Easy to Implement Ideas for Teaching Remotely

Do you know the key to successful remote teaching?  After doing it online for four weeks, I can’t say that I’m an expert, but I have reflected on what I've learned. I have ideas to share with you, which I hope will make your online teaching easier!

1. Build community. 

Warm Up Discussions
Just as we need to make our classroom environments safe, comfortable places to learn at the beginning of the school year, we need to take similar steps to ensure that atmosphere online.

I’ve done this by including daily warm ups for informal chats. For instance, I’ve had my students post photos of pets (or funny animals). We’ve also played “Two Truths and a Lie” to demonstrate the differences between verbal and nonverbal communication.

Video Chats   
Although it’s received some criticism, Zoom has worked well for me. Our school system joined the Clever Portal to make it more secure for our students, but with the correct settings I think Zoom is fine in most situations even without extra security. I use the waiting room, require a password, and mute students upon entry. Of course, if students will behave badly in class, they may behave poorly online too. Consider what group of students you’re using Zoom with and manage them the way you might in your regular classroom.
I also have been keeping Zoom sessions short. I give students norms before starting the session and a brief plan for the activities we will complete. The students and I enjoy seeing and hearing one another in video chat lessons such as these for our book discussions.

2. Set the tone and establish your classroom culture.

School at Home
At the beginning of online learning, I posed questions about work spaces and routines. Students either post photos or described their school work spaces. I modeled by putting a photo of my own desk area to encourage them to find a quiet place for school work. While I know this may be challenging for students who have many distractions at home, I’ve encouraged them to find creative solutions (for instance, by rotating desk space with siblings).

Returning to a school routine is also important. I’ve noticed many of my high school students are online at 2 a.m., but I’m holding my office hours at 9:30 a.m. (later than the regular school day so they can still get needed sleep). I’m encouraging them to wake up at a reasonable hour.

In all of these online discussions, I make sure to comment, even if it’s just with a short phrase. I want my students to know that I’m involved, listening to their posts, and available to support them.

If you would like an activity to support your online classroom culture, these Twitter task cards might be perfect for you! I’ve recently updated them with 10 additional task cards that are specifically geared for distance learning. I also have ones for the end of the school year where they reflect on their learning.


Teach students how to send professional emails and make appropriate online posts. Even though my students use social media, they may not know the best ways to use the Internet for online learning or work. For that reason, I purchased this excellent Power Point and lesson to make sure students understood different forms of communication, and why it’s important to use the right tone online.

3. Take breaks and plan for off-screen learning.

After a recent conversation with a friend who is the mom of three young boys, I was reminded of the “20/20/20 rule” to prevent eye strain from working online. It may be helpful to encourage students to set a timer so they take a 20-second break from looking at a screen every 20 minutes. It’s important that during the break, students focus on an object 20 feet away so the eye muscles can relax.

Writing Walk
To get students off their screens but keep them practicing English Language Arts skills, you may want to incorporate a FREE descriptive writing walk activity that students can do when the weather is warm. It’s great for improving their ability to use sensory detail in their writing and would make a good opening activity for a narrative or poem writing assignment.

Students will get bored quickly if teachers simply send home worksheets. To keep students engaged and physically active, they can play games such as Trashketball. Although this is normally played in a classroom, there may be ways to modify it for distance learning.  I made a video for how I think it may be played at home.

4. Encourage social interaction.

Revisit Discussions
During these past few weeks, I’ve noticed that students, especially teens, long to have conversations with each other. It helps reduce their social isolation. Those conversations can be related to their learning.  For instance, when using anticipation guides to hook my students and prepare them for an upcoming text, I turn those previously face-to-face conversations into discussion forums. 

After they post their original thoughts, I ask them to revisit the discussion forum on the following day.  I direct students to reread their classmates' comments and add one more comment to the discussion.  Because students may post throughout an entire day (not just during our traditional class period), this helps ensure that their are having a true dialogue.

5. Keep it simple.

Clear Directions
Communicating online is different than in person and it’s essential to keep directions brief and organized. I keep the saying "KISS" in mind and number each warm up or activity on an opening "page."  Also, since I our school system uses Schoology, I've followed the advice of my colleagues and organize each day with its own folder.  This makes navigating our course and finding assignments simple.

