It’s no exaggeration to say the whole world is shut down as result of the COVID-19 crisis. No one knows how long schools will be closed. Teachers are scrambling, searching high and low for tools and materials to engage and instruct their K-12 students virtually. Many parents are panicking, too, struggling to prevent their children falling behind.
Here’s the good news: the key to successful online teaching lies in simple best practices and the right tools.
Teaching Tips for the Virtual Classroom
1. The younger the kids, the more parental involvement needed.
If you’re working with kids younger than grade 3, parents will ideally be conscientious facilitators, co-navigating the system with their children. With older kids, there will be increasing levels of independence, but it’s always crucial to keep parents on board, fully aware of what’s going on at all times. Let parents know from the very beginning how much confidence you have in them and that you’re counting on them to work with you.
2. Stay student-centered, always!
Just because teaching is virtual doesn’t mean it needs to be teacher-centered! Remember everything you learned about student-centered learning in your teacher training and career up until now and apply it in your virtual classroom.
3. Keep the lines of communication open each and every day.
Students (and parents) must have more than one way to contact you and ask questions as they learn and complete their assignments. Create lots of opportunities for discussion among learners themselves, too. Send parents messages on a regular basis, keeping them up to speed on how their child is progressing.
4. Understand the realities of the digital divide.
In many school districts, students have limited access to computers and Wi-Fi. In situations like these, it’s up to you and your school board to come up with solutions that will help make learning equitable. If you’re not sure what the digital situation is of all your students and their parents, make kind and thoughtfully worded inquiries. Let them know that everyone is on the same team!
5. Maintain a strong sense of personal connection with your students.
When your kids come into the physical classroom, they see their favorite teacher and feel confident and comfortable. Don’t let them forget what you look like online! Make your picture accessible on your LMS and in learning tools. Let them know how much you still care.
6. Harness the power of the many virtual teaching and learning tools available today.
There are tools for video lesson creation, Learning Management Systems (LMS), texting tools, student portfolio tools, and even tools to help facilitate classroom management.
There’s a plethora of fantastic free and affordable online education tools available. Here are just a few:
If your school board isn’t providing an LMS for its teachers, Google Classroom is an excellent free alternative if you’re teaching any grade or grades from 3 through 12. It’ll be your virtual classroom, letting you create and manage all assignments and even facilitate group work. Kids today are so tech-savvy that the name “Google” will make them feel comfortable from the very beginning!
Screencast-O-Matic is an affordable tool that lets you not only create high-quality screencasts but share them. The interface is easy to use and makes the learning experience fun. With Screencast-O-Matic, your students will have the chance to see your face, making the experience more personal and engaging. Bringing your own rich content library to this tool is essential, so get started with compiling digital materials that you can use.
Remind lets teachers send text reminders to students and their parents, reminding them of elements of the curriculum and upcoming assignments and online events. This app operates in more than 70 languages and allows you to share links and files. With Remind, you can schedule text messages to be sent out in advance, making sure students and parents stay aware of due dates, schedule changes, and upcoming quizzes and tests.
Remember: You’re Not Alone
Pretty much every teacher on the planet is in the same boat right now, so you’re in good company! You’ll set yourself up for success just like you do your students by following best practices when it comes to virtual teaching and learning.
“7 Tips for Being a Great Virtual Teacher,” Teach for America, https://www.teachforamerica.org/stories/7-tips-for-being-a-great-virtual-teacher
“250+ Amazing Online Learning Resources,” We Are Teachers, https://www.weareteachers.com/free-online-learning-resources/
“Best Tools for Virtual and Distance Learning,” Common Sense Education, https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/best-tools-for-virtual-and-distance-learning
“Online Teaching in K-12: Models, Methods and Best Practices for Teachers and Administrators,” Information Today, Inc., http://books.infotoday.com/books/Online-Teaching-in-K-12/Online-Teaching-in-K-12-Sample.pdf
Srba, Karen. “Resources & Tips for Remote Education During School Closures,” The Journal, https://thejournal.com/articles/2020/03/16/resources-tips-for-remote-education-during-school-closures.aspx