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Planning for Student Engagement in a Virtual Classroom

25 Aug 2021 by Teachstone

Whether you’re going back to school virtually or in person, making the most of each learning moment is always the goal. Engaging children requires you to make many plans and decisions based on your teaching knowledge. Ideally, you help children meet individual needs while still reaching goals. With strong relationships as a foundation, clear expectations and consistency will help children listen, participate, and learn. That said, building that foundation and keeping students engaged in virtual or hybrid settings can feel more challenging.

Here are some takeaways that we've heard from the last year that can help you adjust to the needs of each child in online settings, just as you would in person. 

How to Maximize Engagement in a Virtual Setting

Aim for Practicality

Using your expert teaching knowledge, develop realistic expectations for children’s engagement in a virtual classroom. Then, clearly communicate your expectations to both children and adults.

  • Break learning activities into small chunks and take frequent breaks. 

  • Adapt expectations for seating and participation. 

  • Teach children to use technical features, such as breakout rooms and muting.

Strive for Clarity 

Supportive learning routines and clear communication about the expectations for each session will create a predictable environment where children can thrive instead of wondering, wandering, or worrying.

  • Incorporate routines as you begin and end each session.

  • Use visual cues to help children focus on your clear learning goals and activities.

  • Teach children ways to ask for help and participate.

Plan for Variety

Using a variety of materials and methods in the virtual setting will help you engage children. Work toward a balance of predictability and novelty while regularly trying new facilitation strategies.

  • Encourage various ways of participating: speaking, gesturing, or drawing.

  • Include variety in learning (songs, chants, games). 

  • Ensure all children have access to necessary materials.

Now that you’ve read some ways to maximize engagement in a virtual classroom, use this planning document to brainstorm how you will maximize engagement in your virtual classroom.

Download Planning Tool

Live sessions with children are only part of providing virtual instruction. Some children and families may need additional support. Children may not be able to participate online because of barriers to accessing technology. Providing alternative ways for children to receive instruction, complete work, and connect with you will help ensure equitable opportunities for learning and assessment.

Make sure to communicate your expectations to adult caregivers. Letting them share information about their child can help you offer alternatives that meet individual needs. As always, working in collaboration with families supports children’s success.

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