This is a really unique time to be a teacher. Teachers are being asked to take all of the face-to-face content and deliver it in an online environment, and it is a monumental task, regardless of grade level or subject matter. Teachers, we commend you for all of the work you are doing on the fly to engage students virtually!
Teachers (and parents) know that this is the time of year that students’ attention spans wane as the weather warms and summer vacation gets closer. Add that to the fact that the excitement of doing school at home has worn off, and it is easy to see how students may not be as engaged in their schoolwork as they should be.
How can we get the spark of learning back? No matter the students’ age, a little creativity and flexibility can go a long way. Here are a few ideas to consider as you seek out ways to engage students virtually:
1. Hang-out meetings
If you have not had any kind of virtual class meeting, do it. Once a week or so is all it takes. Students miss seeing their friends, but they also miss seeing their teacher. The teacher is often the most consistent child-adult relationship outside of the family.
If you’ve already been holding virtual class meetings regularly, consider offering one-on-one meetings with your students. Many of them likely miss interacting with you in that setting and giving them the option to schedule a 5 or 10-minute personal catch-up can help them feel connected.
You could even hold fun class meetings at the end of the day or every Friday afternoon where students bring a snack of choice and everyone shares about their week or plans for the weekend.
2. Greeting videos
Students are looking to teachers for content but also for reassurance and connection. Record a short video daily or a couple of times a week to greet your students and tell them about something in your life. Introduce them to your dog. Show them something from your house and tell them the story behind it. Give them a fun fact or silly holiday for the day. Most importantly, give them an authentic slice of you during the pandemic.
3. Less is more
If you can accomplish the same goal with 20 math problems as you can with 40, go with a shorter assignment. That four-page essay or stack of reading material you were going to assign? Cut it in half. You can even find new ways to help your students learn. For example, in lieu of a writing assignment, give students the option to videotape themselves talking about the topic to show their understanding. This is a simple switch that can work for any age group. Piling on more busywork will only stress students out. And yes, they are already stressed, even if it is not obvious.
4. Rotate classes
If you are a teacher in a self-contained classroom who has every subject every day, consider dropping one class on a rotation. Trust me, we know you need a break as much as your students do.
5. Daily devotion
Record yourself reading a morning devotion and send it to your students. Or, you can share a video devotion from a ministry that you follow and enjoy. This simple exercise will help keep both you and them grounded in faith in this challenging time while kicking off your day on a positive note.
6. Content choices
Teachers, let’s face it. We are in uncharted territory, and many lesson plans have gone by the wayside. How about asking your students what they would like to study in science? Review their favorite Bible stories instead of the next one in the curriculum. Have them choose a topic in any area and create a Pecha Kucha (slide deck of 20 slides with a 20-second commentary recorded for each slide) to share with the class. This not only adds variety to the coursework but also gives you a new way to engage students virtually!
Whether you have a few days or a few weeks left, we want to congratulate you on a job well done. You have risen above the challenge of transitioning online and now all that’s left to do is finish strong!
If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.