Wrangling students to work effectively in a group is difficult enough in the face to face classroom, so how do we manage it in the remote environment when every student is firmly stuck in their own silo? Some of you might have experimented with running classes via Zoom or Webex where all students contribute or even begin sidebar chats in break out rooms. If so, you probably deserve some type of ‘IT User Of The Year Award’ for conquering the twin mountains of technical glitches and student engagement.
However, for those of you looking for something more basic to facilitate meaningful student interaction, here are a few ideas:
1. If students are engaging in any activity which requires them to brainstorm ideas, such as arguments for a persuasive piece or points for a text response essay, get students to share their ideas through virtual pinboards or whiteboards like Padlet.
2. Establish routines where students share an example of their work or responses each week. Allowing students to see the work of other students creates powerful self and peer feedback opportunities particularly if you direct students to consider how other students approached the task and what they can learn from this. This could include writing short responses to prompts put on a medium such as Answer Garden (where you immediately get to see everyone else’s answer), posting example sentences on Padlet or using tools such as Socrative to create short writing tasks where students can see what everyone else wrote as soon as they submit their own work.
3. Establish a discussion board for your class and expect each student to write at least one post on the discussion board each week. Every school has an online platform such as Moodle, Compass, My School Box or Google Docs which has discussion board options. If you don’t know how to use these to create a discussion board, then use one of the dozens of free online tools such as https://yoteachapp.com. Discussion boards should feature a weekly topic which allows plenty of room for different opinions. So, create provocative statements for discussion. If you’re doing a text response unit this might be something like ‘There are no heroes in this text at all’ or if it’s a creative writing unit it might be a discussion like ‘Hemingway’s six word story is more powerful than the 1500 words of Jackson’s The Lottery‘. If you establish discussion boards, also set clear expectations around how students should respond such as:
- Students must post at least one response per week
- Students must read at least one other post before they respond (so you, as a teacher, will need to write at least one post first) and directly respond to at least one other post in their own post
- Responses must be a paragraph long and written in complete sentences
You can also engage in explicit instruction about how to write good discussion posts including what phrases and vocabulary to use such as these:
|What did someone say||What do you say in response|
in her/his post that “…”
Most students have been…
so far that…
|This is true because….
Another reason for this…
I’d add to this by arguing…
However, I’d counter this by arguing…
However, I disagree because…
However, a different perspective is…
But one thing that hasn’t been consider is…