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[Teacher Tips] Educators Share Their Approach to Engaging Students

[Teacher Tips] Educators Share Their Approach to Engaging Students

In November, we held a webinar series in partnership with Dale Carnegie about engaging students in virtual learning. We asked educators to tell us what challenges they’re facing with their students and what they’re doing to overcome those challenges. From the 100 educators who responded, we identified a few common themes in how approaching student engagement has changed over the last year and highlighted a few of our favorite comments:

Talk Less, and When You Do, Be Meaningful

In our first webinar in this series, Building a Solid Foundation for Virtual Teaching, our presenter Matt Norman shared a tip about talking less to stay engaging. He suggested approaching teaching in virtual lessons as if you have a “shot clock” on you, counting down to 90 seconds before you have to wait for student participation. When you set this expectation of creating a dialogue, students know they have to stay focused. Educators agreed in the feedback they provided.

  • I use a great deal of verbal praise for positive participation
  • I keep things short, sweet, and to the point, understanding that we have minimum contact time with students
  • I do less talking and let [my students] lead more
  • I engage in class conversation as much as possible
  • I have learned how important the non-subject-related daily conversations that I have with my students are
  • I am a lot more verbally encouraging, now
Adapt and Be Flexible

I think that everyone has learned to be a bit more adaptable over the last several months. Many educators have prioritized staying flexible as they continue to figure out what works best for their students.

  • [My mindset has] become more adaptive and focused on problem-solving—seeing where and how adjustments can be made to improve the virtual learning experience for students
  • I definitely think outside the box now
  • I try to provide different kinds of supplemental materials to meet everyone’s needs
  • I am more tolerant of students than ever before
  • I try to have an open mindset; [I am] always looking for ways to grow
  • I am focusing more on ensuring they get the big picture outcomes rather than the more specific details
  • I am constantly changing to find various ways to keep students engaged
  • I have learned to experiment and have fun
Provide Emotional Support First

Many educators are overcoming the engagement barrier by trying to focus on building meaningful in-class relationships and supporting their students’ social-emotional learning [SEL] needs.

  • I am supporting [students’] social-emotional needs so that they are more open to engaging with the curriculum and reach out with questions
  • I find that students like to be supported emotionally and that they like having chances to engage with their peers so that they don’t feel disconnected
  • I have been incorporating a lot of social-emotional sessions or activities into my lessons
  • I try to include more enrichment and mindfulness activities; we all need help maintaining our mental health right now; calming music while we work is part of my classroom atmosphere
  • I am focused more on making sure that students’ mental health is a focal point with ever class—making sure that I incorporate SEL in some way to continue to encourage them as we are virtually completing school
  • I am trying to alleviate stress by keeping things fresh and light
Stay Exciting and Innovative

Overall, educators are making an effort to stay fun as they teach online. Whether it means pretending they’re a YouTube broadcaster or putting more focus on games, many educators have seized the opportunity to let their creativity really shine when teaching online.

  • You have to stay fun and interactive to engage students
  • Keeping the learning activities as fun as possible is my top priority
  • I’m enjoying finding ways to make virtual school fun
  • My focus is ensuring students are excited to come to my class
  • I am being more creative and innovative about how to engage students; I have tried to find many visual aids to assist students since everything has to be so visual in fully virtual learning
  • I feel more confident and continue to explore available resources; I try to be innovative and creative to enhance learning, while promoting engagement and focus from my students
  • I have been incorporating a lot more images, videos, and games/group quizzes—or activities—into lessons
  • I use humor a lot, especially in our Google Meets; it helps me connect to my students

One thing we’ve learned is that there is no right or wrong way to engage students in virtual learning. There are challenges, but educators across the country continue to do their best to figure out how to adapt. If you’re looking for more tips to engage students, check out our Engaging Students webinar series.