Tips for Remote Instruction

As a result of the global pandemic, schools across the world shut their doors. Globally, over 1.2 billion children were out of the classroom at some point during 2020, and school closures and remote learning have continued into 2021. There is growing optimism that back-to-school 2021-2022 will be a better year for in-class learning, but remote learning appears to have become a fixture in the educational landscape for the foreseeable future.

Physical proximity to students is essential for teachers, yet remote learning has become a fixture.

The scramble to adopt online programs and adjust to remote learning has tested teachers, students, and parents to their very limits. The roles of all three have changed drastically. Parents have had to take on tasks normally done by teachers, teachers have had to learn how teach remotely, and students have had to adjust to online classes and have been isolated away from their peers and teachers.

Teachers have always understood the importance of physically being with their students in the classroom. Physical proximity is essential for engaging students who are off track, for recognizing students who are having difficulty, and for encouraging on-task learners. How can teachers maintain this connection while teaching remotely?

Be An Actor

Act as if you’re acting. Seriously, yell, make noises, or whisper. Vary the tone of your voice and use gestures to keep students’ attention focused on what you are doing. It’s much easier for students to be distracted or daydream when they are learning from their homes.

Talk to Your Students

Talk to individual students. Ask them about what they have been doing on the weekend, books they might be reading, movies they may have watched. Making this connection with your students can be done in a short conversation. The need for connection is especially important for students who don’t normally participate in online class. Take a few minutes once or twice a week to continue the conversation and keep the connection in place. Students are feeling isolated and disconnected and need to feel seen and heard. Ask your students how they are feeling and if there’s anything they want to talk about.

Students need to hear about the good work they’re doing. General or generic praise, however, not only gives students a false sense of accomplishment but can also lead to praise becoming meaningless. Be specific with praise and use this as another opportunity to break down that dividing wall.

Maintaining communication with parents will be a key focus for teachers.

Partner with Parents

Parent involvement is crucial for the success of remote learning. Parents and teachers must communicate effectively to help students adjust to remote learning and stay on track. Parents have always been essential for student success, but their role has taken on increased importance with the lack of classroom contact between students and their teachers. Parents are finding themselves having to provide guidance and instruction normally left to the teachers.

“Maintaining strong communication with parents and careers to create a suitable home learning environment, and to create a supportive online community of learners, will be a key focus for teachers in setting up successful online and distance learning.”

Teaching for Distance Learning

Since children have short attention spans, distance learning comes with challenges to learner engagement, especially from home. A virtual classroom should promote interaction. Interactive learning and instruction encourage students to pay attention since they are participating in a group event. Question and answer sessions, group discussions, and pair and share moments are all helpful in setting an interactive tone. Engage students and make sure the classroom is a place where it’s okay to be wrong because we are here together to learn.

Every member of the class should expect to speak in every class, and the norm should be that everyone contributes. Try to bring each student into the conversation using questions that elicit a response from everyone or rapid questioning that allows many students to participate in a limited time frame.

Let students be hands-on in your virtual classroom.
Be an Active Learning Instructor

Present students with the opportunity to be hands on in your virtual classroom. Have them measure objects and record their findings or sort shapes according to their attributes. If studying nutrition, have students read labels on common food items. Be sure to give advance notice of these activities so the students have the necessary tools at hand. Being hands on is a great way to keep students engaged and involved and to see the value in the current lesson in context.

Create quick ways for students to respond. Check in regularly to make sure they're learning. Open the group for questions.

Use Assessment and Check-ins to Monitor Learning

Implementing regular assessments will help you with remote learning. Assess more frequently on smaller pieces of learning. Students learning at home are more easily distracted, and small, frequent assessments will identify those students that are not keeping up.

These little snapshots will give students greater self-awareness and improve their ability to assess themselves. Use exit tickets to gage learning. Have students show you their work or explain a key concept at the end of a lesson before letting them leave and use that information to assess the student’s mastery level and what type of support they still need.

Regularly check in with students and make sure they’re learning. Call on your students throughout a lesson—not just at the end. Create some quick ways for students to respond. Have students raise one hand if they agree, both hands if they disagree. Check-in periodically to make sure students are following the lesson or story, ask for someone to summarize the central point of the lesson, and open the group occasionally for questions or discussion.

These strategies can help you engage and connect with students, despite the distance. If one of these ideas appeals to you, try it. Be realistic when setting goals for yourself and your students. Manage your expectations on how much material you can cover. Physical separation and other distractions at home, can prevent you from completing all the lessons you intended to cover. If you can maintain a good connection with your students and get through this school year together, you will have reached the most important goal of all.

Curriculum products can help address incomplete learning, online instruction and assessment.
Curriculum Resources Designed with Multiple Learning Environments in Mind

From catch-up tools that remedy incomplete learning to online instruction and assessment, curriculum programs designed for hybrid and digital learning environments can help remote instruction succeed.

  • Catch Up with CoachTM
    Focus on priority skills needed for success in current and future grades. Screening tests or unit tests identify learning gaps, then the program fills them by assigning lessons for teaching and reteaching, individually monitoring progress along the way.
  • Coach DigitalTM
    Differentiate learning using a wide range of resources providing instruction, reinforcement, and practice. Analyze students’ performance by standard to track growth and proficiency. An assessment builder enables data-driven decisions on next steps in learning.
  • Success Coach®
    Extend the reach of your teaching to every student, through active targeted instruction on key grade-level skills. Practice at two difficulty levels promotes mastery. Progress monitoring and reporting support and inform instruction.
  • Practice CoachTM Plus
    Lead students through increasingly rigorous content, in lessons that begin with a brief review and proceed to scaffolding and guided practice. Alternate solution methods are especially useful in reteaching students who are having difficulty mastering key concepts.
  • Support CoachTM Algebra I
    Provide support that’s specifically designed for students struggling with rigorous Algebra I content. Lessons contain extensive scaffolding to support students in achieving grade-level proficiency.
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Henebery, Brett (2021), University partnership brings real-world STEM experience to classroom, The Educator,
Johnson, Eric L. & Eckert, Jonathan (2021), 5 Ways to Take Some of the Distance Out of Distance Learning, Edutopia,
Weir, Kirsten (2020), Education & COVID-19 | Special Report: What did distance learning accomplish? American Psychological Association,