Are you getting ready to teach your classes online? As more and more states are closing in-person classes due to the coronavirus, many teachers and schools are looking to virtual classroom teaching. This will present challenges for both teachers and students, so to help with the transition, here are tips and advice on how to teach online from our seasoned online tutors.
Having the right tools at your fingertips will make virtual teaching much more manageable. We know that it’s not possible to run out to get a new computer or headset right now. But simple steps like checking your computer’s specs and running an internet speed test can prevent problems in the middle of your class. If you’re worried because you’re not tech-savvy, don’t worry. Many ALO7 tutors started online teaching with basic computer working knowledge and felt confident within a few classes.
Virtual Classroom Setup
You may be planning to set up your virtual classroom in your living room, which is perfectly fine. But consider these ideas when deciding where in your home from which to teach. It can be helpful to have a blank wall behind you to avoid distractions like people walking behind you or pets asking for food. If you teach young children, then you may want a colorful background with maps or the alphabet on your walls, just like your normal classroom.
It’s also important to think about lighting. Not only is it essential for your students to see you and follow what you are doing, but it also creates a comfortable environment for students to learn. In order to create a well-lit environment, it’s best to have light coming from in front of you. Having a lamp directly in your face is not very comfortable, so using a scarf or t-shirt to diffuse the light will allow enough light to shine on your face without blinding you. If you wear glasses, you may have to move your lighting around to avoid glare, which students may find distracting.
Lighting is also very important for our third tip, using virtual backgrounds. While these use up extra computing power and require some additional tools, it can be a powerful way to get students’ attention and engage with them. Now you’re no longer limited to the four walls of your class, so take your students on a virtual science trip or history lesson during their next class. If you use Zoom to teach and your computer has high enough specs, you may be able to use a virtual background without having to set up a green screen.
Partnering with Parents
Dealing with parents may be your worst nightmare, but now that many people will be working from home, they may pop into your students’ classes more frequently. Instead of viewing this as a downside, one advantage that might come out of the coronavirus and teaching online is that parents may be more engaged with their child’s education. By acknowledging and listening to parents, and engaging them when appropriate, you may be able to build a better relationship with them over their child’s learning.
Teaching in the Virtual Classroom
Adapting to virtual teaching can be difficult, and you will need some new strategies to facilitate your classes. With young children, it can be more difficult to engage their attention when they’re not physically present in school. Your tried-and-true methods of pair and share or small group projects may not be as easy to do in an online setting. However, it’s still possible to engage learners of all ages with some simple preparation. Engage your students by asking them to prepare short presentations, reading aloud, using short videos or pictures, grabbing props and realia from around your house to use as visual aids, and asking open-ended questions to prompt discussion.
Positive Classroom Management
Classroom management is a challenge for any teacher. Now with the coronavirus and education moving online, there will be additional challenges for maintaining your class. Students will be more tempted to check their phones or other webpages as well as feel more disconnected from you and their fellow classmates. Using positive classroom management skills can help mitigate these issues. Some tips, like laying out behavioral rules and expectations, will be the same as an in-person class. Announcing the objectives and plans for each lesson, which you might already do, can help students focus on what to expect.
It’s also vital to keep a sense of community, even though we are learning from a distance. Check in with students at the beginning of class to see how they are feeling or look into discussion boards or forums so students can post questions and continue learning from each other.
Featured image: ID 8176989 © Lightkeeper | Dreamstime.com
Delanie Honda has a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Master’s degree in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. While in Cambodia in 2014, she discovered she had a passion for helping students around the world achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals through language learning. During her Master’s studies, she researched interventions using technology to provide quality education to students around the world. She has been a tutor with ALO7 since April 2017 and lived in Southeast Asia, Ecuador and Colombia.
The digital nomad lifestyle has allowed her to pursue the two things she loves: travel and education. As a Chinese-Japanese American, Delanie is asked, “Where are you from?” a lot, but welcomes the opportunity to share her culture with the people she meets from around the world. Her favorite things to do while traveling are trying new foods, playing Ultimate Frisbee, and exploring on foot.