2. Set expectations. Speaking of engagement, set the expectation right away that all students must participate in some way. In online settings, some are happy to speak up using the video and microphone, but if they are uncomfortable or unable to do that, they can use the chat and other features to fully participate. You can even use a tool like popsicle sticks or drawing names from a hat to vary who is called on to share during a lesson. Students are more likely to stay engaged and pay attention knowing it could be them who gets selected next.
3. Make it relevant. Connect each day’s material to something you just taught them, or something the students have experience with, so they feel confident they can succeed in mastering the new content. Ask the class to chime in with examples from their own lives.
4. Mix it up a bit. Students can work in pairs or groups for one assignment, and by themselves for another. Plan ahead to use different tools and features so students don’t get bored with the same thing lesson after lesson.
5. Be the change. Model what you want to see from students. In my virtual classroom, if I want students to use their video, I use my video. Think out loud so students can be part of your thought process and use it as a model for their own thinking. Pre-teach content-specific vocabulary and model how students might keep a vocabulary journal of their own by including pictures, mnemonic devices, and sentences containing the word. And always provide an example before sending students off to complete an assignment on their own.
6. Give them feedback. Whether they’ll admit it or not, students love feedback. It validates what they’ve done and gives them easy ideas on how to do it better next time. Give meaningful feedback throughout the lesson. If students do something well, be specific about what they did well. Provide constructive comments that let students know that even if they are not there YET, they will get there and everyone in the class can be part of that. For example, “Good work, Joe! Your response is on the right track, but we need a little more information to fully explain the concept. Can anyone add to what Joe got us started with so that we all have a better understanding?” This is the place that we, as educators, can put it back on the students, to help them fill in the gaps themselves.
With these simple strategies, we can make it easier for students to thrive, easier for them to succeed, and easier for the teacher to keep them engaged.
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