These virtual teaching tips will hopefully help you plan for fully remote virtual teaching or hybrid learning. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges for all of us, but the challenges of online/virtual teaching for educators have been momentous. For some of us, teaching in this way may have been nothing new. But for others, it was an extreme challenge. Virtual teaching comes with its own set of challenges, aside from those presented in a regular classroom setting.
To help you navigate some of those challenges, I’ve compiled the following list of virtual teaching tips and tricks.
1. Balance work and home life
Whether teaching online or in person, a balance of work and home life is a necessity. When in the classroom, sometimes that can be easier to manage. But when the home is also where all the work happens, try these ideas:
- If possible, try to keep your work area away separated from the rest of your living area. Everyone needs a break, and sometimes that means not being able to visually see your work materials.
- Set designated hours for work – kindly communicate them with students and parents – you do not have to be on call at all times just because everyone is at home.
- Practice self-care! Be sure to do things you enjoy and take care of yourself. Never forget that you cannot be there for others if you are not there for yourself first.
2. Relationships, relationships, relationships
In the classroom or online, relationships will always be the key to a successful learning environment and student engagement. Even though you may never meet these students face to face, you must build relationships with them as if you have or will. Just like always, students must know that you care about them and their needs/feelings, both inside and outside of the learning environment. It also helps if they feel this way about their peers. The students should have opportunities to get to know each other and work together.
Try some of the following:
- Do daily check-ins like attendance questions or Google Forms asking how they are doing
- Log in a little early and just chat with early arriving students
- Start the lesson with ice breakers, or a classroom meeting.
- Try to start virtual videos/lessons with something to connect with the students.
- Schedule one-on-one conferences/meetings with students
- Incorporate break-out rooms in your lessons, so students have the opportunity for small group focus and attention
- Never be afraid to show students when you are struggling too. This makes you relatable, personable, and more approachable.
- Be silly and have fun with the students. Talk to them and truly listen to how things are going for them. Sometimes I pretend to be a weather person from the news station and give a live broadcast of the weather.
- Allow students time to talk to and with each other. This might even include leaving the conferencing platform open during lunchtime or “recess” so that students can still communicate with each other.
- Use platforms such as Flipgrid to foster and encourage discussion.
- Continue normal in-person classroom management strategies, such as calling/emailing home for the positive, uplifting, and fun things your students do. Did a student do/say something that was very kind, sweet, helpful, thoughtful, etc? Call home and share the story. This builds positive relationships with you between the student, parent, and classmates.
3. Be organized!
Just like we can tell when we sit through a poorly organized professional development session, students can tell when they are having to participate in a poorly organized lesson. Be prepared and know what you want students to take away from the lesson, as well as anything you want them to finish/complete from the lesson.
Try these virtual teaching tips for staying organized:
- Correct and assess work daily, as much as possible. Timely feedback is a strong motivator and a good teacher all on it’s own.
- Make video lessons, as well as practice and assessment materials as often as possible/necessary.
- Be clear with instructions.
- Make assignments meaningful. No one likes to be overwhelmed or overburdened with busy work.
- Use frequent, timely communication with both parents and students in regards to grades and assignments. No one wants to be caught off guard.
4. Offer choices
So much of students’ lives are controlled by the adults in their lives. Engagement automatically increases when students are given the opportunity to make their own choices. This also helps to meet the needs of students with various learning styles.
To help with that, think about these suggestions:
- Incorporate what students like and know into lessons. Even further, when possible or time permits, build lessons on what students want to know more about.
- Use choice boards – allow students to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of methods.
- Use different-leveled assignments.
5. Create videos
Creating videos may take a little more time and work upfront, but it’s one of my favorite virtual teaching tips because videos can help reduce work in other ways!
Consider these ideas:
- Instructional videos on how to use/navigate Google Classroom (or other learning platforms) can help students find and complete tasks, without you being asked how to do something repeatedly.
- Videos can be available at all times, ensuring students can go back and review something.
- Parents can watch the same videos in order to help their children with their work.
- Videos also aid students who are absent.
- Videos can help students who are resistant to reading instructions. They can also help to ensure that your instructions are clear and always available.
6. Pacing, routine, and variety
Just like a regular classroom, students need adequate pacing with a consistent routine, but also some variety in their day-to-day activities and lessons. We, adults, like to know what to expect right? But we also don’t want to do the exact same things day in and day out. This applies to students as well! If we move too fast or too slow, we’ll lose their attention and interest, but if we do the same things every day, we’ll also bore them that way. They need to know that certain procedures and expectations (routines) will always be there, but that we’ll move at a steady pace and offer various activities.
Here are some ideas to think about:
- Use smaller tasks/projects to keep engagement; chunk tasks or assignments into smaller tasks
- Provide checklists for students to follow to ensure they know what to do and by what date. Keep them simple, but specific.
- Consider using podcasts instead of novels. In this blog post, learn 9 Ways To Use Podcasts In The Classroom.
- Use assignments like scavenger hunts, escape rooms, podcasts, and bonus point systems to keep student engagement.
- Consider websites such as NoRedInk, NewsELA, NearPod, Pear Deck, Deck.Toys, ActivelyLearn, and Kahoot, among others, to engage students and offer variety. Check out this blog post about Creative Student Projects for more creative digital teaching ideas.
- Use Google Slides to simulate worksheets. Students can highlight or do other things to demonstrate close reading.
Do you have any virtual teaching tips or tricks to share from your virtual teaching experiences? I’d love to hear them, and we can all learn from each other. Connect with me on Instagram to share your thoughts.