Ideas to keep children on task in online lessons:
- Give children an outline of what will be covered in the lesson- include a list of questions.
- As in classroom lessons make sure the children are aware of expectations for behaviour and participation.
- Encourage children to think of discussion questions.
- Get pupils communicating by starting the lesson with an ice-breaker.
- Use chat windows, Q&A functions, and break-out rooms strategically.
- Use break-out rooms for shorter sessions or support/extension groups.
- Get the children assessing their own or their peers’ participation.
Eight ways to make your online lessons fun and engaging
1. Present your best (online) self
If students can see your face, it’s going to be 100 times more motivating for them if you look engaged and interested in what they are saying (even if sometimes this requires all your saintly teacher patience!).
Also, your visual materials must be up to scratch.
Make sure your slides look clean and clear and any videos you use are of good quality.
Try changing the tone of your voice to introduce new activities or mix up the tempo of your class!
Practice your storytelling skills and offer praise out loud. This can make a huge difference in encouraging your students.
Finally, this might be stating the obvious, but make sure you can teach your online lessons from somewhere with a reliable internet connection.
Nothing will have students switching off their attention quicker than a crackly connection that keeps on cutting out.
Teaching online comes with challenges, but it also puts a whole load of really cool tools at your fingertips.
Whether you use whiteboards, pointers, virtual games, text editors, drawing tools, file editors, breakout rooms, or screen-sharing tools, you can use the technology you have to add variety to your lessons and keep students on their toes.
First of all, make sure you know how to use these virtual tools and take time to explain them to students, so they feel confident with using them too.
Use them to liven up your lessons; for example, you could use fun rewards to entice students.
There is no kid out there whose eyes don’t light up at the prospect of 30 seconds of free play on a drawing tool!
The good news is, just like in any face-to-face classroom, the real key to getting your online students involved is to find out what inspires them and gives them a reason to be engaged in the classroom.
Whether you’re teaching English online or you are a classroom teacher turned virtual, use the same mediums you would use in a real-life classroom.
Turn up the fun by playing music or just go to town with the drawing tool!
Try different things with your students until you find something that works for them.
Another way to help online students stay on track with their studies (and keep a sense of purpose) is to set goals and remind them of their progress.
Setting goals for online learners
One simple way to introduce short-term goals into your online classroom is to make sure each lesson has a clear outline that you share with your student so they know where they are in the learning process and the context for any activity they are doing.
Think about how you might reward students for finishing tasks (or, even better, for working hard) during a lesson. These could include positive feedback, badges, points, playing games or doing other fun learning activities your students would like.
Progress checks for online learners
For short-term progress checks, make sure you build continuity between lessons by doing quick revisions or quizzes on previous topics.
A great way to remind students of their long-term progress is by building up a portfolio of work with them so they can look back themselves and see how far they’ve come.
In a face-to-face class, it’s typical to give students some quiet reflection time to work alone or read a text. But these activities don’t translate well in online classrooms.
Long, dense texts are challenging to read on a screen (it’s much easier to break things into chunks).
Silence just doesn’t translate that well in virtual classrooms as it provides the perfect excuse for a student’s attention to drift elsewhere!
Try to plan activities that keep your students actively clicking, typing or talking throughout the lesson is the way to go.
This can be done by asking lots of questions, including games, and making sure learners have to physically do things like use drawing tools or type in the dialogue boxes.
And when you’re planning your lesson, you can make sure your student has to say something every three minutes or so.
6. Break down the lesson and make it digestible
Timing is crucial in online teaching, and you might find you need to break up your online lessons differently than you would with face-to-face ones.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to keep a fast pace and break down information into small, easily digestible chunks.
In practical terms, this means to steer clear of lengthy explanations and slides with too much text! Adding a variety of activity types is also a great way to make the time fly by for your students.
You can also write your lesson plans for the online classroom with free lesson planners like Planboard.
And for online English teachers, there are plenty of free resources out there to get you started.
7. Make your students feel valued
The truth is, the isolation experienced by students studying in online classrooms can be a huge factor in making them feel demotivated.
They might think that no one will notice or care if they miss a class, or find it all too tempting to not log in to the classroom if they’re feeling tired.
Ways to help students feel valued:
- Use their names in lessons.
- Follow up on previous lessons
- Find out about their interests (incorporate into lessons if possible)
- Give regular feedback
- Be positive, supportive, and encouraging.
- Be patient.
As anyone can tell you, keeping students engaged and stimulated is no easy task. Remember that young children may not have very high attention spans, so it can be hard for them to sit still and focus at times.
This is totally normal and okay!
It’s essential to give them a break now and then and be patient with them.
Create a more engaging virtual classroom
Teaching online takes creativity.
Online environments can be challenging to master at first, but with a little effort and time, your students will be getting the best experience possible.
And, they’ll be excited to log into your classroom.