Shorter Lessons and Activities
Because of slow internet, laptop problems, and learning of new technology, it can take twice as long to complete online learning as in the classroom. For this reason, I limit daily activities and lessons to three per day.  We are accustomed to teaching on a block schedule, so three fifteen - thirty minute activities seems reasonable. Of course, I make adjustments along the way if needed.  Flexibility is also vital for online instruction (and in the regular classroom).

Remote teaching definitely has unique challenges, but we’ve got this!  I hope that some of these ideas help you.  What would you add to these ideas?  Please share your tips in the comments below.


Tips and Tricks for Digital Learning

remote learning, distance learning, elearning

Several years ago my school system purchased laptops and other devices for every student, so I began incorporating more digital learning in my instruction. In an era of remote and distance learning and teaching, this is more important than ever.  For those of you who are like me and need tips to make your digital teaching meaningful, I reached out to fellow teachers who shared their expertise with me. I’ve shared their advice (and one tip of my own) with you, too!

Google Classroom
Google Classroom has become a game changer in my class! This platform has made managing and organizing my assignments a MUCH easier process. Google Classroom is a part of Google Apps for Education and can be used by anyone with a personal Google account. One of the things I love most... students can use from any location that has internet access, AND each assignment that they complete automatically saves to the student's Google Drive! This means no more missing or lost assignments! The same goes for the teacher, as well!

With each class that is created, a folder is also created in your Google Drive. This is where you will find every single assignment that you have assigned your students through Google Classroom. You’ll have endless access to their work, with no chance of losing it! I like to get my students

acquainted with Google Classroom right off the bat, so during the first couple days of school I show them a short video I made called, "Google Classroom Tutorial for Students." The video shows students how to access and use the program. Feel free to use it to introduce Google Classroom to your students! Lit with Lyns
Need instant feedback on whether your students understand

apps for the classroom
the concepts you’re teaching? Use the Socrative app for formative assessment. Typically, I use the multiple choice and exit ticket options, but there are other choices such as true/false, short answer and a game called “space race”, too. The app is free and the teacher makes her account and quizzes, which can be used multiple times. Since these are for formative assessment, I limit my multiple questions to five. I've made several Socrative quizzes for reading analysis lessons in my class including this free lesson on Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Speech on Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Teachers are given options as to whether they want students to use their names or to be anonymous. Often, I project the results live while the students are responding to the questions. After everyone has finished with the quiz, I can simply look at the results and provide further instruction on any questions that a significant percentage of students responded to incorrectly. I can also download the reports. Best of all, it’s easy to use from a smart phone or iPad, too, if your students don’t have access to computers. OCBeachTeacher

Just a few years ago, I couldn’t find easy to use and affordable speech-to-text software for a student who was physically unable to type her research paper. I contacted that same student two years later just before she began a college English course to tell her about the FREE Voice Typing feature that had been added to Google docs. We were both thrilled about this feature that makes typing as simple as talking to a friend. 

Before beginning, make sure that the microphone is on and working. Then, look for “Voice Typing…” about halfway down the Tools menu at the top of a Google docs page. You’ll see the black microphone image indicating that the microphone is not recording, but when recording starts, it turns to the red image. I've found that the microphone built into most
digital school, home learning, elearning
computers is adequate, but if it has a noisy internal fan or if the student is working in an area with a lot of talking or noise, you may wish to use an inexpensive external plug-in microphone. One distinct bonus about Voice Typing is that this feature allows students to use the keyboard while speaking or if they stop talking to think, making it easy to jump from talking to typing and back again without having to stop the microphone. Students can learn to use their voices to make a quick deletion, go to the next line, make the font bold, add a period or comma, or do a myriad of formatting and editing tasks--or they can just move the cursor to the desired spot and make changes with their keyboard or mouse as they usually would. Click here to access a list of Voice Typing commands. 

Another plus is that students can download the free Google Docs apps to their cell phones (Android or Apple). Since phone microphones were designed to easily pick up voices and interpret them correctly, speaking into a phone produces very accurate results. Google Docs is cloud based, allowing

students to move seamlessly between computers, laptops, and cell phones, and all of their work is stored safely on one document. In addition to those students who have physical challenges that make typing on a traditional keyboard difficult or impossible, I've also found this feature to be incredibly helpful for students who have dysgraphia or those who struggle with idea generation, staring at a blank page, stuck, unable to come up with a single word. Many students who can't figure out what to write or how to begin, find that speaking their ideas is much easier and far less intimidating than writing on paper. Maryann from Secondary Strategies

Revision History
When I began Google Classroom, I quickly found that I could check group work participation. Group work haunts me because I dislike assigning grades to students who do not earn that grade, and perhaps underscoring a student who deserves more. I ask students their experience with group work and even have students complete an evaluation on their partners. Parents and administrators normally want more than other students' ideas, and I'm not entirely confident deciding grades on this component.

