multiple illustrations of a laptop with students in a video conference, a clock, three students talking, and two hands high-fiving

If you’re a teacher who’s supporting remote instruction, you’ve likely needed a whole new set of procedures and expectations for a virtual learning environment. Standard classroom management procedures — from how students submit homework to how they ask to use the restroom — all need to be reimagined for online learning. But adapting all your typical rules and expectations to the needs of a digital classroom is definitely not easy. So here are 14 educator tips for effectively setting and reinforcing virtual classroom procedures and expectations with your students.

How to set virtual classroom rules and expectations for students

Set Expectations for Live Video Lessons

Just as they would in the classroom, your students need to have a clear understanding of your expectations during remote lessons. Rules for behavior and participation will need to be translated into the remote learning environment. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Prepare students with a plan B. “Do have a plan B, like a pre-recorded lesson, in case you get disconnected.” — Tanya from Gifted Teacher 305
  • Set expectations for participation. “Set clear expectations and keep track of who is answering and asking questions. Allow for groups to meet in smaller rooms such as breakout rooms.” — Vanessa from Longwing Learning
  • Set rules for using tech features. Do use all communication features available: video, mic, chatbox, emojis, reactions, and tools. [. . .] Do use the mute feature of mics for group members who are waiting their turn to talk. Don’t allow other screens (i.e. TV, computer with video game still running or paused) to be ongoing during your session. Don’t allow participants to private chat with other participants (make sure you double-check this feature!).” — Angela from The Speech Serenade
  • Create a set of hand signals. “Students will need to know how to [. . .] use nonverbal hand signals to indicate agreement or disagreement or that they have a question or that they need to use the bathroom.” — Bethany from Science with Mrs. Lau
  • Use a classroom management system. “I think it is critical to have a classroom management system during virtual lessons. Engagement is even more important during live lessons, as the students’ environments are beyond our control. Whatever your management system is in class, come up with a digital version of it. I use Class Dojo and classical music to help motivate students and keep students focused.” — Melody from Learning N Progress

Communicate Norms and Expectations with Families

When your students are learning remotely, keeping parents and families informed about your expectations is crucial to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible. Here’s educator advice for doing so.

  • Establish a personal connection. “By starting with a phone call, rather than an email, you establish a voice. By having a phone conversation, you are able to ask questions in real-time to form connections with others. However, a follow-up email to your phone conversation is essential because you show that you are willing to help a busy parent remember you and your class in a written format.” — Angela from The Speech Serenade.
  • Create a virtual meet the teacher experience. Many schools usually host open house events at the beginning of the year for students and families to get to know their teachers a little better. In a remote learning environment, consider creating a virtual, interactive meet the teacher slideshow to share with students and families instead. Ha from Happy Days in First Grade walks through how you can do just that in the video below.
  • Share tips and rules for tech use. “It’s best to have parents of your students onboard first, making sure that they are able to monitor their children’s activities online. After this, a whole class Zoom, or note on your class site explaining the procedures and the expectations, will greatly help you to get started.” — Amy Lynn Teaches 
  • Make it easy to find your expectations. “Make sure you have a home base where both students and their parents can quickly access your expectations.” — Nancy from A – PLUS Literature Guides

Create Consistency Where You Can

By building consistency into your virtual classroom norms and routines, you can help your students feel more at ease, even as they adjust to a new, digital learning environment. Here are some ideas from the TpT community for creating consistency in your remote classroom:

  • Set a schedule. “Give your students a weekly schedule for online learning and provide daily videos for clarity of their expectations each day. These tasks should be done the same way, through the same platform, each week and day.” —  Krista from The Teacher House
  • Make it predictable. “More than ever before, students will rely on the predictability that classrooms offer. Predictability promotes student independence [and helps] to reestablish trust that was lost during school closures.” —  Emily from Inclusively Educating 

Build Norms Together

Creating a classroom community is challenging in a remote environment. But one way to help your students feel connected to their class, even while apart, is to build classroom norms together. 

  • Let students connect first. “Allowing students opportunities to speak and share on things that they love will allow each child to feel heard and valued. Once they feel this, you can begin speaking on expectations, such as listening to our friends and our teacher when it is their turn to speak.” — Amy Lynn Teaches 
  • Model and discuss expectations. “Record videos of yourself modeling expectations. Then, give students a chance to talk and see each other, as well through video conferencing. This will help build connections and foster discussion.” —Kate from BreatheSmileTeach
  • Build a class motto. “Make a class motto together and have a class mission statement. Set learning goals together. Spend time talking and listening to each other.” — Becky from Smiling Students Lesson Plans

Resources for setting norms and expectations in a digital learning environment:

Distance Learning Starter Pack | for Google Slides, PowerPoint, Canvas and More! 

By Create Inspire Teach – Courtney Smith

Digital Resource for Students: The Teacher-Author has indicated that this resource is made for device-based learning.

ZOOM Meeting Video Rules Signs | Distance Learning | Digital Learning 

By the think tank

Digital Resource for Students: The Teacher-Author has indicated that this resource is made for device-based learning.

Restorative Circle Prompts 

By The Radical Maestra

Remote Teaching Assignment Checklist (Editable) 

By That One Happy Classroom 

Virtual Classroom Jobs | Distance Learning | Editable 

By A Trailblazing Teacher

This is an Online Resource for Google Apps™. Learn More.

Setting and reinforcing virtual expectations and procedures is a challenge many teachers have faced when transitioning to a digital learning environment. But creating consistency, building norms with students, setting expectations for video, and maintaining strong communication with families are all steps you can take for effective virtual classroom management. For even more ideas for setting expectations and procedures in an online classroom, browse digital classroom management resources available on TpT.

This post originally appeared in TpT’s Back to School 2020 Guide: For Teachers Creating Tomorrow