Whether you’re teaching 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 throughout your virtual learning experience.
Having clear goals and consistent routines is a strong place to start. Remember to adjust your expectations for the needs of each child—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.
The time has come for hard conversations.
That’s the feedback we have been receiving from educators across the country. There are plenty of tough conversations educators are trained, taught, or feel equipped to handle with children and families - gently bringing up a developmental concern, facilitating a disagreement between students, or explaining what happened with the classroom goldfish are all part of a day in the life. But in the last year, since the killing of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, educators are increasingly asking for help in communicating more comfortably with young children about diversity and difference.
I was supposed to be an architect, instead I was a teacher of young children; it felt like my calling.
When I started my coursework, they tasked me with visiting multiple classrooms. It overwhelmed me when in some classrooms, children were crying, teachers were frustrated, and no one seemed to enjoy the day. I thought I had made a mistake. Thankfully, I had a professor who inspired me to continue. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the behaviors I observed in both children and teachers, the professor charged me to uncover the root of those behaviors.
And so, my journey to support social-emotional development began.
Every state, every district, every school, every teacher faced decisions that they had never anticipated in the last academic year. As the end of the 2020-2021 school year approaches, it’s time to reflect on those decisions, learn from others, and prepare for the fall ahead.
This past year of hybrid and virtual learning due to the pandemic highlighted the gaps in learning and the inequities that we already knew existed. It is apparent, now more than ever, that there needs to be a narrow focus on bridging the divides (e.g., digital) that exist and meeting students where they are in order to promote growth and put less emphasis on standardized testing. This would allow teachers to concentrate on curriculum with greater impact, differentiate their instruction, and utilize effective strategies that they know make a difference for children’s outcomes.