I have to confess: my first Zoom class was a flop. Three students attended class, their videos were off, and when I asked questions — the only response was silence. I was talking to dark screens with no learning happening. Student work submissions were less than 40% my first week. I knew how to teach — my students consistently get exceptionally high growth scores — I just didn’t know how to teach remotely. Here are five tips that helped me go from inconsistent engagement and treading water academically to 100% of students completing weekly assignments while mastering new material.
Give effort shout-outs with the same frequency you would in class! Post praise, screenshots of exemplar student work, and thank individuals for participation publicly in your virtual classrooms. Post throwback pictures, do student polls and post results. Ask students to shout each other out or text each other for reminders to show up to class. If a student is absent or sick, post to your wall “we missed you today, ___!” to welcome them back in.
If you haven’t seen a student engage or know they are more timid in this setting, send them a text, message or private chat to tell them you plan to call on them today. They will have a little advanced warning and once they break the ice with participating, they will likely turn it into a habit.
If you would normally do a paired activity, see if you can use the breakout rooms for that function. Use the thumbs up hand signal for polls in class, and have students type responses in the chat box, either privately or publicly.
Students can show their thinking faster and more clearly on real paper. Require them to have a notebook and pencil alongside them during live class. Have them share pictures of their work with you at the end of class.
Communication with families on a once-weekly basis can increase family and student engagement. When students see you partnered with their family to make goals for their progress you are more likely to see improvement. Don’t just update families on what is due! Include how engaged in class they are, how prepared they are with their work, share examples of their work and see if students need assistance.