4 Ways to Engage Students Remotely

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Invariably, if your students are like my kid, the novelty of digital learning has worn off, and there is no longer a lot of interest in the video chats. Unfortuneatly, we still have about a month of “school” left! While now is the typical time we start losing kids when we are in the classroom, it’s even MORE difficult to keep their attention now.

I wanted to share a few thoughts as a parent and educator about engaging students in online learning.

Before I give you a list (you know how I love lists), I want you to remember this…you have the opportunity to teach, albeit virtually, with VERY.LITTLE.ACCOUNTABILITY. Your possibilities are really endless…you just may have to get a little creative.

So think about best practice.  How would you teach in class? Would you give a bunch of worksheets? Have students watch a bunch of pre-made videos? Simply ask, “Does anyone have any questions?” and have that be your only way to check for understanding? No! So let’s translate best practice to virtual learning:

  1. Model and Practice
  2. Provide hands-on activities
  3. Provide small group learning
  4. Interact with each student when you can

But what the heck does this look like?

Model and practice. Students are comfortable with you.  They are going to learn more from you modeling than a stranger. They are used to your style and your voice.  Their affective filter is lower when you are teaching. Make a video of you modeling or explaining the skill, and do a few practice problems with them.  Have them take notes as you would normally have them take notes (if that’s applicable). Host sessions where you have a class meeting, model the skill, and walk them through practicing. It could be a 10 minute lesson!

So how do we keep them engaged on the video?

Well, how would you keep them engaged in class? Ask questions. Ask them to type in the chat.  Have them repeat things after you. Sing songs if you teach younger kids. Ask personal questions (one thing funny…one thing you’re thankful for…one thing that’s difficult right now…) and have them email you the answers or put them in the chat….and then respond!

Provide hands-on activities. If you are like my son’s teachers, they provide several assignments that aren’t for grades, just for practice.  Guess what? Unless Tate is struggling, he has 0 motivation to watch more videos or do more videos. However, we have a course, 60 Activities for Thinking and Learning at Home. One of the lessons was to go on a scavenger hunt to find perpendicular, parallel and intersecting lines around the house and outside.  Tate had a blast, and he got really creative with some of them (like the cracks in the driveway). This type of lesson would be simple to assign, and it gets the kids applying what they are learning.

Provide small group learning.  I know that facilitating virtual learning can be time consuming, but could you have small group learning for the students who need it? How great to be able to connect with them in a smaller group, answer questions you know they probably have, continue to fill the vocabulary gaps through intentional discussion and practice? They could even work together to do a “group assignment” with your facilitation. I know it’s tough to get some kids even on the videos, but a personal invitation to a small group may get more participation than just whole group meetings.

Interact with each student as you can. Obviously you don’t have unending time, and you may be juggling your own kids at home as well. But you also may be the most positive and supportive person in your students’ lives. By sending personal messages, emails, videos or any other creative way you can think of, you are only continuing to build that alliance that is so needed and effective for learning to take place.

You are working hard.  You are doing great!  This year is almost over. If we can support you at all, please let us know.

Right now, you can click here to get our COVID-19 Bonus offer: Buy Building a Bridge from “I Can’t” to “I DID!” and receive 60 Activities for Thinking and Learning for FREE!

Also, to give you added support, download your free copy of 15 Ways to Love Your Students from a Distance!

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