Classroom management is key. Every educator knows this. And every educator knows how hard, overwhelming, yet important this task is. So of course it’s natural if we’re having slight anxiety on how to do this virtually.
We are ALL a community together and the best places to learn is from each other. For this post I’ve teamed up with some great educators to ensure I’m providing you with ALL the tips and strategies for managing a digital classroom. So let’s get started!
First Things First
One of the biggest things I believe will make an impact on classroom management is by loving your students and building a community and you can find some ideas for doing that virtually HERE. I think spending the time building that community… even at a distance is going to be one of the BEST classroom management tools you have. Another huge factor is supporting our student’s mental health. You can check out some ways to support their mental health HERE.
It’s obvious one of the most important things to manage our classroom is by engaging our students. Thankful for us, we live in a generation where we have some AMAZING technology tools at our fingertips!
Tik Tok– I have seen SO many creative ways to engage students with Tik Tok. @the_renewed_teacher had a GREAT way to introduce herself to her students using Tik Tok. Check out her video HERE! After watching that, I thought about how engaging it would be to make a Tik Tok as a lesson or challenge students to create their own to demonstrate their understanding of a topic.
Reels and Flipgrid– These platforms are a couple more cool tools I’ve seen as well being used to engage students. We have to relate to students on what they’re interested in and I would bet they would be much more engaged watching you teach using a Reel or a Flipgrid, as opposed to sitting and listening to you every now and then. You have to switch it up as much as you can and using these platforms is a great way to differentiate.
When you’re digital, you have to think a little bit more outside the box and let their OWN creativity shine through. Most often than not, your students are more tech-savvy than we are so encourage and facilitate them to lead! There are so many cool tools my students have taught me about. Let’s teach them how to use technology in a creative and responsible way. We have to shift our mindset and use this technology in our favor because it’s hear to stay.
Some other great and engaging tools are Boom, Digital Escape Rooms, and Kahoot. If you have not heard of Boom, I promise you are MISSING out! I am obsessed with how engaging it makes learning for students. The best part is that students get immediate feedback and YOU get to see all that data as well! Digital Escape Rooms are such a fun way to have students practice skills, combining it with a fun and suspenseful way to interact with the content. They are also great for supporting teamwork at a distance. Check out this Back to School one HERE!
Kahoot is another fun tool that you can use with your class while teaching. It turns learning into a game! What’s more fun than playing while you learn?! No matter what, let’s embrace the technology we have in front of us even when it’s overwhelming and scary. This is our superpower – to do what we have to do when we know what’s best for kids.
We know it takes a village and we can’t just engage our students and leave their families out of the loop. This is another piece of the puzzle that deserves grace. Our student’s parents may not be as familiar with the different types of technology that their children and we are using. Heck, some of us aren’t even as familiar! So we must ask ourselves- how can we support them and their child?
Online office hours will be a great tool for parents and students to reach out for support they may need. You can create helpful videos that not only support your students’ learning and understanding, but also their parents so they can be a helpful support contact. Additionally, having a folder for families to access when they need to refer back to specific information about online learning is also a great idea. This folder can contain things such as a class schedule or your contact information. This digital slides resource is something that can be used to provide families with all the must know information that they can keep for the entire year.
Another great idea is hosting workshops to support parents. Workshops can be designed to focus on a specific skill, how to use a specific platform, or another other immediate need your class requires. Remember, we not only need to support our students, but also their families just as much to help their children be successful at home. Be sure to provide space for ample communication with parents so they can help you teach your students. However, at the same time, don’t forget to set boundaries for yourself as well. Your time is valuable too and as much as parents may need support, they also need to respect your personal work and family time.
Communication is a CRUCIAL piece to the supporting of everyone. There are SO many amazing digital communication tools out there. Class Dojo and ClassTag are great tools to motivate students and communicate with parents. Remind is another great communication tool I have used and loved in the past. SignUpGenius is an awesome way to have parents sign up for an event digitally, such as virtual conferences or one-on-one help sessions. Google Classroom and Seesaw both have a great tool for announcements. You can easily send out class wide announcements to families that parents and students can see. No matter what platform you use for learning, I would absolutely make sure that parents sign up so that you can easily reach all of them. These editable flipbooks are a great way to share important learning information with families that they can refer to for the entire year.
This is something that can easily be housed in a folder as aforementioned if parents forget a frequently asked question. As with our students, at the start of this school year, I would set up very clear and specific ways to communicate with parents. Ask yourself- How will they get a hold of you? When are you available for them? Let them know up front what your expectations are so they know when and how you will communicate.
