The transition to remote learning hasn’t been easy, especially for teachers. Since the pandemic shuttered schools across the country, many teachers have gone above and beyond for their students — navigating new technology, helping students make up missed assignments,— all while trying to manage their own stress.
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Connecting with students online has been challenging, to say the least. How can you support them during remote instruction? Below, here are some tips and strategies for teaching students in a remote environment.
1. Balance Asynchronous and Synchronous Learning
Synchronous instruction is big right now, and for good reason. Holding class in real-time can provide socially distanced students with a sense of community and belonging. Many teachers also prefer synchronous instruction because it resembles an in-person education.
However, synchronous learning isn’t practical for every student. Some students don’t have the technology to keep up with synchronous instruction, while others simply prefer the option to learn at their own pace.
A blended approach to remote learning can ensure that all of your students’ needs are being met, including those with disabilities. If you prefer to hold live instruction, consider recording the lecture and posting it online afterward.
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2. Mix Things Up
Keeping students engaged during remote instruction has been a major challenge for teachers everywhere. One way to keep your students’ attention is by mixing up what they’re seeing and hearing on their screen.
What might this look like in a virtual classroom? Here are a few ideas:
- Use animations and videos. No student wants to read instructions on a screen all day. Make your lessons more interesting by adding fun video prompts (check out ) and interactive elements ( ).
- Change your background. Zoom and other platforms allow you to set different virtual backgrounds. Take advantage and give your lectures an interesting (but not distracting) background setting.
- Be aware of expression and tone. It’s easy to talk in a monotonous tone when you’re staring at blank screens instead of students. To make lectures more engaging, pretend that you’re talking to your students in-person. Use friendly gestures and make eye contact by staring directly into the camera.
3. Continue to Support Their Careers
COVID-19 has been tough on every student, but high school students have been negatively impacted the most. According to a 2020 survey from America’s Promise Alliance,of students are now concerned about their current and future education.
High school students need reassurance and support from their teachers, now more than ever. You can help your students by talking about their future careers, encouraging them to, and helping them find internships where they can gain valuable work experience.
If students express worry or fear over their futures, avoid making blanket reassurance statements, which can invalidate their concerns. Instead, be honest and encouraging.
4. Anticipate Problems
Every teacher encounters hiccups, but with remote instruction, problems are more likely to arise. Technology can malfunction. Instructions can be unclear when they’re given remotely. Students may not understand how to properly reach out and ask for help when they need it.
When developing your lesson plans, try to anticipate these problems. When giving instructions, consider attaching screenshots and pictures to make them easier to understand. Keep your lessons simple by keeping digital tools to a minimum. Additionally, try to work with the existing resources your students already have available to them.
It’s also important to have a flexible backup plan in case your technology fails. Create backup lesson plans in Google Docs that you can access even when your virtual classroom is unavailable. You could also pre-write an email containing links to student activities that can be sent in your absence.
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5. Prioritize Health and Well-Being
No matter where or how you teach, the health and well-being of your students should always come first. When a student’s physical or emotional health suffers, so too does their ability to learn.
Here are some ways you can set the tone in your classroom and show students that you care:
- Schedule regular check-ins with students and families
- Incorporate breaks into your lessons and limit homework so kids can recharge
- Celebrate birthdays and other milestones as a class
- Encourage students to reach out if they need help
- Emphasize the importance of healthy eating, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep
Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Set an example for the kids by talking about your own self-care practices.
6. Establish Normal Routines
All teachers know the value of routine. Routines help set expectations for the day and give your lesson plans structure. With remote learning, routines are especially important because they make life easier for students.
Let your students play an active role in creating classroom routines. Host regular morning meetings where students can brainstorm ideas for class. Students are more likely to follow class routines when they helped establish them.
Set an agenda for the day and keep it in an easily accessible location, just like you would in a physical classroom. Little things like greeting students when they log in to a live session can also go a long way in promoting a sense of normalcy with remote learning.
Remote learning has been challenging for many educators. However, technology has also opened many doors for students and their teachers. Students who would normally be too shy to raise their hand in class may be more likely to speak up in a virtual environment. Teachers who want to incorporate new technology into the classroom are now more emboldened to do so. On that note, we hope you’ve found some of these tips useful for your virtual classroom.