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Posts Tagged "engagement"

Ensuring Student Engagement through Distance Learning

May 13, 2020
By Joseph Fruscione, Communications and Advancement Associate

I know my students are engaged when their eyes light up and they can’t sit still while waiting their turn to contribute ideas! — Siena teacher

A key tactic for me is to try to get my students to laugh. If they laugh at my jokes, it means they are really with me. — Siena teacher

In the classroom and online, ensuring that students are engaged is always important for teachers. Using multisensory teaching methods and getting students (and themselves) moving helps teachers maintain engagement, especially during distance learning. 

But what does an engaged student look and sound like remotely? Siena's teachers shared their top suggestions. Here are some ways that teachers could be looking and listening for engagement to assess whether students are taking initiative and feeling invested in the material:

 Verbal Cues

  • Asking engaging or clarifying questions 
  • Excitedly sharing their work 
  • Participating in discussions
  • Quickly responding to questions and/or providing thoughtful answers
  • Eagerly volunteering to read out loud, share what they’ve written, and/or respond to a question
  • Giving good verbal feedback to classmates, as well as personalizing responses
  • Directly asking for individual assistance via breakout rooms, chat, or after class

 Visual Cues and Body Language

  • Looking (and smiling) at the computer screen
  • Raising hands to speak, waving, or giving a thumbs up
  • Laughing and/or moving at appropriate times
  • Leaning forward when they’re excited to talk
  • Nodding or shaking their heads when agreeing or disagreeing with classmates
  • Holding up or showing work they want to discuss
  • Standing up to signal they’re done with something a teacher has asked them to do 
  • Smiling at a joke (even if it’s terrible)
  • Signing “I agree” (ASL with thumb and pinky extended)
  • Signing “I have something to add” (ASL with fists on top of each other, used when a student wants to add on to a discussion)
  • Raising their index (“pointer”) finger to show they have a point to add
  • Not having the telltale bluish glow from another device on their faces 

Actions Showing Initiative 

  • Keeping up with the notes or shared Google Doc and helping their peers
  • Having productive conversations in Zoom breakout rooms
  • Eagerly showing that they’ve met a class goal
  • Wanting to share anecdotes about their distance learning experiences 
  • Sharing clear, thoughtful responses in learning platforms like Kahoot or Pear Deck
  • Utilizing the reaction emojis through Zoom 
  • Requesting individual teacher feedback in person and then scheduling a meeting time
  • Enthusiastically reading aloud and then saying “Pass” (the next person must pick up where they left off)
  • In general, teachers agree that students’ expressions go with the lesson: if there’s sudden laughter or their eyes are regularly off screen, they’re probably not as engaged as they should be. 

Here are some engagement checks and strategies that teachers can do when they’re not in the same physical space as their students. These can be adapted for various class topics and sizes: 

  • Regularly polling students informally, such as by asking for a fist-to-five rating of how well they understand the material
  • Asking students to respond to a check for understanding with a thumbs up (“I get it!”), thumbs down (“I don’t get it”), or thumbs sideways (“I sort of get it”)
  • Stopping the lesson a little early to parse out students who need additional clarity or instruction; offering an individual or small breakout session for those needing help
  • Giving immediate feedback on assignments or other student-created material (which helps with retention)
  • Adding voice comments to provide further feedback to a Google Doc; having the students respond in kind 
  • Asking students to participate in a content-based scavenger hunt (which also gets them moving)
  • Having foreign-language students (1) conduct interviews in whatever language they’re studying and (2) develop vocabulary list based on items in their home (optional: sharing pictures of the items)
  • Arranging student-led discussions for a given week
  • Letting some students do independent work, while others have a discussion in a breakout room (teachers can then flip the groupings after 10–15 minutes)
  • Asking students to share their screens for everyone to see a project they’re working on
  • Creating a master reference document for students to collaborate on
  • Encouraging book club sharing to get students both reading and talking enthusiastically about what they’ve read. (Optional: the host can spotlight the video of whichever student is reading or presenting.) This helps students know they’re being seen and heard in a virtual classroom. 
  • Developing assignments that ask for creativity and engagement with the text in a book or other reading; creating buzzwords that require inflection or particular phrasing
  • Deciding on actions for certain words—in particular for read-aloud activities—and then having the students perform the action whenever they hear the word
  • Employing grammar lessons to create movements associated with punctuation—e.g., clapping at periods, snapping fingers at commas

On Zoom, teachers can create multiple breakout rooms to provide more individualized instruction and offer clarification to small groups. Teachers can also use learning sites such as Kahoot and Extempore to maintain (or increase) student engagement. 

Visit our website for more of Siena’s distance learning resources, including blog posts about teaching math and art remotely and using technology effectively in science classes. 

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