In an April 2020 survey of the TpT community, 78 percent of teachers reported that they’re providing digital, online instruction. Whether you’re new to using digital tools or expanding your use to meet the needs of this moment, the TpT community is here to support you. Educators with experience using digital tools are eager to share their tips and advice to help keep online instruction engaging. Keep reading to learn what they recommend.
Tips for Using Video to Introduce New Material
To introduce new material while teaching remotely, many teachers are turning to video. They’re either getting behind the camera themselves or using existing online video content — such as the 9,000+ Video resources that have already been uploaded to TpT by our Teacher-Author community.
TpT Teacher-Authors have several points of advice to keep students engaged in their learning when using video to introduce new material:
- Elementary teacher Aris from Sailing Into Second reminds teachers that they can record live video lessons and save them to Google Drive so students can view them later if needed. As some students may be sharing a computer or taking on additional family responsibilities, recording your instruction enables those students to catch up.
- Elementary teacher Brittany Washburn suggests keeping your videos short. “Think of it as a mini lesson. It is better to send students three short videos than one long video because their attention span at home is way different than it is at school,” she says. By keeping your videos short, students can also easily rewatch them if needed.
- Linda and Rick, the middle and high school educators behind MathLight, share that guided notes can help students stay engaged and pick out the key points of video instruction.
- In addition to filming yourself, middle and high school teacher Marilyn from Marilyn’s Homework Help recommends using screencasts. This will allow you to show your screen to your students, whether you’re reading directions or demonstrating an activity or concept. “It’s an accommodation that teachers can use for all students, or just students who require that directions be read out loud. Several sites do this type of recording for free, and Screencast-O-Matic is my favorite,” she says.
- Finally, if you use existing online video content, you’ll free up time to support students in other ways. As Linda and Rick from MathLight recommend, “Use your available time to answer student questions or tutor students in small groups virtually.“
Here are some Video resources currently available on TpT:
Tips for Creating Partner and Group Work
It may seem as if all student work must be completed independently during distance learning. However, Teacher-Authors with experience using digital tools emphasize that collaborative work is still possible and is incredibly important for student engagement.
- High school teacher Devon from La Libre Language Learning uses Seesaw and Flipgrid to foster collaboration in her remote classroom. “Both are platforms where students can record videos and respond/comment on other students’ or the teacher’s post… It’s a way for students to interact with each other and build some much-needed classroom community during a time when students can’t see their friends.”
- Jackie, the middle and high school teacher from Room 213, says that she has students work on collaborative assignments in Google Slides or Google Docs. “For example, if we are reading a novel, I will assign one chapter [per] group. Students will need to decide on what’s important in each chapter and then create a slideshow to share with the rest of the class,” she explains.
- Elementary teacher Kathryn, from Make Way For Tech, suggests having students share feedback with one another on Google Docs and Google Slides. After first having students complete an activity individually, she asks them to share their work with one another and use the commenting feature to provide feedback to their peers.
- Several Teacher-Authors also mentioned running small-group discussions using online conference tools, in addition to using them for whole group instruction. As with in-person discussions, students can lead their own learning and understanding of a text or concept. Like Aris from Sailing Into Second previously pointed out, these discussions could be recorded, meaning you could revisit them to check for student understanding.
Here are some online resources you can use to support group work:
Tips for Monitoring Progress with Quiz and Assessment Tools
When it comes to reviewing material and assessing student progress, there are many digital quiz and assessment tools that make it easy to engage students. Plus, many of these tools are self-grading, saving significant time for teachers. Here’s what members of the TpT community are using:
- For whole class engagement, Elementary and middle school teacher Nancy from A – Plus Literature Guides meets students on Kahoot! to play a review game. On Kahoot!, the entire class can compete with one another while responding to a series of quiz questions.
- For younger students, PreK and elementary teacher Della Larsen recommends Boom Learning. “They are the easiest resource for kids to use at home,” she says. For a step-by-step guide to using Boom Cards, check out this post from Alison at Learning at the Primary Pond.
- For formal, individual assessments, Teacher-Authors recommend Google Forms. Says elementary teacher Dena from Miss Tech Queen, “Google Forms is a great tool where students can fill out virtual exit slips and report their learning for the day.”
Here are some resources you can use to support review and assessment:
More Tips and Resources for Engaging Students
Looking for more tips to engage students in distance learning? Be sure to check out our free student engagement toolkit, which includes:
- A PreK-12 activity calendar with ideas for brain breaks, prompts, and activities
- A guide to the fundamentals of distance learning
- A collection of engagement strategies and tips from expert educators