Now when I assign group work, students must sign in on their own computer - in their own Google account. When students complete a Google presentation (for example), I can see in

the revision history - which student modified what.

This stipulation is clearly listed in my syllabus and on group work assignments. This encourages all students to participate, and I can fairly grade the projects. Parents and administrators know that this is a requirement, and I have this component on my rubrics as well. 
Lauralee from Language Arts Classroom

digital learningFlipped Classroom
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I began flipping my classroom was to assume my students would know how to “read” an instructional video. Sure, they are surrounded by technology both at home and at school, but they typically approach those visual texts from a different angle -- one that is based on an entertainment factor, not a analytical or retention one. I quickly learned that in order to help my students succeed with this innovative approach to learning, I

needed to provide some scaffolding for academic-style visual texts. Whether teachers are creating flipped lessons or simply asking students to independently watch video clips to supplement existing instruction, we must give them the tools they need to succeed. Teaching visual literacy is critical, especially with the increased emphasis on digitally-oriented classrooms. Providing best-practice tips and modeling through think-alouds are the most beneficial ways to manage this issue. You can read more about how I approach visual literacy instruction and the specific lesson format I use on my blog. Melissa from Reading and Writing Haven

Virtual Open House
It’s the start of another school year. Your classroom looks perfect. Your bulletin boards look amazing. The desks are clean and your textbooks are all neatly stacked where they belong. You love your students this school year and are so excited to meet their parents and families, especially for them to see your classroom! This is the time to try a virtual open house. Back to School Night finally comes and unfortunately, you only see five, maybe six families show up (I've experienced this). You are left feeling disappointed and sad. Your feelings are not about you. Your feelings of disappointment are a result of knowing your students' families missed out on what you had planned. Here is a solution. Teachers can easily create a Virtual Back to School Night - or virtual open house - to send to the families that were unable to attend.

Back to School Night is usually held towards the end of the first month of school. You will want to create your virtual open house video before the actual open house- maybe closer to the beginning of school. Why? Your classroom will still look

perfectly put together and in place within the first few weeks.
You don’t need any fancy recording device. Your phone or tablet’s video app works perfectly. If you want a different app, iMovie™ works well too. Find a friend or colleague who is willing to record you. Or if you feel uncomfortable about being watched and wish to record yourself, you can set up a tripod or even use one of those crazy selfie-sticks! Weird, yes, but effective.
Now that you have your classroom set up, your outfit picked out and your video recorder set up perfectly, it's time to record! Here is a quick checklist of items you’ll want to cover in your virtual open house: 1. Introduction (about you and how to contact you) 2. The specifics of your syllabus 3. Grading policy 4. Classroom management procedures 5. Tour of the classroom (seating, where absent work can be found, classroom library, bulletin boards, student work, etc.)

Want to learn more helpful tips on how to pull this off? This can be done in ten minutes. I have the answers for teachers in an easy-to-follow visual tutorial and step-by-step video loaded with reminders, pictures, and ways you can reach the families of your students. Your school community's engagements and connections will go to the next level if you explore the use of video as a way of communicating with families. I hope you give it a try! Your virtual open house will be a hit. Danielle from Study All Knight

Blended Classroom
In my 1:1 classroom, we use many useful apps, add-ons, and extensions. I talked about some great ones for productivity

and differentiation here. I don’t waste any time introducing these tools to students--we practice using them all right away. During the first week of school, I have students complete an activity that enables them to become familiar with tech tools and with one another. They complete a series of small tasks about themselves and their summer vacations using apps, add-ons, and extensions. They share the final product with the class in Google Classroom, and then the class completes a scavenger hunt with the final product. You can preview the activity here. It’s a fun way to knock out all types of introduction. Leah Cleary
Do you have tricks or tips for digital learning in your classroom?  Please share them in the comments below!

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