For many teachers, virtual learning has become part of the daily routine. Whether you are virtual full-time, teaching through hybrid learning, or simply playing it by ear as circumstances change, there is no doubt this is the new normal for teachers around the world. In our classrooms, we rely on student relationships, hands on activities, and A LOT of personality to keep our students engaged. It is no secret that virtual learning makes keeping student enthusiasm a little more difficult. No matter the age, you can see students’ eyes start to glaze over, and hear the off-topic chit chat that makes you wonder if your students are retaining concepts as effectively as they would in person. No need to worry! If you are looking for ways to foster student engagement, we have gathered some of our favorite tips to make virtual engagement easy!
Tired of looking at the same old presentations or worksheets? Well, here’s a tip – your students probably are too! One simple way to bump up virtual engagement is to give those old resources a little makeover! Google Slides provides an easy platform to incorporate creative text, images, videos, and other resources that provide something bright and captivating for students to look at. Try a new theme or include items from the unit you are studying and go from boring to eye catching!
If you didn’t jump on the Bitmoji bandwagon in 2020, now is the time! Bitmoji classrooms have been the craze for virtual learning this year. If you’re ready to try this out, here’s how! Bitmojis are a way to add a personal flare to your virtual classroom and even some humor too!
- Download the Bitmoji app on your smart device
- Create your Bitmoji avatar
- Add the Bitmoji Chrome extension to your Google Chrome
- Link to your account, and you’re ready to copy and paste your Bitmoji into any document!
FLUENCY & FITNESS
Whether you’re at home OR in the classroom, it is always fun to add some MOVEMENT to your day! Fluency & Fitness is the perfect resource to provide short, yet educational brain breaks and/or warm ups for students. I love to select a Fluency & Fitness activity that involves a new concept we are learning for the week or a skill that needs to be reviewed.
After selecting which activity I would like my students to practice, I simply share my screen with students so they can follow along virtually. I do this every morning as students enter our virtual classroom. It is a positive start to our day that offers an alternative to sitting and staring at the screen as students log in. Students are eager to get to our virtual classroom each morning and look forward to which dance move pops up next!
In addition to arrival and warmups, Fluency & Fitness is a great resource for brain breaks! With lots of screen time, it is necessary for students to take frequent brain breaks. This allows them to take a moment, get up out of their chairs, breathe, and refuel before we get back to work. During a long virtual lesson or in between subjects/activities, students are able to get out of their seats and be active. They have so much fun dancing they don’t even realize they are still learning – the ultimate virtual engagement win!
STUDENT CHOICE BOARDS
Not sure which activity will hold students’ attention? Let them choose which one catches their eye! Student choice boards are an excellent way to foster student independence and encourage virtual engagement. Students are much more likely to focus and take pride in their work if they have a part in choosing their assignment. Choice boards are great for in-person and just as easy to apply virtually! Use a table with columns and rows to create boxes for the activities you would like to include. I like to give a good amount of variation. For example, incorporate a creative aspect for the more artistic student, provide a reading activity for that bookworm in class, or a more straight to the point assignment for the more research-minded student. Simply link assignments to each box and there ya go!
Choice Box Ideas:
- Books from the Get Epic app
- Writing sight words or sentences using creative handwriting (example: curly letters, rainbow writing, etc.)
- Seesaw assignments
And so much more!
Tip: Provide students with a way to “cross off” or show that they are finished with an item on the choice board to keep from repeating the same activities.
When you end the day in your classroom, you would not typically dismiss students by all shouting “Goodbye!” and leaving the room at different times, so why would we do this virtually? Leaving your virtual classroom this way leaves students (and teachers) feeling scattered and out of control. Ending the day on a peaceful note will allow everyone to be in the appropriate head space for coming back and learning the next day! One of my favorite ways to say goodbye to my kiddos one at a time is with a goodbye rhyme. The students have embraced this and truly look forward to this at the end of our virtual day together! Some of my personal favorites include:
- Bye Bye, Butterfly
- Out the door, dinosaur
- Take care, polar bear
As teachers, we are constantly evolving and creating for the betterment of our students. Of course, teaching with heart while fostering a genuine love of learning is the tried and true way to keep your students engaged and there are endless resources at our fingertips to help make this even more FUN!