In this series, we have focused on building a positive mindset, revamping our expectations, setting up a productive workspace, and planning for instruction in this strange new “world.” Today’s focus is on general instruction tips.
1 – Use the same platform and the same technology tools that your students are already accustomed to. That doesn’t mean you can’t introduce new tools, but try to keep technology tasks as familiar as possible. Note: this is to help save YOUR sanity. Your students will quickly learn any new tool, but you might not have the time or the energy for that right now. If you do learn to use new tools, consider that a bonus but not a requirement!
2 – Re-think your teaching format. Make short (5-15 minute), informal videos. (They don’t have to be perfect! Let go of that.) You can use your phone or use my favorite tool, Screencastify. Link to articles, videos or infographics that are already out there instead of trying to re-invent the wheel.
3 – Change your expectations of what students do to earn “credit” for assignments. Could they post a response on Padlet? Participate in a Google Meet discussion about a book or article? Create something like a Google slides presentation or videos on FlipGrid?
4 – To keep your students motivated and engaged, offer as much choice as possible. Even if you need to require certain assignments to be completed, at least offer choices about when they complete each task.
5 – Other ways to keep your students engaged in your lesson: doodle or sketch during your video, use a toy or prop, suggest some physical activity for your students to do while you are teaching, ask students to post a photo of their work.
6 – Allow your students to create discussion threads or to comment on/evaluate each other’s work. They will probably put more effort into their work if they know that their peers will be giving them feedback!
7 – Stay connected with your students. Make short (3-5 minute) check-in videos to send to your students, updating them on the work expected plus other fun updates like shout-outs to individual students. Schedule class meetings with Google Meet or Zoom so that everyone can see everyone else. Send regular google forms to check-in and see how everyone is doing.
8 – Set up “office hours” when you can be available by email or discussion thread on Google classroom or a Zoom meeting. Offer online video chat or FaceTime calls for students who might need extra help.
9 – Set limits for yourself. Just because you could be available at all hours doesn’t mean you have to be. Follow your district’s guidelines on how soon you should respond to parent emails (usually 24-48 hours). Consider letting your parents and students know when you are “available” for any calls, messages, or emails.
10 – Try to create ways for students to discuss assignments or readings with each other. Zoom and Google Meet are two tools you could use for this. Zoom has breakout rooms feature where you can put students in smaller groups to discuss.
Here are some tried and true student engagement activities from Think CERCA:
11 – We all know how important it is to give students feedback. But how do you do that when you can’t be face-to-face with your students? Two ways to do that might be to use a Google doc where you can add comments or use the chat feature. Another way would be to schedule quick 5 – 10 minute conferences with students via Google Meet.
12 – Simplify, simplify, simplify. You will not be able to teach your students in the same way you would if you were in your classroom. Make your peace with that. Just do what you can and let the rest go. Offering your students grace and reassurance during this time is the most impactful thing you can do for them right now.
13 – Priotizie reading over everything else. Make sure your students have access to high-quality texts (both fiction and nonfiction). See the free resources on my PDF HERE. Emphasize to students and families that reading should happen every single day. That is one assignment that everyone can actually do right now. Here is a recent resource I found for reading response choices.
The next three tips for online teaching come from college instructors in the article “Coronavirus Has Led to a Rush of Online Teaching. Here’s Some Advice for Newly Remote Instructors” on EdSurge HERE.
14 – Think Shorter
“If it’s hard to hold students’ attention in person, it’s even harder online,” says Bonni Stachowiak. “You’ll want to think about shortening that experience. The online environment tends to have shorter, more-compact opportunities and then other things to do that are more engaging than just sitting and listening.” Remember that students may be logging on through their smartphones, or watching a recording later instead of tuning in live.
15 – Make Sure to Record Online Sessions For Those Who Can’t Tune in Live
Stachowiak says to be sure you press record on whatever tool you use to offer remote classes. Then share the recording with students just as soon as a session is over, so you won’t forget.
16 – Lighting is Key, and Think About Virtual Eye Contact
“Think about your webcam and having your light source in the room come from in front of you so that the light is shining on your face as opposed to turning you into this shadowy figure that looks a little scary,” says Stachowiak. “You should join the session early so you can look at yourself and ask, where’s the light coming from? Is it the right positioning for that camera? You can simulate eye contact by looking at the camera (for many of us the camera is at the top of our monitor), so put your notes at the top of your screen so you look at the camera more.”
I hope that some of these tips will help you navigate this very stressful and unusual time. Please let me know how these tips work for you and please share your own tips! You are one of the heroes right now. Keep doing what you can do for your students.
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