I absolutely love teaching online. Students choose online school programs for a variety of reasons, but many suffer from some form of anxiety. This quarter, I’m teaching a high support Algebra class and A-G Earth Science. We hold our classes in zoom, and most students do not want to turn their microphones, and definitely choose not to turn on their cameras. This makes teaching synchronous lessons online a challenge for many teachers, but I’m finally finding my groove. I’ve been able to engage students with three low-risk strategies that help to create a sense of a safe place to learn.
First, if you are an online teacher and you aren’t using PearDeck for your direct instruction lesson you’ve gotta start! There are a lot of blogs that have already done deep dives into Pear Deck, so I’ll just tell you how I use it (when you’re done here, see what Maneuvering the Middle has to say!) When I’m teaching a synchronous online lesson, it’s hard to know if students are paying attention, if they are getting it, and if they are even there! With Pear Deck, I get to interact with the students during the lesson by providing multiple low risk formative assessment opportunities. Even high anxiety students participate because the lack of social risk (the answers do not display the student’s name!) and they generally become much more comfortable as the weeks go on. It also creates a sense of belonging in the classroom, as they see their answers and opinions displayed alongside their peers.
A second favorite low risk engagement strategy is Padlet. I use padlet when I want to see students answering questions and interacting with content in real time. For one of my lessons, Noodle Science, I have students use Padlet to record their thoughts and questions about fixing a sink with ramen noodles (seriously!). The students are prompted to post on the padlet board and they learn from each other’s responses during the lesson. Another benefit of Padlet is it provides the opportunity for students to ask questions privately during or after a lesson. If students are working in Padlet, I always add a column for questions. The idea for the questions column came from the amazing Jennifer Gonzalez at Cult of Pedagogy. She has a great post about making your classroom academically safe. In the article she reminds teachers to allow time for students to ask private questions about assignments. Most of the time, if there is something posted in the questions column, other students have been wondering the same thing.
Finally, I love giving students a Google form at the beginning of the quarter. In the form, I provide students with the opportunity to share their concerns about the online classroom. Are they nervous about turning on their camera? Are they scared I will call on them during class? The form is such a great tool for me since it’s impossible to “read the room” like I normally would on the first day of class. The Google form gives me a heads up about student concerns and helps me take the temperature of the class. I think it really helps students feel safe with me from the start.
Teaching online direct instructions is new for many teachers but it is definitely the future of education. If you’re an online teacher I’d love to hear how you are engaging your students during direct instruction.
May your teacher heart be full and happy,