Virtual Teaching Practices With Staying Power
I’ve discovered, like so many other teachers, that keeping my third-grade children involved in virtual learning has proven to be a difficult task. Along the way, I’ve experimented with various tactics, some of which were so successful in my virtual classroom that I plan to use them in my actual classroom as soon as possible. Not only can they engage children, but they also foster emotions of inclusion and belonging, both of which are critical to social and emotional development as well as creating a pleasant classroom climate, among other things.
STRATEGIES THAT I’LL BE KEEPING
Encourage students to write by hand: When we switched to a virtual environment, my pupils still required ways to interact with the curriculum in a tangible sense, as well as opportunities to continue to develop their fine motor skills. In order to save time, I decided to go old school and have students take notes in actual notebooks using pencils, crayons, and markers.
Every day, we write down our thoughts and observations about what we are learning in actual notebooks, and we do it together. Rather than simply repeating what I write, my students offer suggestions and examples as I write, resulting in a collaborative effort to create notes.
It is clear that writing by hand rather than on a keyboard improves recall and comprehension of new knowledge, and I want to keep up this practise long after distant learning has come to an end.
Additional benefits include the possibility of a family link and a SEL aspect: As part of their homework, my pupils must share their notebooks with their carers and describe what they’ve learned so far. It is possible for them to ask follow-up questions that help them to learn more—for example, “Mom, today we learnt about Cesar Chavez’s fight for the rights of migrant workers.” What is an instance when you stood up for someone, or when you were stood up for by someone else?
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Soliciting feedback is as follows: Whenever I ask students for their opinions, I ask them, “What can I do to make virtual learning more enjoyable for you?” I frequently receive requests for additional classroom jobs, more opportunity to eat lunch together, and more time to spend playing games with students (Kahoot is a favorite).
Going ahead, I’ll continue to solicit their comments through chat and Google Forms, and I’ll probably ask them to submit video responses to Flipgrid as well.
Students are encouraged to keep a diary: When my students expressed a desire to have more time to write on a topic of their choosing, I generated a blank Google document for each of them that could be used as a diary for the duration of the semester.
After realising that I still had my own writing diary from when I was around their age, things started to get pretty intriguing for me. We now frequently read an entry or two from my journal as a mentor text before I send them off to write on their own. It turns out that sharing the cringeworthy ideas of my 11-year-old self inspires my pupils to write in their own journals as well.
It is much easier to greet people from other countries when they arrive to our virtual classroom, which was an unanticipated benefit of virtual learning. Along with occasional visiting teachers and motivational speakers, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting a number of international students from various countries. We received authentic opportunity to study geography, maps, and languages as a result of these exchanges with children from other parts of the world. They also reminded my students that they are not alone in their experiences with the epidemic.
Schools and organisations such as PenPal Schools and ePals can help you connect your class with other classes all over the world; Narrative 4, a nonprofit dedicated to telling and sharing stories, can assist you in fostering connections and empathy among groups of kids.
Recommending that students work with a study buddy: While participating in remote learning, some students showed up for class but did not turn in their assignments. In order to address this, I asked students to choose a study buddy with whom they could collaborate in a breakout area; study mates took turns sharing their screens and chatting over their assignments with one another in the breakout room. Because my students appreciate the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with their peers and because I notice more of their work being completed, I plan to continue this online practise and may pair students as study buddies in the classroom as well.
Initiating virtual concerts and celebrations: One of the most significant losses for children during the epidemic was the loss of events that they might look forward to. During one especially depressing period of the pandemic, my grade partner and I came up with the idea of hosting a virtual performance that our pupils might invite their parents to. Our class had spent weeks practising a song and dance that was based on the novel we were reading (Charlotte’s Web); when the big day arrived, the kids were buzzing with enthusiasm.
I anticipate that whenever we return to in-person learning, we will be able to squeeze in one or two in-person performances every year, but in the meantime, I will continue to design virtual performances so that we can do them a little more frequently.
When it comes to incorporating music into our lives, Emily and Amelia Nagoski propose various activities in their book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle that might assist us in moving through the stress associated with painful situations. They recommend that you engage in some type of artistic expression; because my students enjoy music, I raised cash to get them plastic recorders as a holiday gift from me, which they were delighted to receive. Now, when there are lulls in training, we occasionally get out the recorders and perform the couple of songs we’ve learned, which I’m sure is much to their parents’ enjoyment.
Another popular kind of entertainment is dance. My favourite playlist of songs is one that I compiled from the Playing for Change album. Many of these songs and films elicit enthusiastic participation from the pupils; those who are self-conscious about their dancing can turn their cameras off while dancing.
The youngsters also enjoy taking part in a game I call “Guess Whose Song,” which I created. In order to keep them entertained during lulls in training or while we are waiting for everyone to get on after lunch, I compiled a list of their favourite tunes. They take turns guessing which of their classmates’ favourite songs it is. Everyone enjoys taking part in the challenge, and it’s been interesting for me to learn about their musical preferences.
I will keep these quick musical interludes in my toolkit because they can easily be used as brain breaks when I am back in my actual classroom.