The shift to virtual learning has changed a lot of aspects of teaching. It has left us asking ourselves, how do you get 20 little boxes on the screen to interact with me? Nothing could have prepared us to teach students who can turn off their cameras or refuse to unmute their microphones. To say nothing of the sometimes blank stares you get during a lesson that you thought you had prepared well for.
I’m here with a few tips to help you raise the level of engagement of your virtual lessons so that you ensure that you know if your lesson is starting to land with students or not.
My first tip starts with you. You have to plan your lesson. If you have not scripted out your mini lesson and had a chance to practice it, it will show. You will be rattled by students and you won’t know what to say and do next. A lack of planning will almost guarantee a lack of engagement from your students. In your planning think through the try it portion of the lesson.
In a typical mini lesson the interactive piece of the lesson comes from the try it portion of the lesson. This is where teachers will provide students with an opportunity for hands-on practice of the lesson or an opportunity to turn and talk to their learning buddies and try out the lesson using sentence stems.
This part of the lesson requires careful planning and forethought during normal circumstances and much more now that we are teaching in a variety of instructional models due to the pandemic.
It is a vital part of the lesson because it gives students an opportunity to try on the strategy that you have taught them and it gives you a chance to see if students are starting to understand the lesson.
As you are scripting out your lesson, think about how you would normally engage students in the “try it” portion of your lesson, then think about how you could adapt that to the current situation
If you would normally give students an opportunity to turn and talk but all of your students are virtual, then you could utilize break out rooms instead. Simply give students the turn and talk prompt and send them to discuss. Then circulate between breakout rooms just as you would in the classroom.
If your district discourages the use of breakout rooms then you could utilize the chat function. Give students a prompt to respond to and have them chat only to you. This would ensure that you know if everyone has responded and alleviates the risk factor for students.
You could utilize Jamboard exit tickets for this purpose as well. Simply share the link to the Jamboard with students and give them an opportunity to try out the mini lesson objective on post it notes. You could even assign students “squares” like you did in the classroom so that you could quickly check who had turned one in.
Remember engagement is not about entertainment. Of course we want students to love learning and have fun throughout the day, but the engagement I am referring to is engaging in their learning and taking an active role in their education. This partnership between you and the students will help ensure that learning happens and that students don’t just leave entertained.
Engagement and interaction flow best in environments where students feel safe to take risks and make mistakes. Make sure that you have established these relationships so that students feel comfortable interacting during the lesson.
In addition none of the tips above will work without careful modeling and practice. Make sure that you model and teach students what you expect them to do before you require it of them.
Choose one strategy and try it out. Tag me on social and let me know how it worked for you. I’d love to connect with you. Sign up for 1 on 1 coaching support to work through these ideas and get suggestions tailored to you and your classroom.