Educators across the U.S. have had to handle any unexpected issues this year. Most notably, and likely the most frustrating, is how to keep their students engaged while in a remote learning environment. With distractions in the home, spotty Wi-Fi access, and the struggle to stay attune without the ability to sit face-to-face, students and educators struggle to maintain the level of learning needed to succeed.
As a teacher, you may be wondering what elaborate scheme you have to develop to keep your students engaged week after week. Crazy costumes, silly voices, and fun dance breaks may have run their course. So, what can you do to keep your students engaged as we round out this unprecedented school year? And what can you do to plan for, perhaps, another year of remote learning? Here are just a few ideas that you may find useful:
Adjust your normal routine.
As you may have well already learned, normal classroom time runs in slow motion when teaching in a virtual environment. Students are late logging on, Wi-Fi access becomes spotty and screens freeze, and sometimes the simple act of asking a question can take much longer when realizing your student has had their “hand raised” during your lecture.
It is important to take a step back as you enter the final semester of the school year. Review your curriculum and maybe even have your students take a practice exam to identify where they are at. You want them to be prepared to enter the new school year ready to take on more complex learning challenges. Adjusting your curriculum might be the answer to ensuring student success over simply teaching to the grade level.
Reduce screen time.
We have been told that children and adults alike could benefit from reduced screen time, and now, mid-pandemic, we are on our screens now more than ever. Allow your students to take a break from the screen.
Perhaps you schedule two of your five classes offline. You can meet online to start the class and give the instructions and then allow students to step away from the computer and put their pencils to the test, knowing you are available either via video chat or phone to help them work through their problems.
Build small group connections.
Another fantastic option to keep students engaged is to develop small group work assignments. Utilize the break-out rooms in Teams or on Zoom and have students work through problems together. This will encourage connection and collaboration and will give you a break from the “Zoom gloom” of blank faces staring back at you.
Offer a door prize.
Have you ever attended a social networking event – virtually or in-person? Often door prizes are given as a way to encourage attendance. While you may have full attendance, you may not have full attention.
Encourage attention and participation by offering a small door prize to the student who can answer the most questions or the student who poses the most intriguing question to the topic they are learning. Maybe you identify a keyword that you will use during your lecture, and the first student to hear that word gets the prize.
Let your students teach the class! Ask for student volunteers to take turns teaching or reviewing the topic of the day. Allow them to engage with each other. Students who are able to explain the lesson or topic are most likely to remember it when it comes time to test.
This is also a great way for other students to listen to someone else explain the lesson and perhaps they will understand it a bit better themselves. You also get a small break from leading the conversation, which will be a nice way for you to finally finish that cold cup of coffee sitting beside you!