Best Practices for Virtual Teaching

Best Practices for Virtual Teaching

Jaclyn Siano

With so many schools closed due to Coronavirus concerns, many teachers have questions about best ways to implement at-home learning practices for their students. So, here is Inspired Instruction’s list of Top 5 Best Practices for At-Home Learning.

Top 5 Best Practices For At-Home Learning

  1. Not Every Assignment Has To Be Extensive

If you are using a virtual classroom like Google Classroom, you are probably assigning work to your students. Don’t feel like each assignment has to be a huge undertaking for students.

Think about assigning multiple assignments that are shorter in length. For example, you can assign a 5 question reading check using Google Forms and host an online discussion on your classroom stream (or using Google Chat). By providing multiple assignments, you may be more likely to see student participation. 

On the same note, every single assignment does not need to be numerically graded. For shorter assignments, like a reading check, you can give a Pass/Fail participation grade instead. You are still holding students accountable for completing the work, and are lessening your grading load in the process!

  1. Limit the Number of Announcements/Reminders You Send Students Daily

As we know, many students have limited attention spans and can feel overwhelmed easily. Instead of emailing or posting multiple announcements or reminders, consider just doing 1 per day.

To speak to both visual and auditory learners, consider recording yourself providing directions, clarification and/or reminders. Zoom is a great platform for this as you can record, save, and share your video. Plus, right now, it is free for teachers and school staff!

If you are a planner like I am, consider recording these ahead of time so they are ready to go on the days you need them. For example, record your Tuesday announcement on Monday afternoon. If you are using Google Classroom, you can even add it to your stream ahead of time and schedule a time for it to become available to students (like 7am on Tuesday morning).

  1. Look Past The Academics

This is an unprecedented time for all of us. Kids are not immune to the stress and fear that comes along with a pandemic. So, don’t forget to provide opportunities to check in on students’ social emotional well-being.

Consider assigning do nows or reflections that allow students to privately express their concerns or thoughts on how this situation is affecting them. For example, you could create a student survey on Google Forms that asks students questions like “What has been your biggest struggle working from home?” or “What fun things have you been able to do during this time?” To help your planning, download our SEL: Planning for Instruction worksheet.

  1. Continue to Make Personal Connections with Your Students

More than likely, your students miss you and I am sure you miss them! So find new ways to connect with your students! Many teachers are hosting “live” sessions using Zoom or Google Meet so that students can see and interact with them.

This is a great opportunity to both discuss questions related to assigned content, and check in with students in general:

  • Show your students your dog. 
  • Clarify instructions for the writing assignment. 
  • Ask younger students to do a show and tell.
  • Have older students share what hobbies they have been undertaking.
  • Let students share and explain projects they have done for your class.

The conversations don’t have to be wholly academic. Remember those “hallway conversations” you used to have when school was in session? Thinking of this as a virtual version!

  1. Allow for Peer to Peer Connections

Virtual learning can be isolating and even a bit lonely for a lot of students. Consider creating learning activities that engage students with each other.

If you are using Google Classroom, there are many opportunities for peer collaboration:

  • Have students peer review each others’ work on Google Docs by using the comments feature.
  • Assign students group projects where they have a Google Chat forum to discuss.
  • Host small group meetings using Zoom or Hangouts where, although you are present, the students can chat about upcoming assignments and projects.

Just because school is not physically in session does not mean everything has to be done independently. For students with difficult home lives, it is especially important to provide them with positive interactions!

student operating a laptop

During this unprecedented time, let the adage, “Less is more!” guide you.  While students are learning to use a virtual platform to do their schoolwork, this is also an opportunity for them to learn life skills.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if students helped with chores, learned to cook, or practiced conflict resolution while being cooped up with siblings?  

Also, we need to keep in mind that some parents may be unavailable to support students during this time.  Sadly there will be other students who are in situations that are not ideal while away from school, and so the opportunity to connect with you and their peers is critical.  Simple expressions of care and concern or offerings of praise for attempts at work are profoundly important at this time. 

Lastly, be patient with not only your students but yourself.  All of us are in uncharted territory; doing the best you can do is enough! 

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