Several years ago, I read the book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. Although it wasn’t initially written with a classroom management spin, it is one of the most influential books for my classroom management strategy.
This book opened my eyes to the power of introversion, and the opportunity to provide many forms of participation in my classroom.
This practice has come in handy now more than ever. Social distanced teaching, hybrid teaching, and remote teaching require a different skill set for engaging students and providing them with opportunities to participate.
Respecting students’ personal situations, as well as their personalities, should always be the center of our practices. Therefore, we shouldn’t rely (and certainly not demand) student participation via microphone or camera. Rather, we need to provide students with other opportunities to engage and participate in a live lesson, be it online, in person, or both.
What’s great is that many of these strategies work in any situation and will still be relevant when fully in-person learning is possible.
In my yoga practice, I often have to remind myself of being present. Being present means that I am focused on the present, the movement of my yoga practice in real-time. Too often, my focus drifts to situations and struggles from the day, not on my practice. I have to re-focus to prove my presence.
The same goes for the classroom. We can ask our students to be present by focusing on the class at hand. Because we know how many distractions take place on a normal day, we can help them by providing opportunities to re-focus. One way is through action, online or in person. When you move on to the next activity, is the student present? Does the student “linger” in that Google Meet for 10 minutes after you’ve ended class?
When provided with an accountability piece, students can work to re-focus on the present. In addition, these accountability pieces can function as a novel mode of participation. They are particularly successful for any sort of remote learning.
1. Google Docs and Slides
Google Slides are one of my favorite ways to engage students in the virtual classroom. I love using them to mimic traditional in-class activities that just aren’t going to work right now. One example is a non-linear station activity. You can check out my virtual stations templates here.
This next strategy only takes minutes to set up, and the results can be truly impressive. Share a Google Doc or a Google Slide with students. Make sure that you share it so that all students have editing access. Then, ask students to share something on the slide. It could be the answer to a question, an image, or a quotation from a story. Afterwards, you can read off the answers to look for trends.
To analyze mood, imagery, and setting, I asked students to find an image that represented a short passage from “A Christmas Carol.” As I read the passage, I asked students to find an image that represented the setting. All of the images were viewable to students in the shared Google Slide. The results were so fascinating! The mood of the images were so similar.
2. Collaborative Padlet Board
Padlet is another great tool for creating a collaborative work environment for students. After a quick set up, they can paste images and explanations in a board, or they can write comments like a discussion board.
For my rhetorical analysis unit, students completed a tone assignment in which they had to share a color story. Usually, I have students present these in class with a gallery walk, but this year, I asked students to paste their responses in a Padlet. It was the perfect way to display their colors and their stories in one collaborative board. You can check out this activity as part of my Rhetorical Analysis Unit here.
3. Google Classroom Question and Answer
Another option for creating a question and answer set up is through Google Classroom. In your classwork tab, click Create. Then, choose questions. You can assign these throughout a lesson to collect answers, or you can use this spot for bellringers and exit tickets. In the spring, when I was fully distance learning, I used the question and answer option as an attendance question.
You can also use this option as a discussion board right in Google Classroom. This is a great place for students to record open-ended answers. This example comes from my AP English Language and Composition class. I’m planning to read a very special book to my students, “Do You Like Wild Animals?” by M.S. Gatto. As you know, I love using picture books to engage students, and this strategy is no different in distance learning. What makes this book special is the unique tone. The book is written in a whimsical verse combined with an informative purpose. Studying tone, students will record their tone and explanations in the Google Classroom question, and we’ll use it like a discussion board. Another reason this book is special is because it was written and illustrated by my aunt! Check out my full review of the picture book at the end of this post.
4. The Chat Box
Don’t discount the chat box in a Google Meet and Zoom. You can use this box throughout a remote lesson to collect information for attendance, provide a way for students to ask questions and discuss their answers. I like to ask students who are learning remotely to add part of their answers to this box so that the students who are in class can see all of the ideas of their classmates.
Google Meet is about to add a new feature that allows you to ask a poll question, which could be a great way to ask an attendance question.
Digital games are a great way to give students a chance to participate. Don’t limit yourself just to a review. You can create a primer quiz on a topic that you’re about to teach. Each question can relate to a main objective of the unit. As students answer questions, you can stop to instruct and discuss.
For example, my husband used Kahoot in AP United States History class with a true/false primer quiz on Christopher Columbus. The quiz was designed to challenge students’ knowledge of Christopher Columbus. Interestingly, the answer to each question was false. It took a while for students to catch on that just about everything they knew about Columbus was, in fact, false. This was a great way to give students a chance to participate and for him to review each question to explain why perceptions about Columbus are often misconstrued.
Using class timers has been a great help for me and for my students. One of the biggest challenges, I’ve faced in remote lessons is keeping students engaged. Providing students with a class timers helps them focus and re-focus.
Here’s how it works: First, I add the directions to the assignment on a slide. Then, I add a timer to estimate the amount of time to work on the activity. Finally, I share my screen and project the slide with the timer for my students to view as they’re working. This has been a great way to add urgency and re-focus students when they get distracted and need to recall what we’re doing. I use my Class Slides with Timers resource to make this seem as seamless as possible. This resource includes over 40 slides with editable directions AND built in timers. As a bonus, you’ll have so many activity ideas ready to roll for you. Click here to check it out!
As you use these strategies, keep in mind that much of their success is based on your interaction as well. If you participate in the chat or collaborative board, you can promote community and model appropriate behaviors. I also find it helpful to dignify student responses in some way. That might mean that you read responses out loud and respond or you thank them for their ideas.
Do You Like Wild Animals? Book Review
As I mentioned above, this book is special to me because it was written and illustrated by aunt, Michele Gatto. She is an educator with a passion for getting books into the hands of children. That is why all proceeds from this book are being donated to schools and charities to promote literacy. You can purchase this book here.
This wonderful book is a delight to read with our two daughters (ages 7 and 4) who adore animals. What I love about the book is the unique balance between playful, rhythmic verse and valuable informative nonfiction. It’s very challenging to find a book that does both so well! As an adult, I was surprised how much I learned. What makes this book really special is the author painted the illustrations in the book based on her firsthand observations of the animals in the wild. What a wonderful way to open windows to the world for our children!
As a teacher, I know this book will be a great addition to any classroom. I imagine high-engagement read alouds and curious questioning. “Do You Like Wild Animals?” is a wonderful book for kids (and adults) of all ages!