Engaging Students Remotely

I recently participated in the International School Services‘ (ISS) webinar series on Transitions to Online Learning. There have been several webinars. I wanted to know how teachers were keeping Ss engaged. There was a panel of teachers currently teaching remotely in international schools around the world. Here are my major take-ways for how to engage students during this challenging time. It is interesting to me that these take-aways are the same maxims used in the pre-COVID classroom.

  1. Relationships are First and Foremost: Creating shared moments through games (which may not have to do with curriculum) that bring fun, joy, and connection was rated as one of the most important activities to keep Ss engaged. In addition, a structured morning meeting where everyone meets for a check in to set the focus for the day and to check on wellbeing is absolutely necessary. Finally, it is important to schedule one on one sessions – maybe provide office hours to have personal conversations.
  2. Less is More: All of the panelists agreed that they started off with way too much work for students to complete in a day. It took up to 5 Xs longer to complete tasks at home than it does in the classroom.
  3. Clarity is key: Keep directions clear and concise. Use the 3 Step Rule – keep directions to 3-4 short sentences. Instructional videos should be no more than 5 – 7 minutes long.
  4. Provide Voice and Choice: Use choice boards when possible, give them 4 -5 options to present their knowledge using various learning modes. Examples range from TED Talks, Build a Model, Conduct an Interview. Specific examples with templates are found on Caitlin Tucker’s website.
  5. Make it fun: Use Fun Friday SeaSaw ideas like this Friday Movie Scene Challenge. Games to play on Zoom are also popular. Check out ZoomJam for the results of a contest to create games to play on Zoom. Gamification was another strategy used to keep learning fun.
  6. Synchronous vs. Asynchronous meetings: Use a mix of meetings formats where the entire class meets at the same time and conversely opportunities for Ss to log in when it is convenient for them. This would mean teachers prepare instructional videos or directions that Ss can access on demand and work on independently.
  7. Combat Zoom Fatigue: -Teachers are increasingly talking about Zoom fatigue after being online for several hours at a time. It’s a real thing, and not just for teachers, but also for students. It is highly recommended to create activities and tasks that do not require the internet. Science experiments, History in the making Journals (COVID 19 is an historical moment – have Ss write a journal entry for each day their quarantine).

Keeping things clear, fun, and relationship focused seems to be the theme here. Again, I have to point out that good teachers have always done this. We are just under different constraints than before. To watch the full webinar or to find valuable online resources click here.

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