This post originally appeared on the blog Education with DocRunning.

Our school is closed.The teaching staff is working on solutions so that students still get the education they need but we can keep everyone safe for public health reasons. In an ideal world, schools stay open even when disaster strikes, but these are unprecedented times.    

Remote instruction, online or otherwise, presents its own challenges.  How do you keep students engaged? How do you generate material for students to work on their own?  How do you stay connected to students? Here’s seven tips to get you started:

  1. Think creatively: this is a great time for hands-on projects and student experts.  Have students generate tessellations, create medieval villages using geometry, or generate portfolio work on World War II.  Students can make comic books for any topic they research or you have been studying.  Let students get creative with their analysis of The Great Gatsby or Fahrenheit 451.  I am going to take my end of year group project “the survivor’s guide” and turn it into an individual project which students can complete at home.  When I have them back in the classroom, I can focus on the more difficult material. 

  1. Stay connected: if you and your students have
    access to the internet at home, you can use zoom, google hangouts, and Skype to conduct video lessons and interactive discussions.  If this isn’t possible, setup a text chat with a meeting time, so that everyone is on at the same time. 

  1. Office hours: hold office hours by video, email, text or any way possible so that students can drop in and ask questions or just chat. Students may have questions or they may just want to hang out.  Either is okay.  I hold office hours 3x a week. Isolation is going to be a challenge for everyone and that little bit of extra human contact will be helpful.

  2. Prioritize:  balance content and skills with keeping students engaged.  Some students thrive in student-directed learning settings, but others will struggle.  Give students packets of material and lots of support so that they learn but aren’t overwhelmed.  This is a great time to differentiate.  You know your students!  You know who needs a little more practice with balancing equations and who is ready for quadratics.  Let students choose a novel from a list of 10 instead of everyone reading the same book, and then let them get creative with presenting the book to you and the others.  Take advantage of the opportunity to give each student a learning plan that works for them.

  1. Go beyond your classroom: there are tons of free resources and ideas on museum websites for teaching a multitude of concepts.  Or swing over to teachers pay teachers for ready to use lessons. There are lots of digital resources if you have access to internet and can just send students links with directions.  Provide students the notes and the graphic organizers or activity.  You may be surprised at how much they can do on their own.  When they return the items, you can just check with your answer key.  Even better, if students have access to digital graphic organizers and notes, send them their own link and off they go.
  2. Don’t reinvent the wheel: you don’t need to recreate every lesson for a remote setting.  Work with what you have and add to it through the use of readings, videos, and more that are readily available from your own computer.  My students love Crash Course.  If you are going remote without internet access for students, just print out what you need.  Include a variety of written and visual materials.  If you are studying the 1920s, challenge students to find music from that era and share with the class via text.  

  1. Take care of you and your students:  the number one thing you can do today is to be there for your students.  The world has been turned upside down for all of us.  Whatever you can do support their emotional well-being and their learning is important.  Keep connected with parents.  They are in this with you and their children.  It has rarely been more important to keep a sense of community than now.

Go to help to get you started:

Education with DocRunning makes student-centered learning her mission. She specializes in differentiated instruction. She has taught in inner-city schools, gifted programs, and provided remote instruction outside of the classroom. She holds a Master’s in Education and a PhD in Education Policy. In addition to developing curriculum and working with students, she is an ultra-marathon runner. Get more ideas for your classroom from the education with docrunning blog, Pinterest, and Education with DocRunning store.