Virtual Teaching Tips!

Wow! 2020 has been quite a year so far! Classroom teachers were suddenly thrust out of their brick and mortar buildings and into the virtual teaching world. Talk about a shock to the system! As we conquer the hurdles and reframe our thinking during this time, I have eight helpful virtual teaching tips and practices that you can implement immediately for your 2020-2021 school year. These virtual teaching tips will help you get started.

Tip #1: Get Organized

  1. Buy a planner. Teachers LOVE a good planner. I would recommend a planner that has lots of space for writing notes and a to-do list, like this Lilly Pulitzer.open planner on table
  2. Make your virtual teaching environment fun. Create a colorful “school” backdrop. One of my favorite things about starting a new school year is setting up my classroom. Fresh bulletin boards, desk arrangements, and classroom libraries are so fun! From pirates to ladybugs, I was quite the theme-enthusiast over the years. The virtual classroom can have those same elements on a smaller scale. Choose a teaching spot in your home. Mine is at the dining table because it gives me a HUGE teacher desk and an attractive, well lit backdrop. Purchase some stackable cubbies, or materials on a rolly cart. It will be so convenient to have all your teaching tools right next to you, so you don’t have to go searching mid-lesson.

Check out this link for a cheap and easy way to make a background: ONLINE CLASSROOM SET UP – TOUR MY TEACHER BACKGROUND!

Teacher in front of virtual classroom setting3. Familiarize yourself with the material. Even the most seasoned classroom teacher is going to need to study the new virtual formats. Get comfortable with the resources beforehand by pre-reading the lesson, watching the videos available, and experimenting with virtual manipulatives. Because your virtual sessions with students may be shorter than typical classroom blocks, you must be able to condense instruction.

Tip #2: Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the lesson objective and/or main standard I need to hit?
  2. What are the things my students are going to need me to focus on now, so that they can complete the rest of the work independently? You may need to shorten assignments based on student needs. Prioritize the time because you won’t be able to cover EVERYTHING, so pick the most important problems/questions that support the lesson objective.
  3. Which activities will be the hardest for them? Predicting barriers and troubleshooting ahead of time can save a lot of instructional time. Be prepared to model, give guided practice, then at least one chance at independence practice before you release them from the lesson.

Tip #3: Create your virtual teaching schedule

Let go of covering everything and being perfect when teaching online. Learn to prioritize your time. When is your ELA, Math, and Science Blocks? You will also need to set aside time for Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), grade level meetings, parent communication, and most importantly planning time. Remember: your planning time is instrumental in your preparedness, but also for your student documentation. Below is an example from K. Hawks, an ESE elementary teacher:

An example Special Education Teacher's virtual teaching schedule

Tip #4: Establish Your Communication Processes

  1. While teaching virtually, you will likely meet the students and their families via Zoom, Google Meet, or Google Classroom depending on what your district uses. Make sure you are comfortable with the format before engaging with your new families.Four teachers staying connected via Zoom If you are wearing comfy pants be sure they can’t see and that you look professional. You can play, “Meet the Teacher” and tell them a little about yourself. Before meeting, send them (via email or snail mail) a little survey about their child. This would be a great ice breaker in a group or one on one. I used to give each parent a simple half-sheet of paper entitled, “Three Things I Wish You Knew About My Child.” It was so helpful and informative and I referred often to it over the course of the year.
  2. The Remind, ClassTag, and Google Voice Apps are all great ways to call, text, and group message parents. With Google Voice you can choose a phone number that’s local, and when parents call it shows up like a regular call but it keeps your personal number private.
  3. Give a parent survey to find out what tech resources they have available at home. Can the district help them with acquiring iPads or other devices?
  4. Offer a pre-teach session to help them get acquainted with the technology (websites, log ins, how to access the work, find out when it is due etc.)
  5. Do some basic background research on your students. Do any of your students have IEPs or are second language learners? You may need to offer slower pacing, extended time, and small group time.
  6. Documentation: Pro tip alert! Print your schedule weekly and use it to make notes such as “student attended ⅔ ELA sessions and 3/3 math sessions.” Did you send messages and resources to the student/parent? For example, on Monday you could write, “Sequencing Graphic Organizer sent to students.”