Structure is key in having a well-managed classroom. Our structures start from our organization and scheduling skills that are consistent so students know how to keep upholding our expectations. I have seen so many amazingly beautiful and detailed weekly schedules out there for teachers and families. I love the idea of having a very detailed and organized weekly schedule to share expectations and what’s to come for families. You could have weekly slides for students to access their work or an agenda of what they can expect to see in coming months. This is a great way to clearly express expectations and prepare students early. Here you can find a FREE template!
Just like we have expectations in our classrooms, we MUST set clear and specific expectations for our students working virtually. Again we must reflect and ask ourselves some questions that have answers that require meticulous planning. For example- what expectations do we need to have in place for students to be successful? What will be their expectations for working? What will you deem as quality work? We need to set SPECIFIC expectations for the quality work and how will we be turning in that work. In order to do that, we should provide TONS of quality work examples for students to know exactly what their work expectations are. In my classroom, I love using Microprogressions to set very clear expectations of student work. Below you will see some examples of what those can look like.
When teaching virtually, there are some questions to ask yourself such as, How will students access learning materials? Will they be expected to show up at a certain time? Will their work need to be turned in by a specific time? These rules or norms could also be created together. Think about what do the students need? What do they think is important to help them learn? Do we really care how they are dressed or where they are working if they at least show up and want to learn? You may have specific ideas on your expectations for attire and work spaces but ultimately, let’s be happy when they show up! Check out this editable rules template I created to help students! What’s even more fun is after going over rules and expectations, students can practice with these interactive Boom Cards!
Routines, Procedures, & Structures… Oh My!
Just like expectations, we must deeply think through those daily routines, procedures, and structures we will have in place for students. These important things go hand in hand with expectations. We need to think about what the procedures are when we learn together and how we are respectful learners, and now also what routines we follow when logging on for our learning daily.
What platform will students access their work in and what structures will we have in place for learning? What procedure will they use to check for new communication from the teacher? Will there be live learning or small group work time? These are all things to think about when preparing for online learning. It’s just like being a brand new teacher again and planning for the unknowns as much as possible. But ultimately, you know what best practices are.
Whether students are in front of you on a computer or in person, what is going to be best for those students to learn? How can we set them up to help them establish schoolwork routines at home? Is it realistic to expect students to sit down and work as if it were a normal school day? No. It’s not the same thing and we shouldn’t expect or want students to be on technology for that long. So think about how students can be most successful and HAPPY while learning at home. We want to encourage healthy realistic routines so that students feel comfortable and know what to expect. Communicate with parents and help them establish their “school routine” at home. HERE is another great resource for Teaching Digital Routines to students!
Platforms for Student Work
There are SO many amazing platforms to house all of the students’ work and learning how to use them is so important for us as teachers, our students and their families. Knowing how to use the platform and being able to troubleshoot for families is going to be a key component in digitally managing your classroom. No matter what platform you use with your students, make sure that you allow ample time for students to practice navigating through that learning space and learn about all the digital tools they need to be successful.
Just like in the classroom, students need to have routines and procedures for digital learning as well. How do we get help? What are the tools I have? How do I log in? Think of everything you can think through while setting up a successful virtually learning space for your students. Seesaw is one of my favorite tools to use with primary learners. You can check out a detailed Seesaw post HERE! Google Classroom is another platform that is really cool to use because you can house all of your important documents and links for the entire year!
In Google Classroom, you can set up a specific spot for students to go if they are unsure. You can add things like office hours, contact info, daily schedule, and so much more. This is a great way for students to go if they forget something or have a question without relying on you constantly. Designing a Bitmoji classroom is definitely the new thing! With these you can embed links for so many other platforms, such as Epic or Vooks, into your classroom for your students to access.
