Create Student Cohorts
This tip blew my mind in terms of its simplicity. The idea behind this is that you group students together who are both engaged in face-to-face and at-home. This way, students who are getting instruction in real time will be able to assist and collaborate with students who are at home. Doing so helps foster relationships among all the students, no matter what their status.
Limit the Synchronous
Many districts are requiring teachers to be teaching "synchronously" with students both in the classroom and at home. Although the theory behind this sounds good, in practice, it's loaded with potential issues including technology problems that need to be addressed with students at home, divided attention between the group in front of the teacher in person and those at home, missed opportunities for conversations, and more. Jennifer encourages teachers to make your synchronous time special; more like an "event" than traditional "stand and deliver" time. Here are some ideas:
- Brief and debrief - quick overview leading to independent or group work, and then follow up at the end.
- Make it special - Use the time for read-alouds, reader's theater, or Shakespeare reading, with parts given to both those at home and in person.
- Bell-ringers and Do-Nows - Record yourself giving some simple instructions for work to be done at the start of class. This gives you time to take care of administrative tasks, like attendance or lunch count while students join the Zoom and get settled.
- Use Interactive Apps - Apps like Pear Deck and Nearpod allow you to present material and have both groups of students engaged.
- Have a backup plan - Sometime technology doesn't cooperate. Give students a choice-board or other self-paced lesson to do if the internet goes out.
Chunk the Time
Just like you wouldn't spend 50 minutes of your class time speaking directly, without interruption, to your students, don't spend the whole session speaking. Divide the class into chunks where there is some time for explanation, other times for questions and answers, group times, and more. Jennifer shares two great resources from Catlin Tucker and Beth Alexander to check out.
Build Community Intentionally
Having students that either only know each other through Zoom calls, or don't feel comfortable with their classmates at all makes it difficult to foster community building and relationships. Make time for students to get to know each other, establish classroom norms, and socialize. If possible, use tools like Padlet or Parlay to create community spaces online
Experiment with Cameras and Screens
Play around with your setup to see what works best for you to manage your digital and IRL classroom.
- Consider signing into your Zoom meeting twice; once from the device you'll be presenting from, and once from another device where you can see your online students and resources.
- Look into a better microphone or a headset to make communication via Zoom less burdensome.
Enable the chat! Yes, chatting can be distracting, but it's also one of few opportunities students have to interact with each other. Establish those norms to make it clear that students need to use Chat appropriately and effectively. Consider assigning a chat moderator to help guide the conversations (maybe a responsible student, a co-teacher or an instructional assistant). Include participants from home by repeating questions that are either posted in the chat, or asked aloud in the classroom that might not be heard over Zoom.
Students aren't chatty? Check out Jennifer's post on improving student participation to help out.