We are all trying our best to increase engagement via distance learning. I recently went to a conference on Teaching Distance Learning and listened to an amazing presenter Emma Pass. Emma shared some engaging strategies that I literally used the next day in my classroom and some I modified and made my own.
Strategy 1: Set Clear Rules and Maintain them
Your students need to have a clear understanding of your expectations during remote lessons to increase engagement. Set clear rules for behavior and participation will need to be translated into the distance learning format.
- Prepare students with a plan B. This is so important- Always have a backup or filled lesson. I had a guest speaker on Thursday and they didn’t show up during my live zoom. Luckily, I already planned my lesson for Monday so I used that lesson and then modified my plan book.
- Set expectations for participation. You need to set clear expectations and keep track of who is answering and asking questions. I also always build in time for group work or collaboration via drive or breakout rooms.
- Set rules for using tech features. You should use the communication features available: video, mic, chatbox, emojis, reactions, and tools. Don’t be afraid to mute students or set the rule that they should be muted unless they want to speak. I also don’t allow participants to private chat with other participants (check this feature!).
- Use a classroom management system. I think it is critical to have a classroom management system during virtual lessons. Whatever your management system is in class, come up with a digital version of it. I use Google Classroom to keep students focused and organized.
Strategy 2: Use a Second Device to increase engagement
I was already using a second device monitor when I taught at home but I wasn’t doing it at school. Once I started using it at school I was instantly able to increase engagement in the classroom and activity monitor my remote students.
Strategy 3: Use the chat to increase engagement
I have no idea why I wasn’t using the chat feature more. I used to just use it for student questions and private comments but when I started to build it into my lessons I found my students were way more engaged in the lesson. For example, if I was teaching a concept I would ask a question and then have them respond in the chat. They would all write their responses and I would then call on a few students to share their responses out loud. This is a wonderful strategy if you are looking to increase engagement in the classroom. It forced my students to all participate, even the camera off kids, and it allowed me to check for understanding and engagement.
Strategy 4: Use Jamboard to get students collaborating
Jamboard allows you to visualize your ideas in a new and collaborative way to increase engagement. You can work with a team, sketch ideas into a whiteboard style presentation that creates an interactive canvas. You can drop images, add notes, and pull assets directly from the web while collaborating with team members from anywhere.
I’ve creates a would you rather, agree/disagree template, thought reflection templates, and tons of other collabrative spaces for my class.
Strategy 5: More Ways to Increase student engagement
This year I am making a conscious effort to increase student engagement online. Last year, I barely used the chat feature of zoom except if students had questions. This year I am building in social, emotional, and academic participation into my lessons by purposely using the chat as an asset in my classroom.
For example, I had students respond to ice breakers such as a shovel or plow when we had a large snowstorm or coffee or tea as a way to get them engaged in a fun way. Incorporate gifs into your lessons such as mindful minutes.
Ask content related questions as students discuss articles in a socratic circle, questions as they watch a video, or respond to prompts anytime I would normally do a think pair share in a normal classroom setting.
I have seen a huge increase in student engagement since I started doing this. Kids who won’t turn their cameras on are participating and engaged. They even answer each other’s questions. My only regret is that I wish I did it last year.