10 Remote Teaching Strategies You Can Take Back Into The Classroom
contributed by Kate MacDonnell
COVID-19 has made a lot of changes in our lives.
The need for social distance and to handle the pandemic responsibly means many students are learning over the internet. For educators, that means a tight focus on a newly-critical field: remote teaching and learning.
Eventually, however, most students will return to the physical classroom and when they do so, the transition will be crucial for both teachers and students to maintain continuity and reduce both academic regression and psychological duress.
Here are some tips to help you craft a better virtual learning experience for your students that you can take back into the classroom when we (finally) can safely do so.
7 Remote Teaching Strategies You Can Take Back Into The Classroom
1. Lesson Segmenting
In short, segment activities and lessons to fit your students.
Depending on the age, content, home life, and a million other factors, students have a wide range of attention spans. If you can segment lessons in a way that is accessible to students, you’ll have a much higher chance of engaging your virtual classroom during synchronous learning.
Often that will mean focusing on smaller pieces of content. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either if you can keep up your students’ participation then they’re more likely to keep learning despite the fact that you’re miles apart. Shorter pieces make larger concepts easier to teach, just make sure that each segment is crucial to the lesson itself.
This can be less critical in a physical classroom but no less effective as a teaching strategy–especially if you’re personalizing the learning for students.
2. Be intentional in the beginning, middle, and end
Each lesson, no matter the length, should remain tightly focused on the learning objective itself. While hour-long, in-school classes allow for more debate and back-and-forth, it’s not as effective in a synchronous online learning environment.
A common approach is for each lesson to build on the last one (much like a physical classroom). A brief introduction reminding your students what happened last time before you launch into the next piece of the puzzle is another way to keep comprehension up despite some of the handicaps of distance learning.
Not every lesson will go exactly as planned, but there should be a clear beginning, middle, and end to each session with a clear and intentional role for each going into your remote teaching classroom.
In a physical classroom, the beginning, middle, and end also play important roles but with more flexibility and more opportunities for different kinds of collaboration. That said, when you begin to see lessons in three ‘acts’ while teaching digitally, that kind of framing can be useful in a brick-and-mortar classroom as well.
3. Ongoing formative assessment
Depending on the software you’re using, you may have more or fewer options for interactive lessons. The more that your students are interacting with the content, the better chances they’ll retain information once the lesson is over.
Having your students create ‘things,’ answer questions, and even interact with each other are all useful. Acquaint yourself with the software you have access to and see what you can do about getting everyone engaged. Using ongoing formative assessment–with tools like Loop, for example–can represent a core remote teaching strategy that you can eventually carry over into the physical classroom.
4. Make learning objectives accessible to students
One easy remote teaching strategy anyone can use is accessibility: make sure every student knows what they’re learning and that what they’re learning is accessible to them (that is, within their Zone of Proximal Development)
If what you’re teaching is important, accessible, and brief, it has a better chance of being mastered in any classroom–remote or otherwise. But it’s especially important to save the complex thought experiments for in-person courses or supported asynchronous courses.
Note, this can often mean learning more about the material yourself. It’s been said that breaking things down means you understand them, and you’ll have to if you want to get the point across through Zoom.
It also helps to keep students on track. Behind the scenes, your students could be doing anything from fervently taking notes to finding out if dogs can eat corn. It also gives you a little bit of time to prepare to dive into the next lesson planned. Use your fika breaks wisely to stay on track!
5. Adaptable curriculum and instruction
Another remote teaching strategy that will carry over into the physical classroom involves your own mindset and approach to teaching: Show flexibility and humor–even when it’s difficult.
Remote teaching and learning is new to many of us, and (especially in an uncertain world) getting overwhelmed is easy. Modeling a growth mindset for students–responding to uncertainty and difficulties with flexibility and humor–can help students develop ‘soft skills’ more important than the content itself.
And for you personally as a teacher, you can make your life and lesson plans a lot easier if you remain adaptable, especially since it looks like this will be happening for some time. Remaining flexible and constantly looking for ways to improve is how we’ll be able to make it through this trying time.
Other Remote Teaching Strategies That Will Work In The Classroom
6. Think-Alouds (less effective online but still functional)
7. Modeling (how effective this is depends on the content area–better for math or language learning than science, for example; also see #10 below)
8. Socratic Discussion or Fishbowl Discussions
9. Literature Circles (or any intentional group work, really)
10. Gradual Release of Responsibility
A Final Word
Learning entirely through remote teaching is new to most students and teachers but that’s just the way it’s going to be for the foreseeable future. Dive in and learn what you can so that you can remain an effective teacher. Everything else will pass, but the well-being of students during this time–psychologically and intellectually–will continue to affect them (for better or for worse) for years.
Over time, we will find ways to make remote teaching easier on teachers and remote learning easier for students. In the meantime, take it upon yourself to keep abreast of the newest developments in eLearning and take care of yourself as a teacher in the process. When we all return to the classroom, your teaching–and student learning–can have a more seamless and efficient transition.