Engagement Tips for Remote Learners

Making connections with distance learning students

Since the onset of COVID-19 and distance learning, many educators find themselves scrambling to find ways to engage our online learners. While most disruptive behaviors are now easily cured with a mute button or removal from the platform, many teachers are left wondering…

Are you alive???

If you are wondering how to motivate and engage your learners while remote teaching, check out the tips below.

Five Tips to Increase Engagement in Your Online Classroom

1. Build Relationships

Just as relationship-building activities are necessary for classroom management, they are also needed for online teaching. Since the 2020-2021 school year began with many different types of classes going on, whether they are in class, hybrid, or remote, we are not afforded the luxury of already having a relationship with students before this type of learner. This year is even more important to take the time to learn about your students and build a relationship to help them feel comfortable and confident in the classroom.

Here are some ideas to build a relationship with your students:

– Use Meme as a check-in

– Have students create FlipGrid videos

– Spend the first five minutes of class asking them personal questions (How was their weekend? What is their favorite animal? Throw out movie lines and see who knows the movie.) Let the students see that you are a “person” and not just someone there to lecture them.

– Have a question of the day. I love the website linked. The questions are quick and easy. You can put them in a Google Form and share some of them or spend time during class talking about them.

2. Online Participation

It is essential to include all kids in your classroom lessons. Call on students throughout your teaching to make sure that they understand and that they are engaged. Calling on students at random can also help you informally assess whether or not the students understand its content. This could be a good time to learn that you need to slow down or speed up.

Choose different methods for calling on students so that they aren’t feeling anxious during your class. Giving students an option to type their questions or answers in the chat feature could increase student participation.

Also, if you are using Google Meet, you may want to try Breakout Rooms. You can take the whole class and divide them into groups to have smaller conversations with one another. Often, students will have a louder voice when they are in smaller groups.

3. Private Messages

This option will depend on various factors, including your learning management system and software used to monitor students. Schoology is used as our learning management system in my district, and DyKnow is used to monitor student work on their Chromebooks. Both of these systems have an option that allows me to privately speak to a student.

Of course, you need to follow appropriate messaging practices, but having the ability to have 1:1 conversations with your students will allow you to build stronger connections with them. You can use the messaging features to:

– remind students of missed assignments,

– review a concept they may be struggling with,

– update students on what was missed while absent,

– answer student responses on Google Form questions

– relieve student anxiety about a problem

4. Creative Hands-on Activities and Demonstrations

As a science teacher, I worry about the lack of hands-on science that is going on right now. Obviously, to some degree, that cannot be helped, but there are still ways to SHOW students what is going on.

Demonstrations: Document cameras aren’t JUST for documents! I use my Ipevo document camera for science demonstrations to see what is going on. Even students IN the classroom love logging in to the Google Meet to view what is happening on the Smartboard.

Continuing to bring demonstrations to my science students has increased engagement and student interest in science. While it is not ideal, it is helping, and my kids love it.

Hands-on activities: Just because students are home doesn’t mean that they cannot participate in hands-on fun. If you can be flexible on the materials that students will use to complete activities, they can still use their hands and have fun.

Using STEM activities has been the easiest way to do this. Most of the activities are very flexible in the materials that need to be used. Students need to be creative, so it’s a win-win! Need ideas for STEM activities? Check out this blog post to get the wheel turning.

5. Sense of Humor

Most of all, especially in these times, having a sense of humor is really important. We are in unprecedented times navigating a very crazy and sometimes scary world. While we still have the curriculum and data collection always looming at our doorstep, it is also important to take time to remember that we are all human beings, and sometimes we need to kick back and laugh.

Don’t forget to laugh, tell jokes, and show your students that you are a fun, smart, friendly human being. Once students know this, it will go a long, long way in developing a kind and respectful relationship with your students on AND off-screen.

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