Virtual Classroom Management
Classroom management is equally, if not more so, important in a virtual classroom setting. Virtual learning opportunities have some classroom management benefits, including being able to hold well-controlled discussions without the chance for interruption, and the ability to connect with families more easily. Here are some additional how-tos that will guide you to a successfully run virtual classroom:
An important key is making sure the virtual classroom is as much like a face-to-face classroom as possible. Help to do this by eliminating distractions. Students should have cell phones, toys, and any other distractions away. If at all possible, students should be away from siblings (and pets!) too. Have conversations with family members to help them understand the expectations also in order for each student to have the best chance at a quiet and productive virtual learning space.
It can be quite easy to turn off your camera and allow students to do the same. However, this can lead to a lack of connections, true interaction, and the ability for learners to engage in other distractions rather than focusing on class work. Using webcams regularly allows learners to engage in strong digital citizenship by making eye contact, smiling, respecting one another, and contributing to online learning in positive ways. Each learner has individual needs and goals, and utilizing this type of face-to-face virtual interaction is an incredible way to learn and grow.
Students do not necessarily need to come to the virtual classroom dressed in their Sunday best, but by sticking to the dress code that you would use in a face-to-face classroom, students will be up and ready and feel confident behind the camera. Remind students what is appropriate to wear to virtual class and what might not be appropriate, such as their pajamas.
Address discipline issues quickly. Your physical and verbal cues are limited in this space, so it is important to redirect and provide necessary reminders right away. Model acceptable and expected behavior and utilize your discipline plan as needed, as one disruptive individual in the online classroom can make learning very difficult for the rest of the class.
It's All About Balance:
Be sure to find a balance between synchronous discussions, writing, and other learning experiences. Just as you would in a face-to-face classroom, utilize a variety of opportunities for students to engage and learn. There are numerous learning applications (which can be found right here at TeachersFirst!) that will be great additions to your students’ online learning plans.
Flip The Classroom:
Flipped learning can be the perfect fit for an online learning environment. It’s the perfect space to elicit questions, discuss, and debate. Students can interact while working through practice problems and other tasks. Save the independent work and lectures for later. You can even utilize pre-recorded videos that students can watch when not on camera.
Hand signals in your virtual learning space can help minimize distractions, just as they can in the face-to-face classroom. These can work well for both young learners and older learners, and they translate well face-to-face and on camera through virtual learning. See some options below for ideas. These signals will eliminate unnecessary noise and keep learning moving along smoothly.
Click the image above for a downloadable sheet of these hand signals.
Create a Question Corner:
With virtual learning, only one individual can speak at a time. This can sometimes lead to students feeling as if they might have questions but haven't had the chance to get them across. Creating a Question Corner document that is easily accessible by all individuals in the class can help with this. When a learner has a question that he or she was unable to share or thought of after class ended, adding it to the Question Corner document is a way for it to be answered and shared with the rest of the class. Students can use this online document and view all questions and answers. Try utilizing ClassroomQ, a digital tool that organizes student questions. Chances are that if one learner in the class has a question, another learner in the class might also have the same exact question. Checking the document once or twice a day can help you to keep up with it and assess where you might need to clarify face-to-face during the next virtual class meeting too.
Not every lesson or project will pan out exactly how you envisioned it. This is all a part of the teaching and learning process. Use each lesson as a personal learning opportunity. Keep track of what went well and what you might adjust should you use the same or a similar lesson again in the future.
Allow for wait time:
Students need time to ponder and consider information before answering carefully. They might know an answer but need to sort out their thoughts a bit before sharing them orally with the class.
Teach kids to persist:
It is common to want to step in and help your students right away. Allow them to problem solve and work independently or with a peer before assisting. Provide appropriate challenges and scaffold learning, allowing tasks to build in complexity over time. Try providing hints rather than giving them answers. This can help them to become more engaged with and confident in their learning.
Be patient and never assume:
Some students might be well aware of expectations while others are simply not bringing the same kind of experiences or knowledge about rules and processes to your classroom. Take things step by step, provide redirection and reminders, and stay consistent. Developing a strong classroom management system takes time, but it is well worth it!