Let’s face it—it’s been challenging for adults to stay engaged during a remote working experience. While our kids are wildly adaptive (and usually much better with technology), distance learning is just that: distant. The lack of collaborative opportunities and the hangups of communicating over video conferencing and email can make it difficult to keep students engaged, even when they’re present over a live webcam.

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Here are some tips to encourage participation in a virtual world:

Don’t Skip Warmups

We find that online engagement is usually best once students warm up to the technology, and the way they look, feel, and sound while on camera. Take 15 minutes at the top of the class to stretch, vocalize, and complete an ice-breaker exercise.

Incorporate Non-Structured Movement Breaks

Excessive screen time can be a barrier to creative thinking. While many of us do a great job of incorporating activities like yoga and stretching, make sure to break up this structured movement with free-dance breaks and creative play every few hours.

Take Advantage of the Tools

Most video conferencing software allows for in-app chat and screen-sharing, which can be very helpful when sharing documents, exercise breakdowns, and images. Platforms like Zoom allow for smaller breakout rooms if you feel like kids could benefit from more 1:1 time.

Acknowledge Participation and Celebrate Individual Success

A remote environment can be demotivating to kids who are used to consistent facetime. Make a point to call out individual students to recognize their contributions to the group, and reward them for things as simple as showing up. It’s ok to make adjustments to how you measure “success”– we all need more things to celebrate!

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Speak Positively About Remote School

It’s easy to notice the downsides of our current situation. Under the stress of these current events, it’s important to model behavior that will encourage participation in the opportunities provided to us. Kids have a natural tendency to imitate the behavior and perspectives of the adults around them, so speaking positively about the unique qualities of remote schooling (pajama Fridays, anyone?) and approaching each activity with excitement can go a long way.

Save Time for Creativity

Many of us come from wildly artistic backgrounds and understand how a creative perspective can energize a disengaged room, or unstick a mental block. If this sounds like something you have experience with, find moments to share your favorite kinds of artistic expression with the students. For more ideas, check out these virtual activities to encourage creative thinking in a remote classroom.

Remember, this is brand new to all of us. As somebody tasked with facilitating a student’s remote schooling experience, you know more than anyone how important it is to remain patient and flexible in this strange landscape. With time, this experience can prove to be yet another highly specialized skill in your toolbox.

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