3 Easy Strategies for Encouraging Virtual Participation

How can we Encourage Virtual Participation?

Almost every teacher was “thrown” into virtual learning over the past four months before they were ready. Not only did I attempt to navigate these virtual waters as a teacher, but I also tried to accomplish this while trying to nurture and care for my own two children. Needless to say, it was a challenge in many aspects. I know a lot of you were in the same virtual boat! One challenge of virtual learning was to encourage virtual participation from students. First, younger children do not always possess the technical know-how that we take for granted in middle-and-high school-age students. In addition, they don’t have the attention span. These strategies for encouraging virtual participation will help your students have a successful year and stay engaged.

1. Clearly Outline and Model Expectations

First, whether your school is resuming in a digital format, a blended model, or face-to-face instruction this fall, it’s important to outline the expectations for virtual participation and cooperation from the get-go. As we’ve experienced, both students and teachers may be required to change learning environments at any time.

What this looks like:

First, explain the digital norms and expectations with your students. 
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A poster or sign like this can be helpful for keeping everyone on the same page with the expectations. You may even want to provide this material to parents. With younger students, model how and when to participate virtually in a manner that’s respectful to both their teacher and other students. Praising students for the correctly modeled behavior will lead to the likelihood that they will continue it in the future! In addition, you could create short videos using a tool like Screencastify for students and parents to reference later. This is also a quick resource to pull up if you need to reinforce those expectations. 

2. Incentivize Participation

Next, it’s important to remember that participation in the virtual classroom can be both verbal and nonverbal. First, students can participate on video calls by raising their hands and answering verbally. They may also turn in pictures of their work via email, Google Classroom, or Seesaw. Acknowledging their efforts shows your appreciation of their hard work and incentivizes their participation. 

What this looks like:

Acknowledging their work was essential for me and when I commented on my students work, they were thrilled. Even though we were not together in person, they were still receiving the praise from me and they loved knowing their teacher took the time to look at their work and comment on it. A small comment can make a big impact.... don't underestimate your power of kind words! I also gave virtual stickers on some work. This gave students something to look forward to when they went back to look at check their work. Another fun option to promote student virtual engagement is through a platform like Class Dojo. First, each student gets an avatar that they can customize. Students can earn points for a preset list of actions or ones that you create yourself. In addition, your learners can earn prizes (like stickers or other small items).

3. Prepare Students and Parents Beforehand

Next, remember students are more willing to participate in any classroom environment when they are prepared and have the materials they need. This is important for whole class, small group, and independent activities. Take time to pre-plan what activities you will be doing and what materials are needed.  

What this looks like:

Let’s say that you want to conduct a simple sorting activity with your students on a video call. You'll want them to have the instructions, but you'll also prepare them to bring any materials they may need, like the printable buttons (from the handout), or other items to sort. If every student is participating, each student will need to have those materials ready at the beginning of the call. It's also a good idea to make parents also need to be aware of this beforehand. By posting the assignment and the materials several days ahead of time in Google Classroom, or whatever learning platform you’re using, and emailing parents, students are more likely to be prepared and excited to participate in this activity with you. 

 By outlining expectations at the beginning of the school year and showing students what virtual participation looks like, promoting and incentivizing student engagement in a visual way, and helping both students and parents to be prepared, it will lessen the stress on both you and your students. This can be accomplished in many different ways, but I hope these strategies for encouraging virtual participation are a valuable resource to help you prepare for next year.


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