson plans to clear up any confusion for her students when they are home.
Celebrate the wins early and often! Concourse Village Elementary School Principal, Alexa Sorden, recommends celebrating perfect attendance and accomplishments from parents and scholars who have gone above and beyond! Finding reasons to celebrate is a great way to keep your students motivated and having something to look forward to. No achievement is too small and the more the merrier!
Just because you are stuck at home in your virtual classroom, it does not mean you are in this alone! Lean on your fellow colleagues when you need to. We recommend setting up weekly meetings with a couple of fellow educators to work together to generate your weekly lesson plans, brainstorm new ideas for student engagement in virtual class, celebrate wins, and discuss challenges that you have. Connecting with your team is a great way to spark energy and reconnect with some of your educator friends.
You can’t pour from an empty cup! Not seeing your teammates and getting quality in-person bonding time is something many of us miss! It is important you take time for yourself and manage your own well being but it is also important to still check in with your own work teammates too! Taking these needed mental breaks can be hard to do sometimes but getting reminded by a friend can make things a little easier. If you don’t know where to start, take a look at our guide for educator self care and send it to a fellow educator!
Let’s be real, teaching virtually is not an ideal situation for any educator. The good news is virtual learning will not go one forever! Use these tips to re-energize student engagement in your virtual class and push through the next few months with full force and feel ease knowing the future will have in-person learning!