In the recent webinar, “Zoom to Boom: Embracing the Science of Instruction in the New School Year,” Dr. Anita Archer, a specialist on the design and delivery of instruction, shared essential remote learning strategies for the 2020–2021 school year.
During her presentation, Archer described the effective methods of explicit instruction to consider for in-person classrooms and fully virtual circumstances.
Archer believes in creating an environment where quality instruction is the path toward learning. She emphasized the importance of utilizing evidence-based practices that include bell-to-bell instruction, body and close opportunities to respond, consistent monitoring of performance, useful feedback, and judicious practice in optimizing learning in the new school year.
The following are 10 tips, tricks, and takeaways from her presentation:
1. Use available technology to enhance learning.
There are thoughtful ways teachers can make use of technology tools to enhance the remote-learning experience and make instruction more visual and easier to follow. An example of a useful visual trick is to use a larger cursor—like a pointer—to show students what they need to focus on when you’re teaching virtually.
2. Teach the stuff and cut the fluff.
Identify and target the most critical content your students need to learn to reach mastery after months of missed learning time. Reading development is paramount, and a good knowledge of decoding and language comprehension needs to be a focus.
3. Don't wait to teach.
Every moment of learning counts this year. During online lessons, greet your students as they enter the virtual room and jump right into your instruction. It will set the tone for the class time. Too much socialization early on creates a distraction, so teach and then socialize at the end.
4. If you expect it, pre-correct it.
You know your students! Think about the challenges they might face in virtual learning and put measures in place to prevent obstacles to their success. Intentionally establish positive teacher–student relationships that support learning in the classroom and virtually.
5. Make learning visible.
Elicit frequent responses from students throughout each lesson—whether on a whiteboard, a notecard, in the chat, or using their voices. As responses go up, so does learning, while management issues tend to decrease.
Responses can come in verbal, written, reading, action, and technology-driven form. A teacher asking students to raise their hands is popular, but it tends to highlight those who are confident they know the answer. The exercise of holding up cards, for instance, can be a great resource because—unlike the volunteering of raising hands—it forces all students to respond.
"As the new school year approaches with so many unknowns, how will instruction be delivered? Will it be in person, virtually, or a blended model? How will time, space, and connections be structured?"
6. Break down complex content.
When introducing new, complex knowledge, “chunk” it into segments to avoid overwhelming students. "Cognitive overload” happens when students receive more information than they can take in. Your instruction can still keep a brisk pace if you build time for absorption into your lesson plans. Continue to reinforce tricky topics and connect new knowledge to what students already know.
7. Predictability predicts ability.
Teach predictable routines in the virtual environment to make learning more natural. It's important to create support for teachers and students through management procedures and a well-organized environment. For example, close out each lesson by circling back to highlighted ideas.
8. Provide clear expectations.
What we expect is what we get! Establish your expectations for the classroom early and often. Make them predictable and clear. Provide pre-corrections, because if you expect it, pre-correct it. For example, if you’re in the classroom, preemptively reinforcing that students should not share their face masks by using phrases such as, "Your mask is your mask" is a good example of providing a pre-corrective safety measure.
9. Acknowledge your students' successes, large or small.
Catch your student doing a good job, give continual productive feedback in the form of praise, honor their work, and encourage growth. Correction is most effective through positive feedback and reinforcement. Smiling with students online is a simple form of recognition. When you recognize achievement and value, one is motivated to do more as a result. With the continuation of online learning in the fall, this will be even more critical. Remember the motto: “Affirm and inform” because feedback "feeds forward."
10. Maintain a perky pace while connecting with students.
Avoid the void, for they will fill it!
Look for the good in students and maintain a quick pace to teaching. Intentionally establish positive teacher–student relationships that support learning in the classroom and virtually. It's important to remember the following: Connect, connect, connect.
Be kind. We need to be very kind to ourselves, family, neighbors, staff, and children. Teachers have the most capability of spreading kindness.
No matter the platform of teaching—in class, virtual, or hybrid—monitoring responses remains imperative. For teachers in school classrooms, feeling safe from COVID-19 is always at the forefront. Distance measures are changing the monitoring process, but it’s still essential to listen carefully to student responses while also being aware of group inclusion to ensure equity during the learning process.
Next . . .
Download a PDF that succinctly lists Archer’s strategies.
Watch the full recording of Archer’s webinar, “Zoom to Boom: Embracing the Science of Instruction in the New School Year.”