Your lesson plan is ready, you’re awake and caffeinated, students enter the virtual classroom…but now what? How do you kick off the class? Our expert virtual teachers share their best practices for starting their virtual classes every day. Whether you are livestreaming into a brick-and-mortar classroom or are being joined by students streaming in from home, these tips can work to keep students engaged no matter where they are.
Teachers find that kicking off class with ice breakers builds rapport and helps students relax in the academic environment. Try a few new techniques at the beginning of your class to see what works best for you and your students.
- Greet Students Warmly
Convey your excitement to teach your class using tone of voice and demeanor. Students feed off the energy you set, even something as simple as greeting students by name as they enter the room will help them feel personally recognized and lead to higher engagement. Interacting with students from the moment they enter the virtual classroom allows them to feel welcome and lets them know you are happy to see them.
- Shout Out the Local Community
Do some research about the area where the school is located. You will feel closer to the students if you are knowledgeable about the region and can become informed on how their experience is outside of the classroom. Some ideas to show students that you care about where they live could be starting class with a picture of their state in your livestream background, asking students if they won this weekend’s football game, adding their local landmarks to your assignment questions, or asking if they are planning to play in the snow after school. When you acknowledge community experiences, you can get to know your students better.
- Social Emotional Check-Ins
Live virtual instructor Ms. Demsky Hudak begins her classes by sharing a graphic with nine animals showing different emotions. She then encourages her students to choose the number that represents how they feel that day and enter it in the chat. This daily exercise teaches students to be self-aware, plus she can gauge the general feelings of her students each day and adjust as needed.
- 10 Minutes of Social Interaction
Students need time to interact in virtual learning so their social skills are honed. They perform better academically when they receive the social stimulation they need. Once they tell their story or catch up with their friends, they will be much more prepared to listen to the day’s lesson.
- Play an Educational Game
Virtual teacher Ms. Comer recommends playing a game on Kahoot or Gimkit to engage students in the lessons and also gauge their understanding. Games can help you diagnose issues and remind you to review a topic if several students are missing a concept.
- Go on a Virtual Field Trip
Discovery, The National Aquarium and Farm Food offer virtual field trips to give learning experiences to students without the need for permission slips and travel. Start out your day wandering a museum, zoo or farm before kicking off a related lesson.
- Scavenger Hunt
Get their blood pumping by challenging students to a scavenger hunt. Give students three minutes to walk around the classroom or their home to find a book, something orange, a bottle of glue and something soft. Reserve a few more minutes to discuss what everyone found. After a short burst of physical activity, students will be more prepared to learn.
- Shake Your Wiggles Out
If the class is especially fatigued, encouraging them to get up, dance and move their bodies will energize students. Use a video with music and prompts to make it fun! Students can shake their sillies out, freeze dance or play simon says to prepare their brains for the day’s lessons.
- Take Deep Breaths
Some days are more stressful than others. If the class needs a moment of calm, lead them in breathing exercises. Inhale for three slow counts and exhale for five. Repeat the deep breaths for a few minutes in silence or with soft music playing. Deep breathing stimulates the mind so students can focus on the task at hand.
- Discuss the Agenda
Set student expectations for the class by describing the day’s schedule. Students will have a clear understanding of the flow and be more prepared for what is to come. Anxious students will be comforted by the predictability of a scheduled day.
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