When students enter a virtual classroom environment, their entire learning experience changes. Teachers may see a decline in student participation as virtual learning presents uncharted obstacles. Just like engagement strategies used in your classroom, there are many ways to boost participation in a virtual classroom. It starts with engagement and relationships!
In order to boost virtual classroom participation and reduce achievement gaps, it is essential that we explore different strategies to see which ones motivate our students to learn.
Setting Guidelines With Students, Not For Students
When you are in the actual classroom, you often set expectations based on your students. What worked one year may not work the next year. Talk to your students to see how they like to learn. Remember, the more enjoyable class is, the more students will want to truly learn the content. This same consideration should take place in a virtual environment. For example, do students like discussion boards, or do they prefer to record their thoughts on Flipgrid? Do due dates work best in the morning or in the evening based on their home life? It is so important to talk to students and include them in the decision-making process as they adjust to virtual learning.
Fun Check-In Meetings to Improve Virtual Classroom Participation
When you’re in school, you are not just teaching students content. It’s about the social-emotional connections and building relationships! You ask them how they are, what they like to do in their free time, how their weekend went, and so much more. The same should be happening in a virtual environment. In addition to the lesson presentation, small-group help, and class meetings, there can be multiple opportunities just to talk to students.
When students know you care, they often want to complete your work and attend class meetings. Provide students some time just to talk about life in general. You may also sneak in content review as well- ask if they’ve been outside, saw any cool leaves, or any animals and sneak in some review on food chains. Depending on what is going on in the world, there may be opportunities for fun, content-related conversations as well, such as astronauts going to space or if they saw a special solar system feature, such as a rare moon.
Building School to Home Connection
Some students have parents who are highly invested in their education while others do not. Regardless of this, building a connection between school/virtual or in-person/home is essential to boosting student participation. Spend some time checking in with parents to discuss their concerns and suggestions. There are also tools out there, such as Remind, that allow teachers to send a message to any parent who joins. This can be a great way to send reminders or just friendly messages. If the parents know you care, they may be more passionate about encouraging their child to attend meetings and complete work on time.
Creating Routines in the Virtual Classroom
Unexpected change can present tough adjustments. Switching to online learning already presented a drastic change. When presenting content, focus on creating routines. By doing this, students can get into a comfortable pattern and stick to it. If not, they may feel overwhelmed and give up. Teachers can’t track students down in the hallway or in study hall anymore, so helping students with organization and routines is key!
Personalized Learning to Increase Virtual Classroom Participation
During traditional learning, teachers modify or accommodate for IEP and 504 Plans. Virtual learning presents many unfamiliar challenges and students may struggle even more regardless of their special education status. Typical coping mechanisms like working with peers or coming in before or after school for support aren’t available in the traditional sense. Students are watching recorded lessons while their brain is already overwhelmed and needs time to process the information.
For these reasons, students can greatly benefit from some type of personalized learning. Maybe some students are completing all the work as requested, but others may need some adjustments. It may help to break down topics, such as the rock cycle, into steps and allow more time to process each step. Instead of identifying types of rocks, they may spend more time learning the process behind how different rocks are made and what characteristics to look for within each rock.
Give your students some choice in how they reach objectives in standards through how they demonstrate learning. Personalized learning is all about differentiating instruction, and online learning gives you the flexibility to have students showcase their ideas through writing, art, music, and more.
Celebrating Virtual Classroom Success
Every student learns differently while in the classroom and this will continue to happen in a virtual environment. Celebrate the students and what they are accomplishing. Yes, it may not be the amount of content you wanted to get through, but it is vital to help students feel proud of themselves in order for them to continue learning. It may be as simple as submitting an assignment on time, getting one question right on a challenging topic, such as mass, or even a conversation on the solar system. When students feel your excitement, they become excited to learn.
Shout out their victories during Zoom or Google Meet meetings, or even send emails or notes home to parents and students talking about their achievements.
Virtual learning presents uncharted challenges for students, teachers, and parents. However, teachers can try different techniques to boost student engagement. Just like engagement strategies used in your classroom, there are many ways to boost participation in a virtual classroom. It starts with engagement and relationships!
Show students you are there for them, want them to succeed, and will be there to help support them along the way. Be willing to try out different teaching techniques, be flexible, and patient.