While we’re on the topic of Google- let’s talk about how Slides is AMAZING for SO many reasons. As stated earlier, I love that Google can house so many resources and tools for students to use. I have reached out to a wonderful teacher friend who is currently teaching exclusively online and did so this summer as well. Here is what she said to say about Google:
“The most helpful thing for me was to have everything I needed on Google Slides (learn more about using Google Slides HERE. I made a slideshow where each slide held a different part of the morning meeting routine: the greeting, share, activity, and morning message. During the meeting, I share my screen to help guide us through the meeting, share visuals with the students to help them focus, and have all the links and videos I need in one spot! Some things that work well for digital greetings are songs, chants, guessing games, and greetings in other languages. I always had the words of the greeting and/or a visual to signify the greeting on my Google Slides to help students know what was coming, to help other teachers or parents supporting students, and to help myself remember the greeting! It also serves as an extra practice for fluency.” – Zeba
Setting and reaching goals is a great way to manage your classroom. It opens up doors for growth mindsets, perseverance and excitement when they are reached. Helping students sit down and think through what they want to accomplish throughout the year has the power to be a really big motivator. These goals also don’t necessarily need to be academic. Check out this digital goal-setting sheet that I love using! I love using this to set a reading and math academic goal, as well as a SEL goal. It’s also a great tool for students to reference throughout the year and update it when they surpass their goal! Once each student sets a personal goal, you can set class goals and earn rewards as you meet them!
Meeting goals usually comes with incentives because we like to be rewarded right? However, this is yet another thing we have to figure out how to do digitally. How can we excite, engage, and incentivize students virtually? I have already seen SO many creative ideas that teachers have! If you subscribe, you will have exclusive access to this digital choice board FREEBIE to help motivate students!
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One cool idea is using a digital class marble jar! The students earn marbles for any expectations they meet! It could be things like showing up to a Zoom call or turning in quality work. This is a great way to have the students work as a team and earn a reward they would all love to have!
Other incentives could be to work towards a wacky hat or mismatched day or even a socially distanced picnic with select friends. Whatever motivates them! Using a survey would be a great way to get to know your students and what motivates them. I have some digital forms you can use HERE!
Digital Stickers are all the rage right now! There are SO many amazing stickers out there to motivate students to turn in quality work. I have seen many cute ones that let students know they need to try again or that they’ve done a great job! HERE are some of my favorites from @creating4theclassroom.
Reward coupons are another great way to recognize a students’ hard work! There are TONS of easy CHEAP ways to reward students. Check out these brand NEW digital reward coupons from @theprimarypartner HERE! She also has this amazing digital management FREEBIE that can be found HERE!
I know I shared this one before but I just LOVE yard signs! They are such an inexpensive way to motivate students! Just think how excited they would be to be the Student of the Week and wake up to a yard sign!
Having a Student of the Week is another great motivator I have seen teachers using. They get a special digital form to complete about themselves to share with the class! This is such a fun way to get to know each other and motivate students to do well.
Another great idea I’ve seen is called Secret Message. Whenever students are following online expectations, they earn a letter. When they reveal the whole word, they get to vote on their virtual reward! How fun would that be?! Check out @thesouthernteach to learn more.
I’ve also included TONS of digital learning rewards in my Classroom Community blog post HERE! When it comes to incentivizing students, remember to reflect on the definition of equity. HOW we go about motivating students is just as important as doing it. Be mindful of your students’ living situations and what THEY are able to do. It’s one thing to reward students for turning in quality work, but it’s another to expect them to do something they are not able to while rewarding another student. For example, I do not believe in expecting students to complete work at the same time as others or requiring students to be on a Zoom call in order to receive a reward. Think about catering your incentive rewards to your students just as you would cater differentiated lessons based on their skills.
Here is what another wonderful teacher friend had to say about incentives:
“When students turn in activities assessments and things like that in Google classroom or seesaw I always make sure to comment on them. Whether I’m typing a comment as a private message in google classroom or I am recording my voice to reply to them on Seesaw. I’ve also used flip grid and the students can record videos there and I will record a video response back to them and they seem to be loving that as well. Not only is This great for communication but it also builds community and our classroom not just between me and the students but between me and the families as well. As far as incentives go right now I’m really focusing on positive reinforcement and calling the kids out when I see them being the best they can be. A lot of the times I feel like the kids just want to be seen and they want to be told that they’re doing a good job.” – Stacey
Follow Stacey for more amazing ideas @mrsrappsclass
I LOVE using hand signals in the classroom. They are a great way to communicate with each other while minimizing the interruption of a lesson. Using signals is an awesome classroom management practice and they could easily be used in a virtual classroom as well. I specifically created these visual reminder cards for online learning HERE!
Check out what @kindergartencafe had to say about hand signals too!
