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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I posed that question to a random selection of contacts via text message. What did I discover? Everyone in my sample group spreads on the PB first, then the J. There are a variety of ways though to apply the jelly, but in my random group, the jelly always comes second.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make me think about Behavior Guidance, a dimension in the CLASS® toddler observation tool. Especially the first two indicators of behavior guidance: proactive and supporting positive behavior. Proactive is the peanut butter! It goes first. That layer of peanut butter is the base for the jelly, which promotes positive behavior.
“What I think I’m most proud of as a professional in the field is our ability to show up, our ability to still do it, to still roll with the changes… We have to adjust. That is what educators did the entire year. We show up. We have a strong why. We love what we do.” This is a quote from Colleen Schmit from our recent webinar, Celebrating Great Teaching. She’s talking about how hard the last couple of school years have been for teachers. Teachers faced a similar difficulty 20 years ago when the United States faced a national tragedy.
I was a kindergarten teacher for eight years at a public school. I loved my job, but somewhere along the road I started to become crotchety. I was often annoyed with my colleagues and frustrated with the demands of the district, and I was sure I knew better than any training or professional development session I would ever be forced to attend.
Shared physical presence is a large part of how we’re used to connecting with each other. Strong connections and relationships are important for children who may have recently experienced loss, high stress, or trauma. As teachers connect with children in a virtual setting, it can be more challenging to think about how to create a safe space for learning, sharing experiences, and taking risks.