Tip #5: Set Virtual Teaching & Classroom Expectations

  1. Build a virtual classroom family by immediately setting expectations for messaging and overall communication decorum. Even if you are not in the structure of a classroom with four walls, you can still build a family atmosphere from day one. At the beginning of each day I would start out by saying to my students: “We are a family! We build each other up; we don’t tear each other down. And in this family we follow 5 rules…”Classroom family keywords for a virtual classroom
  2. Whichever virtual teaching platform your school district chooses to work with, make sure parents and students understand how to access assignments, due dates, and how to ask for help. Florida Virtual School has a “Week at a Glance” that parents can print off and check off as students complete the assignment.
  3. Participation expectations can be reviewed at the start of each lesson with the use of an anchor chart.
  4. Be consistent with your days and times that you teach subjects, and keep office hours for students and parents to login and chat with you when needed (phone calls, texts, DMs).

That being said, give yourself some grace to cancel when needed. If your virtual teaching schedule isn’t working, give it a few weeks then change it. Sessions are more productive when the schedule works for the teacher. Just make sure to keep parents and students informed of the changes ahead of time.

Rubric for "four-star" participants in online classrooms

Tip #6: Keep Engagement High

  1. Whole Brain Teaching. This is BY FAR my favorite way to engage students. Check out this video below of Chris Biffle teaching the basics. You can go to WholeBrainTeaching.com to access awesome freebies and ideas! Whole Brain Teaching: The Basics Pro Tip: Mirrors and Words may be challenging in a virtual environment because of WIFI delays and glitches. Instead, use Mirrors Only. Students will still be able to associate a gesture with a concept, helping to cement the learning.
  2. Toy Theater. Here is a video walking you through this website’s wealth of free resources for students Coach Gretchen Recommends Toy Theater!
  3. Class Dojo What Families See (in the ClassDojo app) 🤗
  4. Boom Cards are described as “…self-grading exercises that are gamified for students and provide the data teachers want.” https://wow.boomlearning.com/
  5. Rewards like “chat time.” Sometimes your students will be in desperate need of social time with their peers, especially as they get more comfortable with each other. One teacher suggests that you say, “I know you guys are really excited to share today, so let’s get through numbers 1 and 2, and then we will have 4 minutes to talk and share.”
  6. Graphic Organizers help to keep kids on track with their thinking and writing.A graphic organizer to engage online leaners
  7. Quick Feedback can be given in the moment, with emojis, and with deeper reflection by rubric. Students need to know that their work is being looked at for them to have buy in.A writing rubric to provide detailed feedback for virtual learners

Tip #7: Set BoundariesA teacher smiling at the screen while teaching virtually

  1. Stick to your office hours. The virtual teaching classroom is not like your 7:30 to 3:00 classroom. You may have to start later in the morning, and then be available in the evenings for an hour or two for your working parents. Sticking to your office hours allows you time to carve out a portion of your day to yourself. Be careful with texting at all hours. If you respond to a parent at 6 am, that parent may think it’s fine to contact you regularly at 6 am! Keeping to your schedule will help you with your time management, and having time to yourself.
  2. Get physical! Don’t forget to incorporate daily movement into your life. The virtual teaching classroom is not as physical as the brick and mortar classroom, so you must carve out time for personal movement, even if it’s just a walk around the block or a 5 minute dance party. Be aware of your posture and eye-strain and take breaks as needed.

And Finally…Tip #8: Give Yourself Grace

Give yourself some grace. This is a big change for all of us. It really is okay if the lesson is a flop and sometimes you feel disconnected. Take it day by day and learn from each experience. The kids are worth it!

Bonus Virtual Teaching Tip: Ask for Help!

The challenges you may face this year are going to be different, we are all on a new learning curve. It is important to reach out to your team members, your school or district support staff. Advocate for the things that you need to be effective when working with your students. We are here to help too, talk with your administrators about how Parity Coaching could help your school. And, in closing, If you have enjoyed these tips, I would appreciate it if you would like our page or leave us a message about what we can do to help you even more!

Read more about Coach Amanda’s background. For more information feel free to contact Amanda: amandarussell @ paritycoaching.net

 

Photo Credits & Works Cited:

Best Practices in Teaching K-12 Online

Best Practices: Online Pedagogy

Image of How to Create a Colorful Background

We Are Family Class Poster

Be a Four Star Participant

Participation Rubric

Graphic Organizers

Writing Rubric