Since the start of the pandemic, many schools have students enrolled in remote learning. If you are a kindergarten or early elementary school teacher, this means you now have to create online lessons for students that are interesting and educational.
So, how do you make your online class engaging?
It all boils down to focusing on the amount of interaction between you and your students. When interaction increases, class engagement goes up.
Here are eight strategies guaranteed to increase interaction and make your online class exceptionally fun and valuable for your young learners.
1. Recreate Your Students' Learning Environment
You want to set the tone of how you want your class to feel, the moment they enter. You don’t want your students to see your nightstand prominently displayed behind you or dirty dishes as part of your class décor.
Instead, create a background for the space you are teaching in. Decorate it with house plants, flowers, vibrant curtains, book displays, or charts to make your students feel like they are in a learning environment.
You can also use digital backdrops that can be swapped easily, depending on lesson topics or whenever you feel like making a change.
Part of recreating an optimum learning environment for your students is to minimize distractions that can interrupt your class. This is not the time to run noisy appliances such as dishwashers and blenders.
If you are living with family or other people, establish rules for them to follow. Explain the rules, and display a sign to remind everyone not to knock, call, or barge into your class while you are teaching.
2. Use Props
Children love to pretend. And using props like masks, toy balls, silly hats, toy microphones, stuffed toys or dolls can help you make your class more memorable.
You can also use online learning props such as whiteboards, flashcards, diagrams, and maps to reinforce what you are teaching to your students.
3. Keep It Simple
Your students have to remember many rules when they are in your online classroom. In addition to following your instructions, they have to absorb new information and concepts being taught to them.
This can lead to cognitive overload in your students. According to research, cognitive overload is when the mind is overloaded with more information that it is able to process.
They are especially prone to this when using online platforms. And as a result, they may withdraw or shut down completely in your class.
It’s important to keep lessons simple and teach one concept at a time. Let’s say you are teaching opposites. Focus only on the opposite words you’ve targeted for the lesson and not get into how to spell the words or move to a totally different teaching point altogether.
4. Keep It Moving
Just because they are sitting in front of a computer doesn't mean they have to stay there for the entire lesson.
Have fun moments and play games like “Follow the Leader,” where you choose a leader—which could be yourself or someone else in the class, and have the rest of the class follow the chosen leader. Or challenge them to see how many jumping jacks or push-ups they can do in one minute.
You can even have scavenger hunts, and send them around their house looking for objects you want them to find.
You can also play games related to what you are teaching that encourages them to move.
For example, if you put up questions on the screen for your students to answer, let them run in a circle if they get the answer right or hop twice if they get it wrong.
5. Use Technology to Your Advantage
If you want to infuse some digital fun to your lesson, use your platform to share eBooks, music and YouTube videos for your students. Platforms such as Zoom have features like whiteboards or blank canvases where both you and your students can doodle on. You can play hangman, tic-tac-toe or even have picture drawing competitions with your students.
6. Be Expressive
Think of yourself like an actor in a movie. When the cameras are on, your job is to capture your audience's attention, and guide their intellect and emotions to where you want it to be. You can do this through your expressions, gestures, and voice.
For instance, vary your pitch from high to low while telling stories, or explaining a point. Or , use exaggerated facial expressions and hand gestures to make them interested in what you have to say.
With young children, high energy and expressiveness is important while teaching so that they don’t lose interest in your class.
When you bring enthusiasm, it’s more likely you will see your students reciprocate.
7. Communicate With Parents
For successful online classes to happen, it is essential to involve and communicate with your students’ parents. At the beginning of each term, create messaging groups where both you and their parents can chat about their child's personality, as well as class performance and behavior expectations.
You can also ask them for suggestions or ideas about the kinds of activities they would like to see in the lesson. Use email newsletters to let parents know ahead of time if there is something their child has to bring to class.
8. Use Fun Hand and Keyboard Gestures
Encourage your students to use fun gestures with their hands and keyboard to show their understanding. If they get the answer right, give them a virtual high-five. Similarly, tell them to make a thumbs up sign if they understand, or thumbs down if they don’t understand. Or they can send smiling, heart, or frowning emoticons to express their feelings.
Another fun keyboard trick to encourage participation is to have class votes on anything you want them to do. Explain to your students that they have to press a number on their keyboard, to choose what they want to do next. And the option that gets the most clicks wins. For instance, tell your students if they want to answer a question, press “1” or if they would rather draw a picture, press “2.”
Teaching Online Does Not Have to Be Boring
By incorporating these tips in your lesson, you’ll be ready to teach your best class ever online. More interaction, along with positive energy and preparation will go far in making your lessons enjoyable for both you and your students.