Shannon de Winnaar
How to Get Students Engaged in Online Learning?
Over the past 2 years COVID-19 has turned the world upside down, we have had to make so many changes to stay safe and healthy, and education has been no different. At Astor International School, and other schools across Singapore, overnight teachers and students went from onsite learning to online learning. This meant a huge shift in teaching and learning for all involved, teachers, students, and even parents.
For our teachers, the behaviour management and style of activities had to be reimagined. Teachers had to go from having their students in front of them in a small room to having them on the other side of a screen, in rooms with several distractions. They had to go from being able to print out activity sheets to students having nothing but blank paper. This meant that a teacher’s biggest challenge was student engagement. Most schools look at student engagement as a huge indicator of a teacher’s performance. When a principal or curriculum coordinator observes teachers’ lessons, they are often looking at the level of student engagement. In a classroom teachers can use several different techniques to enhance student engagement like, teaching aids, equipment, movement, their bodies, voice tones etc. When we went to online learning, teachers had to rethink how they were going to keep their students engaged in the hope that learning would continue.
Here are some ideas to keep student engagement high while teaching online:
Idea 1. Taking a lesson to teach students online behaviour. Taking time out to have students practice how to behaviour online, such things as how to raise their hand physically or using the online feature, muting and unmuting, screen location, sitting nicely, using headphones to block out household noise, sitting at a table and so forth. Taking the time to teach and practice these skills will help children understand the expectations during online sessions and be able to engage more in the lesson.
Idea 2. When a session starts give all children a chance to talk or say hi. Students are often excited to see their friends and be on a screen so giving them a chance to talk helps them get over that initial excitement in the hope that they engage more in the lesson. This also gives them a chance to practice muting and unmuting themselves.
Idea 3. Take brain breaks with movement. Asking students to stand up, do jumping jacks, do high knees, stretch etc. Sitting online is the same as in a classroom, children need movement regularly to maintain focus. The difference is that onsite children are naturally moving during a lesson with carpet time, moving to tabletop work or coming to the board to participate in a lesson etc, online they are not.
Idea 4. Use hands-on materials from home. If you have a lesson where children need to use something they would have had at school try to find an alternative that they might have at home for example a hand full of pasta for counting, a wall clock, Lego, playing cards etc.
Idea 5. Using virtual counters, timers, cards, dominoes, and dice is highly engaging.
Idea 6. Using Google Slides or PowerPoint with interactive slides helps students who are not auditory learners to stay engaged, some students need visuals so having something on the screen for them to see or follow can lead to a higher level of engagement.
Remember that online learning is a change for all involved so be patient and give everyone time to get used to the new learning environment.
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