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Increase engagement in your online classroom, how to make lessons fun and engaging

Connecting via webcam isn’t always easy and it takes creativity to keep students’ brains stimulated!

In fact, teaching online requires you to use completely different skillsets compared to those used to teach in-person!

With the home environment being surrounded by potential distractions, keeping students engaged, motivated, and interested in their lessons can be one of the biggest challenges online teachers face. 

The question most of us online teachers ask ourselves at least once is: “How can I make the online classroom experience more exciting for my students?” 

Luckily, there are plenty of tips and tricks to help you increase engagement in the classroom

Let’s dive right in then.

Here are the 8 best tips that will help you learn how to make lessons fun and engaging in an online classroom:

  1. Present your best (online) self
  2. Use technology to your advantage 
  3. Find what inspires your students
  4. Set goals and help students stick to them
  5. Keep it interactive  
  6. Break down the lessons and make it digestible 
  7. Make your students feel valued 
  8. Be patient with your students 

1. Present your best (online) self

Visuals

If your students can see you via a webcam, make sure that not only do you look presentable, but the location that you’re in does too. 

Tip: a simple background works best to eliminate any distractions.

And that’s just the first step! 

If students can see your face, it’s going to be 100 times more motivating for them if you look engaged and interested in what they are saying (even if sometimes this requires all your saintly teacher patience!).

Also, your visual materials must be up to scratch.

Make sure your slides look clean and clear and any videos you use are of good quality.

Audio

Try changing the tone of your voice to introduce new activities or mix up the tempo of your class! 

Practice your storytelling skills and offer praise out loud. This can make a huge difference in encouraging your students.

And, again, make sure any audio clips you plan to use are of good quality.

Finally, this might be stating the obvious, but make sure you can teach your online lessons from somewhere with a reliable internet connection. 

Nothing will have students switching off their attention quicker than a crackly connection that keeps on cutting out.

2. Use technology to your advantage

Teaching online comes with its challenges, but it also puts a whole load of really cool tools at your fingertips. 

Whether you use whiteboards, pointers, virtual games, text editors, drawing tools, file editors, breakout rooms, or screen-sharing tools, you can use the technology you have to add variety to your lessons and keep students on their toes.

First of all, make sure you know how to use these virtual tools and take time to explain them to students, so they feel confident with using them too. 

Then think about how you might use them to liven up your lessons. 

For example, you could use fun rewards to entice students. 

There is no kid out there whose eyes don’t light up at the prospect of 30 seconds of free play on a drawing tool!

3. Find what inspires your students

Make real connections

The good news is, just like in any face-to-face classroom, the real key to getting your online students involved is to find out what inspires them and gives them a reason to be engaged in the classroom.

Whether you’re teaching English online or you are a classroom teacher turned virtual, use the same mediums you would use in a real-life classroom. 

Turn up the fun by playing music or just go to town with the drawing tool!

Don’t be afraid to try different things with your students until you find something that works for them.

4. Set goals and help your students stick to them

Another way to help online students stay on track with their studies (and keep a sense of purpose) is to set goals and remind them of their progress.

Setting goals for online learners

One simple way to introduce short-term goals into your online classroom is to make sure each lesson has a clear outline that you share with your student so they know where they are in the learning process and the context for any activity they are doing.

Then think about how you might reward students for finishing tasks (or, even better, for working hard) during a lesson.

You could try positive feedback, badges, points, playing games or doing other fun learning activities your students would like.

When it comes to long-term goals, going too far into the future might not be effective, but try taking time now and then to check in with your students and set goals together for the next month, three months, or six months down the line.

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Progress checks for online learners

For short-term progress checks, make sure you build continuity between lessons by doing quick revisions or quizzes on previous topics.

A great way to remind students of their long-term progress is by building up a portfolio of work with them so they can look back themselves and see how far they’ve come.

One way of doing this online is to start an achievement page.

If you are teaching kids, every time they achieve something, you can go to the achievement page and ask them to draw something that reminds them of what they’ve learned (you might want to make it an achievement tree they can add to or a trophy shelf.) With teens or adult learners, you might prefer asking them to write something.

As the course progresses, the page will fill up with reminders of successes and proud moments for your students.

5. Keep it interactive

Use technology

In a face-to-face class, it’s typical to give students some quiet reflection time to work alone or read a text.

But these kinds of activities don’t translate well in online classrooms.

Long, dense texts are challenging to read on a screen (it’s much easier to break things into chunks). 

Silence just doesn’t translate that well in virtual classrooms as it provides the perfect excuse for a student’s attention to drift elsewhere!

Planning activities that keep your students actively clicking, typing or talking throughout the lesson is the way to go. 

You can do this by asking lots of questions, including games and making sure learners have to physically do things like use drawing tools or type in the dialogue boxes.

And when you’re planning your lesson, you can make sure your student has to say something every three minutes or so.

6. Break down the lesson and make it digestible

Timing is crucial in online teaching, and you might find you need to break up your online lessons differently than you would with face-to-face ones.

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to keep a fast pace and break down information into small, easily digestible chunks. 

In practical terms, this means to steer clear of lengthy explanations and slides with too much text!

Mixing up the tempo of your lessons by adding a variety of activity types is also a great way to make the time fly by for your students.

You can also write your lesson plans for the online classroom with free lesson planners like Planboard

And for online English teachers, there are plenty of free resources out there to get you started. 

7. Make your students feel valued

The truth is, the isolation experienced by students studying in online classrooms can be a huge factor in making them feel demotivated. 

They might think that no one will notice or care if they miss a class, or find it all too tempting to not log in to the classroom if they’re feeling tired.

The best way online teachers can help remedy this is by making their students feel valued in the classroom. 

How do I do that, you ask? 

Here are some suggestions:

  • Learn your student’s name and use their name throughout the lesson, and make sure they learn yours
  • Follow up on what you did in previous lessons so your students know that you’re on top of what they’re learning (and they should be too)
  • Find out about your student’s interests and incorporate them into the lesson where possible
  • Give regular feedback on your students’ work
  • Aim to be a positive, encouraging and present

8. Be patient with your students

As anyone can tell you, keeping students engaged and stimulated is no easy task. Remember that young kids sometimes don’t have very high attention spans, so it can be hard for them to sit still and focus at times.

This is totally normal and okay! 

It’s essential to give them a break now and then and be patient with them.

Your students can easily pick up whether you’re annoyed or frustrated when something isn’t clicking.

And that makes matters worse. 

Give them a short break every now and then.

It’ll make a difference! 

Create a more engaging virtual classroom

Teaching online takes creativity.

Online environments can be challenging to master at first, but with a little effort and time, your students will be getting the best experience possible.

And, they’ll be excited to log into your classroom. 

To recap, here are the 8 ways to increase engagement online: 

  1. Present your best (online) self
  2. Use technology to your advantage 
  3. Find what inspires your students
  4. Set goals and help students stick to them
  5. Keep it interactive  
  6. Break down the lessons and make it digestible 
  7. Make your students feel valued 
  8. Be patient with your students 

We hope these tips gave you a great foundation for building better online classrooms, but don’t be discouraged if you still need a little more help.

If you need more help, you can always try our Online Teaching Strategies course to give you more confidence and ensure you smoothly transition into the world of online teaching. 

 

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