11 Strategies for Remote Instruction
Remote instruction is here and here to stay. Adapting to this digital educational landscape is essential to maintaining student outcomes and success. Continuing education is always necessary in the teaching profession, so adapting to unique learning styles and lessons is second nature to most teachers. But the landscape of remote teaching may be an unfamiliar concept to teachers who’ve never experienced that before as a student.
In addition to changing the setting, remote instruction also changes how instructors teach. Many activities you’d do in the classroom aren’t possible with distance learning, so acquiring effective distance learning strategies is essential.
These 11 teaching strategies for distance learning will help transition your in-person lesson plans online.
1. Do Plenty of Icebreakers
Without the gaggle of smiling faces looking up at you from their desks, it can be hard to connect with students in distance learning. Icebreakers are a great way to figuratively break the ice and literally get students to break out of their shells. As an instructor, it’s important to convey that you care about students even if you aren’t there physically or can’t see their faces.
It’s easier than ever for students to take a backseat to learning in remote instruction, so keeping them engaged is essential. An easy first-day activity is to break students into groups to solve simple brain teasers or riddles and play games. Using fun activities to introduce students to each other is a great way to set up a fun learning environment.
There are many icebreaker activities out there that can help build teamwork and community, even over a remote medium. Creating a sense of camaraderie will help students feel more comfortable in an online environment and will make remote instruction easier for everyone.
2. Adapt Your Curriculum
If you’ve recently taught remotely, you already know classroom and in-person strategies may need to be adjusted for online instruction. Adapting your curriculum is crucial to succeeding in remote instruction. For many teachers, this might mean approaching lesson plans differently than they would in person.
If you are using lesson plans from previous in-person teaching, evaluate what activities you can adapt to distance learning. For example, technology still allows for group work through breakout rooms, but you may need to change aspects that require students to write on the board. Instead, you could utilize the chat function for students to submit their answers or have them write and hold up their notebooks to the camera.
Adapting your curriculum is essential to keep students engaged and get the best learning outcomes, so it’s one of the most important remote learning strategies.
3. Use the Space
Even though students aren’t in the classroom, you can still use the whole space to your advantage. While decorations may not be as vital as they are for in-person learning, using engaging decor and banners can engage students and keep their attention.
A great idea to use the space to its full advantage is to move around the classroom while you teach. If possible, set up your camera in front of the board and teach standing up like you would in person. Seeing movement on the screen will draw student’s attention.
It may be fun to set up different stations to transition between subjects — this also has the benefit of reducing time spent collecting materials for the next lesson. Decorating bulletin boards to correspond to different subjects and lessons will help students feel engaged in the classroom. You can post their names on the board and award points for participation and good behavior, or use them as instructional aids.
4. Encourage Movement
Sitting down all day at school is hard enough on students, and the added concentration effort of distance learning is hard on younger students especially. Incorporating movement into your lesson plans can help break up the monotony of online learning and reenergize students throughout the day.
For younger students, interactive songs and dances can be a great learning aid and get them up and moving at different parts of the lesson. For older students, scheduling standing or stretching times periodically can help keep them awake and refresh them throughout the day.
5. Use Socratic Discussions
Instead of relying exclusively on lectures, Socratic Seminars can help bring in more interactive discussions. A Socratic discussion involves a question-and-answer format with the goal of challenging students to think more deeply about topics. The instructor asks a question about the topic or the text and divides students into groups to discuss. The students then facilitate their discussion and come to a general understanding, and then share that with the rest of the class.
The different ideas and perspectives a Socratic Seminar can bring about are great for online learning. In addition to engaging students, teachers can also gain new ideas from these discussions that can fill an entire lesson. Having a specific question or problem in mind is essential for Socratic discussions to work well.
Letting students engage in discussions with a clear objective is key to increasing participation. Rather than staring at a screen, they have to actively contribute to the conversation — and if the question is engaging enough, students may feel very spirited and passionate about their answers.
6. Find Online Tools
Even before distance learning became a widespread practice, online tools were already prevalent. Students today grew up with technology, so it’s almost second nature for them. Online tools will help students stay engaged with the lessons and might even be an effective learning tool.
The market for online educational tools is huge and ever-expanding, so no matter what lesson or subject you’re teaching, there’s a digital tool at your disposal. There are many great programs that allow students to craft interactive presentations, which are great for group projects or presenting in-class group work. You can also find great educational videos from reputable publishing sites like Ted-Ed and Khan Academy.
If you have instructional materials and teaching aids from previous years or find you prefer a certain workbook, a simple and cheap solution is to scan them into digital format. Some PDF programs allow you to input text boxes that students can fill in with their answers. The video platforms many schools use for distance learning also have helpful online tools, such as surveys, chats and screen-sharing.
