Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

10.21.20Some Handy Tools for Building Student Engagement in Online Classes

As most readers of this blog probably know we’ve been offering small group online webinar-style workshops this fall on remote teaching. The workshops allow us to connect to, share with and learn from teachers and school leaders everywhere and rarely a workshop goes by where we don’t learn something we can pay forward to teachers at the next one.

A session we ran last week was no exception. We discussed when and how to use six key Means of Participation:

Afterwards, Libby DeBell, who is Principal at Olympic Hills Elementary School in Seattle, wrote with a couple of great suggestions.

Her first was something called “sidebar buddies,” a variation of Turn and Talk that’s especially useful when you don’t have breakout room functionality on your meeting platform.

First, she advised, list one-to-one pairs of students on a PPT slide. Perhaps something like this:

Throughout the lesson, you can then ask students to chat individually to their sidebar buddy as a written Turn and Talk. One benefit, Libby notes, is that in some platforms the teacher can view all of the Turn and Talk conversations (and should share that at the outset, she notes!).

This is an idea we know works because we frequently used it on TLAC team meetings last Spring!

Another really useful idea Libby shared was this trick for tracking participation. “We have a teacher who has little slips of paper with each student’s name on them,” Libby wrote. “She puts them all in a column to the left of her laptop on her desk. At the start of class, she moves each student that is present into a column to the right of her laptop. Each time a student participates, she moves them over again. This way, she can track how often each student has participated (whether through cold call, volunteer, etc.)”

We love to use the phrase “voice equity” referring to a teachers role in making sure everyone is heard from during a class. We think this is a great way to manage that and can imagine slight adaptations (a check list, etc) depending on personal preferences.

Thanks to Libby and her staff for sharing these great ideas!

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