Creating an Inclusive Virtual Classroom
As a response to the pandemic, educators scurried to establish virtual environments that could withstand the epidemic. It is possible that online training may never feel quite the same as live instruction, but it is probable that we will be doing it in the fall. Fortunately, there are many straightforward methods that we can design virtual classrooms that motivate and accommodate all students.
CREATE A WELCOMING VIRTUAL SPACE
Although we are unable to give our students a handshake as they enter their virtual classrooms, there are other things that we can do to infuse our online environments with personality.
The first thing you should do is greet your kids, and make sure they can see your face. It provides a more personalised experience, which in turn encourages students to look forward to attending your class.
Pose a question: Before diving into the material for the day, you might want to try asking, “How are you feeling today?” Send a message to a student who you find has provided an answer that causes worry if you see that response and want to convey that you care about them.
Set an agenda: Include a learning target in the lesson plan so that students are aware of what is expected of them during the instruction. (There will always be at least one opportunity to take a break, which I will give.)
DEVELOP A REWARD SYSTEM
It may be hard to believe, but there are actually functional reward systems that you can employ in your virtual area.
Create objectives that are tailored to the specific challenges faced by your students: For instance, one of the challenges I’ve had since making the transition to online education is encouraging my students to come to my optional office hours. In order to deal with this issue, I devised a method: A student will receive a raffle ticket for participating in office hours and completing the assignment on each day that they do so. After that, at the conclusion of the week, I gather all of the tickets, draw a name, and deliver a pizza to the student whose name was drawn. They think it’s terrific, which contributes to the continuously high turnout at my office hours.
Other possible rewards could be the opening of a fun extra credit opportunity, the shipping of a certificate to the student’s home, the sending of a happy message to the student’s parents, the winning of a virtual dance party, or the awarding of virtual homework passes.
MAINTAIN HIGH EXPECTATIONS
Setting clear expectations is always the first step in preventing distracted behaviour from occurring in a setting.
Draft operating instructions for each of the following components of your virtual classroom: When is it OK for students to use these online meeting places? Should there be a responsible adult present? When is the appropriate time for students to use the chat feature? Should there be a mute button on the microphone? Should they pose their inquiries via the chat instead?
Every day, before the beginning of the session, communicate your expectations to the students as follows: Pay attention to actions that will have a direct effect on your virtual learning environment, such as “Only use the chat to type questions related to the lesson” or “Make sure your microphone is muted during the video.”
Keep in mind that you are in control of the virtual learning environment. If students intentionally disobey the expectations in a way that disrupts learning (such as using profanity in the chat, repeatedly yelling, or playing loud music when their mic should be muted), you should remove them from the virtual learning environment if you can and contact their parent or guardian to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding the expectations.
MAINTAIN HIGH EXPECTATIONS
Think about the difficulties that students and their families have to deal with. Is the student at home by themselves when the parent is at work? Is the student maybe responsible for the care of other family members? Does the student have access to dependable technological resources? Does the student have access to a calm location where they can go to concentrate on their work?
At the very least once every week, communicate with families by: Find out what their challenges are, provide answers wherever you can, and keep them updated on the development of the students. It is possible that certain students will want more regular check-ins in the beginning in order to remain accountable; therefore, you should schedule time every day to make these connections. Discuss various adjustments that can be made at home by the parents, such as the use of timers and the provision of frequent breaks.
Because it is possible that you will need to provide technical support to students and their parents, you should exercise patience and be ready to answer queries on the technology used in your learning platform. You can consider handing out flyers with answers to frequently asked questions.
Always start from a position of support when reaching out: Positive language and encouragement are two important components of your conversation. Take, for instance, the question, “I’ve seen that Jasmine has not turned in her assignment today—what can I do to help assist her?” Have you gathered everything that’s necessary for online instruction?”
REACH OUT TO AND SUPPORT FAMILIES
Prepare yourself for the possibility that some participants in each activity will require additional supervision. Create a framework for each component of the lecture, such as:
Make sure you provide students with some sentence starters beneath the prompt if they are going to be typing in their response.
If you teach a class that needs students to read, you can consider recording yourself reading the chapter and providing students with the option to read along with you.
If your class asks students to solve difficulties, add supplemental video examples.
After allowing pupils to attempt the question on their own, provide them with some model responses. It might seem paradoxical to give children the answers to questions, but as long as you are not testing their level of comprehension, doing so will do more benefit than damage.
Put engagement strategies to use.
Investigate the elements of your learning platform and think about the ways in which those features could be used to engage students:
Encourage pupils to reply to the thoughts of their classmates through the use of chat.
Make it a requirement for pupils to read aloud to one another.
You can share your screen in order to call attention to students’ responses, play videos, or highlight excellent replies.
Give pupils the opportunity to show what they are thinking by sharing their screens.