Ways to Engage Students in Your Virtual Classroom

When teaching was still done in person, it was easier to engage students, getting them to participate in classroom discussions, or even just asking them questions. Students would raise their hands to participate in what was being taught, and educators could easily scan the room. The challenge of getting students to participate in lesson plans has been intensified during remote learning. Digital platforms have added a communication barrier by making it hard to know when to talk and can make it hard to follow along in what is being taught. Educators everywhere are facing obstacles like these and finding unique ways to combat the decrease in engagement. Below we’ll go through tools you can utilize to increase student contribution. 

YMI Classroom has made it its mission to provide teachers with excellent free online resources that can easily be downloaded for us. All lesson plans are organized by grade level and subject so teachers can access a variety of lesson plans to create an engaging lesson. Take a look now, and for even more resources, become a member of the YMI Educator Network today. 


Use the chat setting 

Asking your students to utilize chat for answers to questions or for communicating that they do or don’t understand what you are teaching is a great way to ensure that every student gets heard and their needs are being met. Checking student understanding pushes students to engage more with the content without singling them out. Plus, typing out responses to questions can help students comprehend what is being asked and allow them to write a well-thought answer. 


Stimulate deeper discussion

Another excellent way to engage students during a classroom discussion is to teach new content asynchronously through recorded videos and online activities. At the start of your live class, have your students briefly summarize the concept they had learned together and then divide the class into breakout groups to solve related problems in small groups. This method helps you avoid long-winded instruction and instead makes the students the teachers. This helps you identify and address certain areas that students are struggling with and better assist your students. 


Use online forums to create dialogue

Forums are a great tool to use if you want a way to track all of the past discussions. This can be a great resource for you to track the progress of your class, but can also be great for your students to reference during homework assignments or for studying. Most importantly, however, forums are a great way to facilitate discussions in response to readings or lectures. You can ask clarifying questions and open it up to your students to create a back-and-forth dialogue between peers. When starting out though, you may need to ask every student to respond to at least two of their peers’ comments to create a broader discussion. 


Guided note-taking

Synchronous learning can offer the same note guides or graphic organizers that would be used in a traditional face-to-face setting. Rather than using these during teacher lectures, guides can be used to focus on readings or the summarization of text-based materials. Guided note-taking gives the students more in-depth course materials that will assist them in further understanding and applying the material. 


Provide a flexible pace

Students may not have access to devices throughout the day because parents or siblings may be using the technology. This restricts students from completing assignments in a timely fashion. Because of this, it is important to be accommodating in setting timelines and goals. Activities should be flexible and allow each student to progress at their own pace. Some resources like OneNote and Google Classroom allow you to set assignments for individual students. 


Meet for briefer periods more frequently

This may not be completely possible for every teacher. If you can only meet once a week and that’s it, then once a week it is. Whenever it is possible, though, you could try splitting your lesson into small chunks, say three times a week for 30 minutes or twice a week for 30 versus an hour-long lesson once a week.


Use interactive and dynamic slides

In face-to-face classrooms, teachers often rely on systematic strategies that contribute towards a collaborative culture. Keeping students engaged with traditional PowerPoint slides isn’t likely going to be as effective with remote learning. Add interactive elements to slides using applications like Nearpod. Add features like polls, fill-in-the-blank activities, short quizzes, open-ended questions, and drawing. Student participation will soar because they are not only engaged but their participation is required. 


Communicate with parents

Parents are your greatest ally in this new normal of teaching. It is essential to try to connect with them early on in the school year. Send them the login information for any platforms students need to be using so they can access assignments and resources and have the information they need to assist their children in homework and further understanding of concepts. It is better to over-communicate than under-communicate, as many parents feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped to support their child’s learning at home. It is a good idea to offer your support so they become more active in their children’s learning. 


Take a caring approach

This not only applies to teaching your children and understanding their struggles with remote learning but for yourself as well. Remote learning has been just as challenging for teachers as it has been for students. Facilitating online learning can be a difficult and demanding task, so it is important to seek help from colleagues when you need it. With creative planning and attention to social and emotional needs, teachers can create a successful and dynamic teaching setting in distance learning. 


Access YMI Classroom

In addition to some of the tools listed above, teachers can also access fun and engaging lesson plans from YMI Classroom. All of our lesson plans are free, and teachers have access to online resources. When becoming a member, teachers also have access to free learning kits, posters, DVDs, activity sheets, and more. To learn more, visit our site and contact us today.