We usually are concerned with motivating students for testing this time of year. But it is March of 2020 and we are currently in the midst of the Corona Virus pandemic. Because of this, most of us are forced to participate in distance learning and interacting with our students through a virtual classroom. We now must pose the question, how can we find ways of motivating students to learn in the virtual classroom?
Though it may be challenging, I urge you to think of your virtual classroom in much the same way that you did in your “regular” classroom. It is hard to accommodate the needs of every type of teacher in this post because the virtual classroom and distance learning looks very different for everyone. Many teachers have different requirements from their districts and the grade level you teach can make a big difference as to what is considered “motivating students.”
However, it is my hope that with the variety of tips posted here, you will find at least one thing that will work for you in your virtual classroom setting.
1. Remain Hopeful – Create a Program and Give Rewards Later
This idea is specific to those teachers who are teaching virtually for a (hopefully) short period of time and anticipate seeing their students face to face at some point in the future. These teachers may be teaching in a virtual classroom due to a pandemic, prolonged weather shut-down or school issues.
If this describes you, read on. We all know that students are motivated by incentives… it’s just the nature of life. And this really goes for Elementary all the way through High School. If you’ve created some sort of incentive system in your physical classroom, don’t just let this system go to the way side. Each day you meet with your students in the virtual classroom, you can use this as a behavior management system to keep them engaged.
Tell students if you are caught ________ (writing, looking, speaking, raising your hand, whatever behavior you are looking for in your virtual classroom) your name goes into a hat. At the end of each week (or however often you’d like) you can have a raffle and choose a student who will earn a price or one of the incentives you implemented in class at the beginning of the year.
If, for some reason, you don’t end up going back to school you can mail them something like a certificate. For our intents and purposes, we won’t delve into the “what if we don’t go back” idea because at the beginning of this section, we stated to “remain hopeful.”
2. Get Them Involved
In the “regular” classroom this is much more simple, you can call on a student to come to the board, to write something, to share, to turn and talk, etc. Don’t think that just because you are in a virtual classroom that this can not be done. Whether you are teaching on video or you are using a system like nearpod or google slides, there are lots of ways to get them involved.
- Create a simple scavenger hunt for the week where students have to be on the lookout for something. This could be a reading passage, something in your virtual classroom (if you are teaching on video), a certain piece of clipart, etc. You may choose to use this as an option for suggestion number one and have a raffle for when you return to class or you can simply make some sort of a leaderboard that you display at the beginning or end of each class. If your school is having you grade work during this time, you could award extra credit to the top ___ on the leaderboard.
- Have students create a slide with an example problem for homework. Students love seeing their own work. After teaching a lesson, try to have your students (if they are old enough to do so) create a slide that you can display in future classes as a warm-up or wrap up. This can easily be done using a collaborative google slides document if your students know how to access it, or you can have them save and send it to you via Google Classroom or E-mail.
3. Make your lessons interactive by adding “games”
This is a fun way to get students involved in any age but it’s definitely most effective with in upper elementary. To make a lesson interactive, all you need is a PowerPoint you are using as a lesson, some knowledge of your students’ interest and a little creativity. Say your students like Minecraft, Kimberly Ring has a great video tutorial on YouTube on how to add a few slides to any lesson to make it a fun, interactive lesson.
Students will be motivated to continue to learn throughout the lesson because they will get to “punch out” creepers. Again, you can make this as simple as you’d like and as long as you already have a lesson in the form of a Powerpoint or Google Slides, it’s just a matter of inserting some clipart onto some random slides.
Making the Best of Video Teaching in a Virtual Classroom
For some, the virtual classroom is just that… a classroom that is set up and optimized for virtual learning. These teachers will have the opportunity to see their students via video or, at the very least, their students will see them. With this type of virtual classroom, it would be most beneficial if the teacher and students could interact with one another. In the nature of the current pandemic, however, those resources may not be available. At any rate, there are still some things you can do to motivate your students to learn through video.
1. Make it Pretty
If you will be recording yourself on video, it is imperative\that you set up an area that is visally appealing to students. This will look different depending on the grade and subject you teach but the idea is to give the students something to look at when the “come to class.” If every time they login to their teacher’s video they are looking at a blank wall with their teacher rambling about the subject, it will get dull very fast.
You can make this as simple as you’d like. You may choose to hang a couple of posters, maybe some artwork or something else from your classroom. This will make them feel more at home. Below, you will find some examples of some virtual classroom set-ups that some teachers have put together.