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A Conversation With Your Students Before Going Remote

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

If you are not yet teaching fully remote, there is a good chance that you will be soon. It might be an outbreak of positive COVID cases in your school or a mandate from the state (Iike in Michigan!) But let's suppose you are still in-person right now. You need to get your students ready, and this is far easier to do right now when you see them face-to-face than in the first days of remote learning. This is the time to have an open conversation. Here are some questions to get it started:

What are the advantages to in-person learning?

Hopefully students will likely recognize these obvious advantages to learning in-person:

1. ability to collaborate with their peers (when learning in the EFFL model)

2. instant feedback from the teacher

3. accountability to be there and do work

How do we maintain these advantages in remote learning?

The only remote solution that maintains these advantages is synchronous instruction via something like Zoom or Google Meet. Breakout rooms allow students to continue to collaborate and get instant feedback from the teacher. Also the very fact that these are synchronous means that students are accountable to be somewhere doing something at a specific time.

We realize that synchronous instruction is not always possible. If you are in need of asynchronous resources, check out our EFFL lesson video subscription.

What do you need from me?

The message from our students was very informative. They wanted clear expectations for what needs to be done each day and for us to be available when they need extra support. Students show obvious frustration towards teachers that seem to be figuring out things from day to day, with no obvious plan. Make a plan and use your learning management system (we use Google Classroom) to clearly communicate the plan to students.

Be sure to offer consistent office hours to help students feel supported when they need additional help.

Here is what I need from you.
  • For the next few weeks, bring home your book and notes every night as we don't know if/when we will move to remote learning. (Teacher note: make your copies for the rest of the semester right now and get them in the hands of students.)

  • If we move remote, you must attend the live Zoom/Google Meet every day.

  • I am requesting that you turn cameras on if you are willing. As a teacher, it is super helpful to get visual feedback about my instruction and helps to maintain my emotional mental health.

  • You must participate in Breakout Rooms. I need to listen to you communicate with each other in order to provide quality feedback.

Setting Expectations for Zoom/Google Meet

The first day of virtual class is just important as the first day of school. This is where you will establish expectations, norms, and classroom culture. Be prepared for this first day with a mental checklist of things to discuss and plans for how you will handle events that might come up. Check out these great ideas from Dave Stuart Jr (AP World History teacher) for establishing norms and handling misbehaviors.

Suggestions for Zoom/Google Meet

  • As students enter the virtual room, I greet them with a "Hello <name>" and ask for a simple "Hello" as a reply. This simple task at the beginning of class humanizes the digital experience and allows every student to engage one-on-one.

  • Ask students to turn cameras on if they are willing. Cameras-on improves the experience for both the students and the teacher.

  • Establish clear roles for breakout rooms. Left to their own, students will often sit in awkward silence. There must be a student to lead the conversation. Consider assigning a "reader" who will read the task to everyone in the group.

  • Establish a very clear task for each breakout room session with an estimated amount of time to work on it. "In your group, work through questions #2-8. You will have 10 minutes."

  • Be sure to allow time for students to ask questions with "if you have questions you can unmute yourself or put the question in the chat." Some students are more comfortable using chat rather than their voice.

With the insight you get from the above conversation, you will be able to put together a plan to make remote learning successful. Good luck and stay safe!

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