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SOE Students Share Tips on Virtual Student Teaching

Drexel University School of Education

April 12, 2021

Teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic is a tremendous challenge for teachers and students. With the traditional classroom setting replaced by remote teaching, teacher residents in the School of Education learned new ways to connect with their high school students. Below, they share a few best practices for other students who may need to do remote teaching in the future.

How to Survive Online High School

By Lauren Fegely, Elle Griffiths, Melissa Lam, Jason Sobieski, and Zach Wetzel


1. Establish a Similar Routine in Class Everyday

Online learning has been a challenge for students, especially for those who have never been homeschooled. But by providing students a stable structure and routines, students would be clear on which website or app they should be on, what they are doing next, and where they can find the material they need. The level of student engagement and participation have significantly increased after this approach has been incorporated to day-to-day lessons.

For example, having a daily check-in with students as a part of the class would make students feel heard and cared for, or, posting clear goals, objectives, and agenda for the day before the class starts so students can see the big picture in their head before learning the details.

Here is what one student teacher does with my students every day at the beginning of the class

  • First, I show a “Getting Ready” slide with the shared screen feature of zoom. This slide includes all the material and websites that students need for the day, such as a Nearpod code, a daily affirmation, a shout out, a reminder of yesterday’s learning material, Do Now, or others.
  • Secondly, I show my PowerPoint for the day whether it is through Nearpod or a shared screen. In the beginning of all of my PowerPoints, there are reminders of the Zoom norms and class norms that the students and I have collaboratively come up with. I also put an emphasis on which norms they should focus on today
  • Thirdly, I have a daily check-in with students that includes a meme or picture that showed different emotions. Students then private or public chat, whichever one they feel more comfortable with, to the teacher. Myself or the my mentor teacher follow up after class with students who have more negative emotions.

At the beginning of the school year, this took around 10 minutes for the class to complete. But as students are more familiar with the routine, it now takes around 5-8 minutes to get through and students have more time to learn.

2. Administer Quick and Accessible Formative Assessment

Formative assessments are critical in the online space. Typically, classroom formative assessments can be as simple as glancing over a student’s shoulder and reading their work, or clarifying student understanding with a conversation. This is complicated by video lesson instruction and the hesitation of students to unmute.

Nevertheless, formative assessment is critical to gaining an understanding of student understanding in the online realm. Chat functions on Zoom and Microsoft Teams are great ways to involve students in the learning in a way in which they are comfortable. Emoji responses are also a feature of many instructional platforms such as Zoom. These responses are a quick way to judge student understanding.

Quick tip: Check-in with students to make sure they are hearing and seeing the intended media before screen sharing a PowerPoint or video.

3. Diversify Summative Assessment

Utilize a variety of online resources to diversify your assessment strategies. Virtual learning is overwhelming, and traditional tests may add stress. Instead, provide multiple pathways through which your students can demonstrate their understanding. Be creative! Flipgrid, for example, allows students to create and share videos. Rethink how you approach assessment. A video could take the place of an essay in your assessment plan.

4. Never Stop Trying to Get to Know Your Students Better Each Day and Build a Special Classroom Community.

Especially in a virtual environment, building genuine relationships with each one of your students is of utmost importance and will save you in so many ways. Starting in the first week of school, it is important to learn everything you can about your students. This can be done using a “first day survey,” informal chats with students, or off-topic warm-up prompts.

The teacher can then keep a running list of details about each student and should refer to these notes frequently! Simply remembering a student’s birthday and putting their name and a few images about them on your slides means so much and shows your care as an educator. Instead of typing a bland math problem, use students’ names and interests to come up with scenarios for word problems. Use your notes to have fun conversations with students about their sports games, hobbies, academic interests, work, and so on.

Getting to know your students on a personal level is an essential step to becoming a great teacher, and this should be thought about even before trying to master teaching lessons.

5. Make Sure to Praise Students throughout Your Lessons

Due to this new virtual environment, it is important for teachers to build lasting connections with students while also driving learning in the classroom. One way to do this is by praising and repeating your students during formative assessments and class discussions. Students will see your encouragement and feel more comfortable to participate in the space. Consistent positive reinforcement prompts class participation, makes students feel welcome, and builds teacher-student relationships.

The act of repeating student answers can be a useful tool. This action shows students that you are paying attention to what they are saying, building their answer into the lesson, and allowing other students to hear what peers have to say. Even if the student is incorrect, acknowledge their answer and praise their effort. Saying “good try, but” and asking supplementary questions offers a way to redirect the conversation while still praising students for participating.

6. Open Multiple Communication Channels with Students and Families

Maintaining open lines of communication between students and their families is important, especially during virtual teaching. You might want to consider sending out monthly emails to families sharing about what has been happening in class. While this will take time, it will be worthwhile to share positive communication and build rapport with families. If an issue arises that warrants contact with families, it is nice to have already established a level of communication.

Teachers can also use the video call chat feature to message students quickly. Breakout rooms and one-on-one spaces are also important tools for teachers to utilize in the digital teaching space.

7. Keep Detailed Records

Records are an essential facet of teaching. This is especially true in an online format. Take notes to remember what students came to you for during transitions and office hours. Beyond that, use records as a way to build your relationships with students. Record student birthdays, their interests, their challenges. Recording this information may seem challenging at first, but it can be especially helpful in an online format.

Quick tip: Color code your notes to make them easier to refer to at a later date.