Teachers were driven to create new ways to reach out to students and foster a sense of community as a result of remote teaching, and some of these will be well worth maintaining.
It’s been a struggle to keep my third-grade kids involved in virtual learning, as it has been for so many other teachers. Along the road, I’ve tried out several new tactics that functioned well in the online classroom that I’m going to use in my actual classroom as well. They not only engage children but also foster sentiments of belonging and inclusion, both of which are critical for social and emotional development and a pleasant classroom atmosphere.
I’ll Keep these Strategies In Mind
Encourage people to write by hand:
My kids needed methods to tangibly connect with the curriculum when we moved virtual, and they needed to keep practicing their fine motor skills. So I opted to go to old school wherein we used pencils, pastels, and markers to take notes in actual notebooks.
Every day, we write notes in actual notebooks about what we’re learning, and we do it together. Instead of duplicating what I write, my students offer suggestions and examples as I write, allowing us to co-create notes.
Because there’s significant proof that writing by hand instead of on a keyboard improves retention and understanding of new knowledge, I’ll keep doing it long after distant learning is over.
This technique can also include a familial link and an SEL component: My pupils’ task is to show their careers in their notebooks and explain what we’ve discussed. They can ask follow-up inquiries, such as, “Mom, today we learned about Cesar Chavez and how he fought for the rights of migrant workers.” “Could you explain to me about a moment when you or someone else stood up for you?”
I ask students, “What can I do to make digital literacy more pleasant for you?” when I solicit feedback. More classroom jobs, more opportunities to eat lunch together, and more time to play games are common demands (Kahoot is a favorite).
I’ll keep asking them for comments via chatting and Google Forms in the future, and I’ll probably ask them to contribute video replies using Flipgrid as well.
Encourage pupils to keep a journal:
When my students expressed an interest in having extra time to write on a topic of their choosing, I generated a blank Google document for each of them to use as a diary.
When I discovered I still had my writing diary from when I was their age, things became pretty intriguing. We now read an entry or two from my diary as mentor text before I send them out to write on their own. It turns out that sharing my 11-year-old self’s cringe-worthy observations inspires my pupils to keep notebooks of their own.
Welcoming overseas guests:
One unexpected benefit of digital classrooms is that welcoming individuals to our classroom is considerably simpler. We’ve welcomed several international students in addition to visiting instructors and motivating speakers. These exchanges with children from other countries gave us real-world opportunities to learn about geography, maps, and languages, as well as remind my pupils that they aren’t alone in their pandemic experience.
Organizations such as PenPal Schools and ePals may connect your class with classrooms all over the world, and Narrative 4, a charity committed to writing and telling experiences, can help children form bonds and develop empathy.
Advising students on the importance of having a study buddy:
During open and distance learning, some children joined the class but did not turn in their assignments. To address this, I advised students to pair up with a study buddy with whom they could collaborate in a breakout area; study mates took turns sharing their screens and discussing their tasks. I’ll keep this online practice going, and I might couple of study buddies in the classroom as well, because my kids are delighted to have someone-on-one time with peers, and I notice more of their work being done.
Online concerts and celebrations:
During the epidemic, one of the most significant losses for children was the lack of activities to look forward to. My grade companion and I prepared a virtual show for our pupils to welcome their families during one especially depressing period of the pandemic. We spent weeks performing a song and dance based on the book we were reading (Charlotte’s Web), and the kids were excited with anticipation on the big day.
While I believe we will be able to fit in one or two in-person performances per year whenever we return to in-person study, I will continue to design virtual presentations so that we can do them more frequently.
Emily and Amelia Nagoski recommend various exercises in their book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle that might help us get past the stress of traumatic events. They recommend engaging in some type of artistic expression; because my pupils enjoy music, I gathered cash to purchase plastic recorders as a holiday gift for every one of them. We now occasionally bring out recorders and play the few songs we’ve learned during lulls in training, much to the joy of their parents, I’m sure.
Another big hit has been dance. Playing for Change is the source of my favorite music playlist. Many of these songs and videos encourage pupils to dance; more self-conscious students can switch their cameras off while dancing.
The kids also like playing “Guess Whose Song,” as I call it. I made a list of their favorite songs and played one during instructional pauses or while we waited for everybody to sign on after lunch. The children alternate guessing who’s favorite song is. That task gets everyone involved, and it’s been fascinating for me to learn about their musical preferences.
I’ll keep these little musical interludes in my toolkit because they can easily be employed as brain breaks in my actual classroom.
About the article
Children benefit from the virtual learning experience through shared interests and can help each other with homework or form study groups. You are better able to build teamwork skills through online and offline conversations. It can also help them develop social skills. In this article, we discussed some virtual teaching practices with staying power.