While many video streaming platforms and learning management systems have a robust set of tools to consider, start with what you know that also works from students and then work from there. Private messaging with Zoom and document collaboration with Google Drive while grading with an app–while students use digital portfolios on a separate platform–that’s your reality for remote teaching in 2021. That said, there’s something to be said for simplicity. If it makes your life easier and students still have access to the same learning opportunities, using one tool for functions it may not necessarily be designed for may server everyone better in the end.
I almost titled this one ‘take breaks’ but depending on your schedule, a ‘break’ may be less useful than simply transitioning or team-building, etc. That said, keep resources like Kahoot, coolmath.com, or even videos of others playing games to engage students in distance learning during portions of the lesson or activity where it may be waning. (Think halfway points.) The internet is full of games and music. Use them intentionally. Here are some video games to teach with and classic hip-hop music you can teach with to get started.
Quality audio, strong lighting, Zoom backgrounds, catchy music for transitions between activities–whatever you need to do to get and keep their attention, use the technology tools at your disposal to make that happen.
Put another way, model ‘caring’ about learning and the role it plays in well-being and growth. Show them what it means to be curious and active in this new learning environment.
This may not be possible. If you can only meet once a week and that’s it, then once a week it is. But whenever possible, ‘chunk’ learning–three times a week for 20 minutes or twice for 30 versus once for an hour. How effective this is depends on what you teach and the age of the students you’re teaching it to.
Synchronous, ‘live’ teaching online to a group of children is very different than doing the same in-person–and neither are easy. When you plan backward from the context and characteristics of remote teaching and learning–where distractions are uncontrollable, bandwidth matters, and students are not with their friends but rather their family–the lesson or activity has a better chance to work. Think small, bite-sized learning activities with clear objectives and intentional transitions–all while planning for and necessitating student engagement and autonomy. Actually, that’s not as different from ‘good teaching’ in-person as it seems.
Simplify what you teach and how you teach it and how students will show what they’ve learned. Prioritizing skills and concepts from your curriculum is more necessary now than ever.
Consider their lives. Their day. Their well-being. I wrote some about this recently: “You can also argue that this isn’t your job–and it’s certainly true that considering the well-being of every student your responsibility is a fast-track way to see some of the warning signs of teacher burnout. You may also know that the majority of your students are fine and the ones who may not be are almost impossible to help and that makes it hard sometimes. But when the opportunity presents itself, check in with your students–really check in with them. If you must assess something, assess their well-being. Track that data. Address those needs. Be the teacher you would’ve needed during a pandemic when you were a child.” The idea here is to not get distracted that you’re at home and so are they and that everything is ‘different.’ Start instead with the student and their reality and needs and the new and urgent opportunities in front of them.
The easiest strategies here are student voice and choice in what and how they learn and demonstrate learning. This applies to lessons you’ve created for students to do either together or apart. Asynchronous, self-directed, ‘genius’ learning–that is, learning students do on their own because they want to–is another way to empower students as a remote teaching tip. For pre-school students, I’ve been using Marco Polo Learning lately and paired with Epic books, makes a powerful combination for students to be empowered in their own learning. See also Virtual Teaching Tips For Beginners
A teacher’s professional behaviour, including supporting colleagues and talking with parents, also had a moderate impact on students’ learning. The report said that there may not be a direct link with these practices and student achievement, but to capture a broad definition of good teaching they should be included.