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Nearly 93% of kids are engaging in some form of distance learning and, as long as the pandemic rages on, this trend will likely continue. As a teacher, you must prepare to teach online indefinitely.
By now, you’re probably comfortable with Zoom, Google calendar and other online platforms, but are you connecting with your students as you would in a physical classroom? Step up your game and be an effective online teacher with these tips.
1. Set Clear Expectations
One of the best ways to be an amazing virtual teacher is to communicate clear expectations to your students. What materials will they need for class? Will you allow them to eat and drink while you teach? When are assignments due? The answers to some of these questions may seem trivial. However, since online classrooms can feel like a free for all, it’s important to establish rules early on and the consequences if students should break them.
2. Assign Group Projects
Many students taking online classes don’t engage with other kids outside of school for fear of contracting or spreading the virus. However, even in a time of social distancing, socializing is still important, especially for children that are still developing their interpersonal communication skills.
Encourage interaction with other students by assigning group projects. Use Zoom’s breakout room feature to group them together and allow them time to work. Students should be able to complete all assignments without meeting in person.
3. Meet One-on-One
Of course, the teacher-student relationship is important as well — if not more so in the virtual realm. Students can easily feel alone and helpless in an online classroom environment and many won’t speak up if they’re confused. It’s vital to their success that you meet with each student one-on-one to discuss their progress and how you might help them better understand the material.
4. Create a Routine
Holding your students’ attention for hours on end isn’t an easy task. However, you can engage their brains and help them focus by creating a routine. Contrary to popular belief, kids love schedules because they know what to expect and what’s expected of them.
Begin each class with an icebreaker, a video or an activity that will tie into your lesson plan. This opener should help everyone settle down and tune in. At the end of class, you can choose a closing activity to help students reflect on what they learned.
5. Cater to All Learning Styles
In the virtual classroom, you rely on visuals and explanations to convey information. However, not all students are visual and auditory learners. Some are kinesthetic, which means they want to move, touch and feel while they learn. Therefore, you must find ways to cater to all three learning styles so any and every student is engaged.
Of course, connecting with a kinesthetic learner through a computer can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible. Ask students to act out bits and pieces of information or send them on a scavenger hunt in their home to find a list of materials. Encourage doodling, conduct experiments and include as many hands-on activities as you can.
6. Use Online Resources
When your school went online, you might have struggled to translate your lesson plan to the virtual world. Luckily, there are thousands of resources available for teachers and students. All you have to do is conduct a quick Google search for teaching materials and sample lesson plans.
You can also filter your search based on subject or topic to find free online resources. Many companies have made their services free during the pandemic and others have lifted limits to services or shared premium features at no extra cost. Take advantage of these resources and use them to gather ideas or test out new technologies before you have to start paying for them again.
7. Ask for Feedback
You won’t know how effective of a teacher you are unless you ask. Frequently survey your students to make sure they’re comprehending information and ask them for honest feedback. What are you doing well? What could use some improvement?
If you feel comfortable, you might ask your students’ parents for feedback as well. Moms and dads that work from home have probably overheard a few of your classes and might have some valuable advice or encouragement to help you become the best teacher you can be.
8. Establish Boundaries
Many teachers tend to lose themselves in their jobs, especially those teaching virtually. At home, the line between work and a personal life is often blurry. Should you answer calls from parents at 6 PM? What about tutoring on weekends?
Make a schedule for yourself and stick it. Establish boundaries by refusing to work during your off-hours and being all-in while you are teaching and connecting with students and parents. Drawing a line in the sand will help you find a better work-life balance and remind everyone — including yourself — that you’re human and deserve a break too.
One Day at a Time
Teaching kids during a global pandemic and actually holding their attention can feel impossible sometimes. On the tough days, show yourself and your students grace and remember that tomorrow is a new day. For now, just take things one day at a time and don’t take things too seriously.