Millions of children are returning to in-person classrooms. In many ways, a shift back to physical classrooms is a breath of fresh air for teachers, parents, and students. However, recent reports have highlighted that some students are actually thriving in a remote learning environment and would potentially benefit from continued remote learning.
As teachers, this means you must be ready to serve both in-classroom and remote students equitably. After teaching during the height of the pandemic, you might consider yourself an expert at teaching remotely. However, there are still a few key steps you need to take to ensure your students excel in a remote learning environment.
Accessibility and Advocacy
Some students and their families prefer remote learning, especially for health and safety reasons, but many others have trouble with technical issues, motivation, and external distractions.
However, a growing body of resources is helping teachers combat these common troubles through programs like the Emergency Broadband Benefit program and PCs for People. If students can be connected with adequate resources and technology, a successful school year is still achievable.
Hopefully, your school or school district has already provided students with necessities like laptops and tablets. However, there are still many more components to accessibility that may have been overlooked.
Students with Additional Needs
Not all students learn the same, and some who need additional support may have slipped through the cracks during the chaos of the pandemic.
A recent study by accessibility non-profit Understood found that 72% of parents became aware of their child’s learning differences while remote learning. The same study also reported that “63% of parents with a child who thinks differently say their child is a year behind and is unlikely to catch up”. This news is rather shocking and underlines the reality that we must provide clear access to resources for students with additional needs.
Remote learning can place a heavy burden on families. Remote learning requires parents to take time off work and often asks parents to foot the bill for things like laptops and other learning materials.
However, your district likely provides financial assistance of some kind for low-income families. Now more than ever, it is vital that you foreground these resources so parents know exactly where they can find support.
Depending on your schedule, you might be able to host a few family nights which can improve family engagement and while you highlight some of your district’s financial support initiatives.
Create a Conducive Environment
When you’re teaching in classrooms, it is easier to maintain control over the physical space and create a positive learning environment. However, when remote teaching, replicating that same learning space is challenging.
Before the semester starts, part of your communication with families should highlight the necessity of a positive learning environment. By taking care of lighting, seating, and other components of the homeschooling environment, students are more likely to remain focused and engaged for the duration of the semester.
Good teachers are great at giving useful feedback. However, when remote teaching, it can be difficult to create the student engagement necessary to maintain an effective feedback loop. This means that students who don’t immediately engage with materials may receive less attention than they need, and will struggle with new content as a result.
You can improve the quality of remote feedback by providing students with office hours or breakout groups in Zoom. Dr. Jennifer Pieratt also suggests dedicating a day towards giving feedback where you provide descriptive feedback on students’ work.
Whatever option you chose, the intention remains the same: you’re trying to reach out a little more often to ensure students are engaged and picking up the material you are teaching.
Structure Your Lesson Plan
Your lesson plan must engage students throughout the class. In the classroom, you can easily pick up on nonverbal cues when the energy is low or if a group of students is struggling to engage with the lesson. However, when teaching remotely it is far more challenging to check in on students’ engagement.
The easiest way to increase student engagement is to increase the number of formative assessments you include in your lesson planning.
Formative assessments are designed to give teachers a window into students’ understanding. For example, if you’re teaching a class in English Literature, you might include a short freewriting activity at the end of every class based on the discussion from that day.
This approach allows you to see what students have understood and it maintains students’ concentration as they know an assessment of some kind will occur at the end of class.
The Future of Remote Learning
It seems that the future will continue to hold some amount of remote teaching for many of us. Regardless of your feelings about remote learning, one thing remains constant: you must advocate for your student’s learning more often when teaching remotely.