7. Enforce Good Communication
The phrase “lost in translation” gains new meaning in the world of remote instruction. Without the in-person interactions between teachers and students, communication becomes more difficult. An essential component of distance learning is having open communication channels between all participants. The good news is that there are multiple channels online to promote effective communication with your students and their parents.
The most common method of communication is via email. This medium is great for checking in with older students and parents, though younger children may not be able to use this method. Like in the classroom, call and repeat is a great option to ensure students understand directions during video calls. You can also remain on the video or in the chat to answer student questions.
Another part of good communication is checking in with students even if they don’t reach out to you. One idea is to send periodic messages on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to ensure students understand assignments and feel confident in the material.
8. Be Flexible
Even though the internet is second nature for kids these days, remote instruction is still an adjustment for everyone. Having a flexible mindset when entering the semester and approaching lesson plans will make the adjustment easier for everyone. Things may not go exactly to plan every day, but building in flexible time for each day will prevent you from getting too behind schedule.
If you have strict late work policies, it might be a good idea to adjust them to the needs of each student. While kids in a classroom, for the most part, have equivalent experiences at school, being at home for the whole school day means every student has a different experience. They may run into issues with the internet, sharing devices with other school-age children and general distractions they don’t encounter at school.
While there’s no reason to do away with hard deadlines, remote teaching presents a great opportunity to reflect on the needs of each student. Some may have very involved parents who ensure they get assignments in on time and communicate effectively. Others may have parents with less time to focus on one child, so incorporating a flexible and compassionate attitude toward deadlines and general assignments is essential for the success of the whole class.
9. Provide Thorough Feedback
With remote instruction, feedback becomes more important than ever. Luckily, being online gives you so many options for giving feedback. One of the best ways to give thorough comments to students is through one-on-one video conferences. Scheduling time to meet with each student, especially when reviewing major assignments, helps them understand your comments and feel more connected to the material.
Another great way to give feedback with remote teaching is to message students, either through email or chat. You can send quick messages to update them about their grades and include comments about the assignment, and they can, in turn, ask questions if they need. Making feedback a two-way street helps keep students in the loop about their own grades and progress.
A unique feedback method, which might save valuable time, is making voice notes or screen recordings. Instead of taking the time to write out all your feedback, you can create a video explaining and showing students areas for improvement and comment on things they did well. This method works well to enhance your connection with students and offer feedback in a non-written format.
10. Segment Activities
Modern-day students have shorter attention spans and face more distractions, so segmenting activities is crucial to keep remote learners engaged. If a lesson takes you an hour to teach in person, try to shorten that time to 40 minutes. Being concise will help keep students engaged and utilize their optimal attention spans.
To segment activities for longer lessons, try incorporating multiple different activities. For example, introduce the topic by using a short lecture and then break into groups to discuss a question or complete an assignment. Then, regroup, share and transition to another activity to keep things moving.
Breaking the day up into multiple lessons and then further breaking down lessons into various parts is essential for keeping students engaged when all they can do is stare at their screen. While you may follow a similar format with your in-person classes, keeping things short and sweet for online learning will help revitalize your lesson plans for remote instruction.
11. Let Students Guide You
By the time you step foot in your new classroom, you’ve already undergone plenty of evaluations. If you’re new to remote instruction, it’s important to integrate a method by which students can give you feedback. Ask them how the course is going, how they gauge their learning and what activities or assignments they like over others. There are many benefits of asking for student feedback on your remote instruction, including:
- Getting to know individual students: Having a conversation with each student helps you get to know them on a deeper level as a student. You can learn more about their preferred learning styles and what their favorite activities and lessons are. They’ll appreciate having the one-on-one time with their instructor, and you’ll be able to connect with each individual student.
- Being more adaptable or creative: Getting feedback from your students can give you more ideas. Students may surprise you with creative concepts for lesson plans and activities, and incorporating these elements will help make you a more adaptable instructor.
- Keeping students engaged: Whether you ask for formal or informal feedback, students will stay engaged when they know what they say can impact the lessons.
- Reflecting on teaching methods: Asking for feedback from students can help you reflect on your own teaching methods and learn something new. It’s great to learn from fellow teachers, but don’t discount the value of student input on your teaching.
Be sure to check in with students on a regular schedule. Perhaps you can ask for feedback as part of a weekly Monday morning exercise, reviewing what they learned the previous week. Or send out feedback forms after major tests and projects to assess how well prepared they felt.
Equip Yourself for Online Learning at The Classroom Store
In the new landscape of online learning, you want to ensure you have the best educational materials at your fingertips. In addition to the teaching strategies for modular learning discussed here, you can ensure you’re ready for remote teaching by visiting The Classroom Store to stock up on everything you need.
We carry classroom supplies, instructional materials, health and wellness products and so much more. We have everything you could possibly need to help your students succeed in online, hybrid and in-person learning. Shop our vast collection of educational supplies today, or you can contact our friendly customer service team with any questions.