Learn about effective teacher moves to increase engagement in remote classrooms

Handout: Student Engagement in Remote Classrooms

Click here to download this section to Word. 

Note: you will use this handout throughout the rest of this session.

Part 1: Best Practices for Engaging Learners in Remote Classrooms

  1. How often did you use cold call as a strategy in face to face lessons? What steps do you need to take to be comfortable using it often in remote lessons?






  1. When is a time that the chat window could become a distraction?






  1. How can you have students self-reflect on their engagement?






  1. What is the difference between instruction and content delivery?





  1. What will you personally need to ensure your organization for students and families is strong?






Part 2: Planning for Student Engagement during the Lesson Preparation Process

  1. Which of these lesson preparation practices are new to you?






  1. Which of these practices did you use during lesson preparation in a traditional face to face classroom?






Read through the annotated lesson plan.

  1. What do you notice about the notes to plan for student engagement?






  1. What can translate immediately into your own practice?






Best Practices for Engaging Learners in Remote Classrooms

Click here to download this section to Word. 

When engaging in synchronous lessons (students learning together online, or on the phone)

  1. Use routines to your advantage. Repeat activities (with different content) so kids know what is expected and how to do it. This way you can spend more time on content and less time on process.
  1. Normalize cold calling. It’s so critical to make sure students—who are in various physical settings—are always productively engaged. Explain to students early on that every time you ask a question you expect all students to think about it. Use cold call early and then use it often. This is the best tool for remote engagement. Pre-plan who you cold-call when as a part of your lesson preparation work. Ensure you use these opportunities equitably to check for all students’ understanding.
  1. Use clear/ precise instructions. Using as few words as you can when giving instruction and be as clear as possible. This will set up students for successful engagement.
  1. Teach and practice all expectations. If you haven’t already, check out Session 7: Setting Expectations. Spend time modeling and practicing expectations to increase engagement and success.
  1. Start synchronous lessons with an ice breaker. This will get kids talking and engaged with each other and you from the start.
  1. Be strategic about the chat window. Tell students when they should/should not use it. Consider how and when the chat window may be distracting to other students.
  1. Have students self-reflect on their participation in synchronous lessons. This will increase their ownership. Follow up with them 1:1 about their self-reflection.

Engagement Strategies Outside of Synchronous Lessons

  1. Keep the “easy” part easy. Ensure log-ins to any system are easily accessible at home. Create reference documents that are visual, simple, durable, and can easily be hung on a refrigerator
  1. Leverage 1:1 instruction over phone or video. 1:1 time can drive results fast by allowing you to individualize feedback, assess learning quickly, and build meaningful relationships.
  1. Provide instruction, not just content delivery. If your school/ district plan includes significant time for content delivery, be sure you provide instruction as well- this is where direct, active engagement happens between teachers and students.
  2. Master organization and labeling. Be sure your printed content, and online content is well organized and labeled. Include assignment titles, assigned dates, completed deadlines, etc. Kids and families should not be confused by their materials.

Planning for Student Engagement during the Lesson Preparation Process

Click here to download this section to Word. 

  • When planning your lesson, consider:
    • Will this part of the lesson be synchronous or asynchronous?
    • Will it be best if we are whole group or in breakout rooms?
    • Are there any built in tools (chats, surveys, polls, etc.) that would increase engagement without adding complexity because students know how to use them or can learn quickly?
  • When internalizing the questions in your curricular lesson, consider:
    • Which lesson-based questions provide opportunities students to make meaning from the text?
    • Which questions will foster discussions around the challenging sections of texts identified in section two?  (What answer would you want to see from students?)
    • Which questions will foster discussions around the challenging text structures that were identified in section two?  (What answer would you want to see from students?)
    • Are there sections of the text that may need to be re-read or allow time to pause for additional thinking to ensure that students are building knowledge necessary for the day’s outcome?
    • How will you ensure that all students are responsible for this rigorous thinking? What protocols will you employ?
    • Should students talk in pairs, small groups, or whole group?
    • What will my followup prompts be, if needed?

See the next resource (Resource 4: Lesson Plan Sample Annotated for Engagement) for a chunk of a lesson plan that is annotated with this process in mind.

Sample lesson details:

  • 3rd grade
  • CKLA lesson
  • Domain 2: Classification of Animals
  • Lesson 1: Classifying Animals by their Characteristics
  • Discussing the read aloud section

Annotation Key:

  • A letter is referring to a students’ initial; it indicates that I am predetermining who I will ask that question to
  • T&T means turn and talk
  • An “open cold call” means I am not deciding who to call in advance but will make the call in the moment based on the student engagement/ understanding I have seen to that point
  • In some places you will see planned follow up questions. For example:
    • Planning to ask, “How do you know?”
    • Planning a student or two to call on and ask if they agree or disagree and why
  • Volunteer means I will not cold call and just ask the question knowing I will get a volunteer to answer

Lesson Plan Sample Annotated for Student Engagement

Click here to download this section to PDF. 

Content Specific Engagement Criteria for Remote Classrooms

Click here to download this section to Word. 

Criteria for Strong Engagement in ELA (from the Tennessee Instructional Practice Guide)

  • Use questions and tasks that allow opportunities for students to do the majority of the work, and students engage in those opportunities via speaking/listening, reading, and/or writing.
  • Expect evidence and precision from students and probe students’ answers accordingly. Students should provide text evidence to support their ideas and display precision in their oral and written responses.
  • Cultivate reasoning and meaning making by allowing students to productively struggle, and students persevere through difficulty.
  • Create conditions for student conversations where students are encouraged to talk and ask questions about each other’s thinking, and students engage in those opportunities in order to clarify or improve their understanding.
  • Deliberately check for understanding throughout the lesson and adapt the lesson according to student understanding, and students refine their written and/or oral responses (if appropriate).

Criteria for Strong Engagement in Math (from the Tennessee Math Learning Walk Tool)

  • The teacher uses instructional practices that require students to explain why, to make strategic choices, and/or to make generalizations when students engage in and reflect on their work, including when working on procedural fluency standards.
  • The teacher uses questioning strategies that purposefully:
    • Encourage and support students to explain, to elaborate on, and to clarify their own thinking and the thinking of others.
    • Make the mathematics of the lesson more visible and accessible for student examination and discussion.
    • Elicit student thinking. The teacher makes adaptations to the lesson based on evidence of student understanding.
  • The teacher strategically selects representations and/or strategies for sharing (including student-created representations/strategies) and focuses conversations on the connections between representations that deepen all students’ understanding of important mathematical concepts.
  • When students appear to struggle, the teacher moves students forward by supporting students’ own use of the mathematical practices and by recognizing students’ effort and mathematical understanding.  Any scaffolds, “hints,” or other supports maintain the cognitive demand of the task.
  • Students are engaged in meaningful discourse with one another throughout the lesson in ways that deepen their understanding of the mathematics content.
    • Students share their developing thinking about the content of the lesson.
    • Students elaborate on their thinking to explain or clarify (spontaneously or prompted by the teacher or another student).
    • Students talk and ask questions about each other’s thinking, in order to clarify or improve their own mathematical understanding.
    • Students use precise mathematical language in their explanations and discussions.
    • Students revise their work (oral or written), especially their explanations and justifications, as a result of their discussions.