“I also like to use the “me too” non-verbal signal. It is the same as the American Sign Language symbol for “me too”. Thumbs and pinky are out straight, other fingers are tucked inside, and then you move your hand from your chest to straight out in front of you. I have the students use this when they agree with what someone is saying, if they wanted to say the same thing, and/or if they had the same experience. For example, if someone said that over the weekend they went to the park, anyone that also went to the park could show that by using this symbol. Similarly, I like to teach my students the ASL symbol for “different” so that they can show when they had a different experience or they respectfully disagree with someone. To make this sign, you put your two pointer fingers out crossed on top of each other and then slide them across each other.” – Zeba
How we go about our lessons are going to be crucial in maintaining a productive classroom environment. Lessons in general are obviously going to look MUCH different and delivering mini lessons over a screen are going to be so important. For starters, the reason they’re so important is because they’re MINI. There is significant research that students lose focus after about 6 minutes so make sure your lessons over the screen doesn’t exceed that before you engage them in some interaction.
I’ve seen that platforms such as Edpuzzle and Nearpod have begun to include more engaging tools to use while teaching. For example, you record your lesson through that platform and while students are working through your lesson, they can interact with the content while learning! You can add questions for students to answer and link a quiz for them to take after learning. This can help break up your lessons into more digestible chunks. Be sure to teach a mini lesson on live lesson expectations! There are things that will need to be explicitly taught and practiced to make sure your lessons run smoothly, such as, muting microphones, sharing video, sharing screens, and typing in the chat room.
Think About What’s Important
Here again is where we need to think about equity. We know it’s important to know the type of home environment our students go home to. But here we must think that many of our students are going to be working from home and we need to ask ourselves some questions before we set our expectations. What is their home life like? Will they have their parents supporting them daily? Are they going to be working by themselves at home? Will they be in the same room as other siblings doing virtual work? Do we expect students to log in all at the same time and work at the same time? Is that fair? This is just something important to think about when planning HOW to teach students in the parameters you are given. If you are currently teaching a hybrid model, @simplyacuteideas is doing some great things!
A new topic I’ve recently heard of is asynchronous learning. This is when you pre-record a lesson, have students access the learning independently on their own time, and then allow them come back to you with questions at a pre-scheduled time. I’ve also seen teachers that actively sit on a Zoom call or Google hangout as a support while they have students work through the lesson independently. This is definitely a new way to think about teaching but I see how it could be very beneficial for students.
There are lots of different ways to conduct teaching digitally, but I think with freedom allowed, trying different types of ways and seeing what works best for your students, and ultimately YOU, is going to be your best bet. Digital learning paths are something I’m super excited about creating that will include everything a student needs to learn a skill. It will be a tool that houses teaching resources, activities for students to practice in engaging ways, and assessment components… all in one place! If you have any specific skills you would love to have for your students, please let me know!
When you have no idea what your classroom will look like, it’s hard to think about what small groups will look like. In the classroom, we know the kids will definitely have to be socially distanced but think about all the space they’ll have to work! We need all the positive thoughts right? Virtually, this could work out pretty nicely too. Especially with new BREAKOUT ROOMS! Zeba also added some really important reasons why to use small groups while teaching virtually.
“I also would add that as much as possible, offering small groups is the best way to get to know your students and to give them a chance to get to know each other. This way they don’t have to mute and unmute. They can just talk with each other! You can hold optional groups based on interests and then let the students actually talk to each other. You can be there to support their conversational skills. This is the kind of thing they would normally get to do during snack or lunch, but won’t be able to do this year.” –Zeba
BE PRESENT and Flexible
I’ve said before but I’m going to say it again, we have to be present. I believe this is one of the most important ways to manage your digital classrooms. Connection is key and it’s already a struggle to build connections solely on a screen. Fostering that connectedness can be done by staying present and limiting as many distractions as you can. I know this will not be possible all the time but try to be present with students as much as you can. Also, be flexible! Give yourself and your students the flexibility to make mistakes and grow together. Stacey had something really powerful to say about connectedness.
“When we have our “recess breaks “during zoom I tell the kids they can get up, go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, get a snack stretch but a lot of them like to sit and chat with me. And at the end of the day we come together in zoom I tell them a plan for the next day and together we say “don’t forget to be awesome “. They usually exit out but they also like to stay a little after class and chat. I’ve met little brothers and sisters, seen Lego builds and Barbies. I don’t mind staying after to chat with the kids because it just brings us closer together as a classroom family.” – Stacey
You’ve Got This
We have the opportunity this year to get to know our students on an even deeper level. It really is going to take a village this year. But we CAN and we WILL make this the best year EVER for our students. They deserve it! I hope these ideas sparked some things to think about when managing your classroom digitally and you feel a tad less overwhelmed going into these never before experienced school year! If you need anything at all please don’t hesitate to ask. I am working tirelessly to support YOU this year!
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