by Jonathon Denholm June 15, 2022 7 min read
Are you struggling to keep students engaged and motivated during online teaching? You are not alone. Although online schooling has been around for the last ten years, it is only recently that we have become more reliant on it as the Covid-19 pandemic changed our lifestyle. Remote learning has many benefits but it can also be quite daunting for teachers. Here are some helpful classroom management strategies that will hopefully help make online teaching a more enjoyable experience for you and the students.
Online teaching refers to teaching students through virtual platforms such as video calls or webinars. Teachers and students can connect with each other despite being in separate locations. As more and more families were staying at home in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, online teaching was the best way to guarantee that students remained safe but also received the best means for academic development.
Although online teaching is highly convenient, it does come with a fair bit of challenges. Teaching young children is much more fun when it is active and hands-on. The lack of physical interaction can make teaching more tedious. Students have a short attention span; hence, staring at the screen can make them feel bored or lose interest in the content quite quickly.
Additionally, because children are in the comfort of their own environment, they are commonly distracted by their surroundings. For example, younger students could be distracted by family members talking in the background, whilst older students might feel the urge to use their mobile phones during class.
For many teachers, online teaching can mean working much longer hours as there is more work involved. In some cases, extra assignments need to be prepared, lectures may need to be pre-recorded, and the technology needs to be trial and tested before the lesson. The technology itself may be a learning curve for teachers as some educators are not so tech-savvy and take time to understand the requirements. Discipline can also be quite hard to maintain when students are situated in different geographical locations.
Another major disadvantage is that students’ ability to socialise and make friends is affected severely. The lack of physical and face-to-face interaction can negatively impact children’s health and cause loneliness.
There are a few different classroom management strategies that can be implemented in the virtual classroom to ensure students have the best learning outcomes and a classroom management plan is maintained.
Have a set of ground rules ready for what you expect during the lesson. Clearly explain what the children will be learning about in each session, so it is clear to them. Identify how much participation you expect from the students during the lesson and what they need to do if they have questions or don’t understand something.
Promote the concept of ‘treating others like you would like to be treated’. Children should show consideration for one another and build relationships with each other. A simple example in a virtual classroom would be; letting others speak without interrupting and listening to their ideas.
The best way to eliminate distractions is by giving students a minute before starting the class to remove everything that might divert their attention. Name each one, e.g. phones, ipads, music, gaming toys, fidget spinners etc. Ensure there is no background noise, and the students are in a comfortable environment where they can hear your voice clearly.
Young children learn most habits by observing and repeating behaviours from the adults around them, particularly parents and teachers. A few simple good behaviour habits online include: maintaining eye contact, refraining from getting distracted and being on time to class. As teachers, we must maintain these good behavior habits which are beneficial for life beyond schooling too.
We all know things don’t always go according to plan with young children, and sometimes we even have to expect the unexpected. Take cues from children’s behaviour or responses and adapt the lesson plans to keep children’s interest captivated. If you notice students having trouble concentrating, don’t hesitate to cut the lesson short and play a quick virtual game. You can always recap the remaining content another day. Make sure to simplify or extend the lessons based on student responses.
Lessons can turn out to be a disaster if the teacher is unprepared and doesn’t know the content! Have a lesson structure ready and prepare what you teach well in advance, making delivery much smoother. It can also help, to have any additional materials ready so no extra time is wasted. In terms of technology, teachers must know how to use online resources comfortably to avoid technical glitches. It is quite a waste of time to have the students waiting till you figure out how something works. Always do a trial run before the lesson so you are confident using any external websites or tools to consolidate the learning for children.
It is common during face-to-face schooling that subjects are taught in isolation and allocated a time period. However, when teaching online, you can collaborate on different academic subjects to keep the students motivated. For example, when teaching children about the weather, you can combine maths and science together for them to have a better understanding and help them make real-life connections with what they are learning.
During online learning, it can be beneficial to keep parents updated on what the students are learning. Parents can give additional support from home if they know what is being taught.
Ideally, you want the students to enjoy whilst creating a warm, friendly atmosphere. Positivity in the classroom can go a long way in keeping children motivated. However, being firm with the children from time to time will ensure students take responsibility for their behaviour.
Children may miss the positive reinforcement they used to receive in the classroom. Persuade students to continue doing their personal best by noticing and acknowledging their efforts. Using ourclassroom awards virtually can be a wonderful way to keep students motivated. Simply, write their names on the certificate online and send it to them through the school portal or email.
Allowing students to contribute to classroom choices can increase student engagement because their voices are heard, and they feel valued. Explain to students that making decisions for the classroom is both a responsibility and a privilege. Students need to work together to follow the rules they make.
When lessons relate to students’ interests and passions, there is much more room for engagement, involvement, and creativity. Ensuring that learning is contextual and links to the students’ everyday lives is an essential teaching strategy to make learning more enjoyable.
Giving each child agoal tracker can be a great way to keep children motivated and help them achieve their personal or academic goals. Ask each child to record their goals and work hard to achieve them.
Online teaching is a great opportunity to teach children about time management. Time management is an effective classroom management strategy for teachers too. Be clear about deadlines and alert students well in advance, so they have enough time to complete tasks. For high school students, a simple strategy to use is asking them to complete two or three drafts, followed by the final submission. This gives students enough time to refine their work and make changes to any errors the teachers may identify,
It is easy to tune out during online teaching because students are not physically present. Therefore, quick recaps or daily summaries can help students remember key points and lessons’ takeaways.
Breaking up content and taking small breaks can help maintain children’s focus, increasing productivity. It can be fun to engage students in games or allow children some free time to refresh their minds to reduce burnout.
Sometimes during virtual teaching, it can be hard to know whether students have understood concepts thoroughly or not. Allocate a specific time for questions and encourage students to ask questions so they can clear any doubts they may have.
Students will build their self-confidence and understanding if they are given the opportunity to engage in project-based learning. By finding information for themselves, children develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills whilst also making real-life connections. Group work has many benefits as students learn to understand other people's views and perspectives whilst also building their own confidence.
It’s important to know the difference between curating content and dumping. Jennifer Gonzalez’s article gives some great tips on being a curator vs a dumper. She explains that when we dump information onto a person at a certain time, we actually work against the brain because we overload it. Student-directed learning or working in small groups is a great way to slowly and progressively consolidate the students’ thoughts to teach concepts.
Online teaching can get stressful, so it’s important to prioritise yourself. Make sure you put your well-being first so you can be the best version of yourself with the children. Some days, things might not go according to plan. Reach out to friends or take some time off to unwind and reduce any anxiety you may be feeling.
As you can see, there are both advantages and disadvantages of remote learning. Utilising some of these classroom management strategies in your day-to-day interactions online will ensure things run smoother and children’s academic performance is improved. Don’t forget,Your Teacher’s Pet has many great resources you can use to keep students motivated and manage the online classroom better.