16 Ways to Use Virtual Meetings in Your Classroom7 min read
One of the best ways to engage students in a distance learning classroom is through virtual meetings. Using platforms like Zoom, Skype, Google Meets, or Microsoft Teams, teachers can use the following ideas to connect with students, deepen learning, and engage them in virtual meetings.
1. Whole Group Instruction
Whole group instruction is best used to introduce big ideas and concepts to students. Whether the teacher is lecturing, telling a story, or sharing a single important piece of information, it is essential that whole group instruction in virtual meetings is short and concise (no more than 15 minutes without a brain break). Once an idea or concept is introduced, then the teacher can use virtual meetings in other ways to engage and teach their students.
2. Small Group Instruction and Workshops
In small groups teachers can be more detailed in their instruction. In groups of 3-5, the virtual learning can be more conversational and discussion based. The teacher can demonstrate a skill, and students can practice that skill with the teacher present.
3. Guest Speakers
Technologies like Zoom, Skype, and Google Meets make it possible to invite experts to be a part of your class. Whether it’s a zookeeper, a scientist, a local author, or even one of your students’ parents, guest speakers make learning more authentic for students. Most people will say yes to joining your class virtual meetings; they often just need to be asked.
Here is an email template for inviting guest speakers to your class.
4. 1-on-1 Check-Ins
This is scheduled time to make personal connections with students. Find time to connect 1-on-1 with each one of your students at least once a month. The meeting might only be 3-5 minutes but will have a positive impact on your relationship with them, which often leads to increased engagement.
Some questions you can ask students in 1-on-1 check-ins are:
- How are you (really) doing?
- How is your family?
- What are you doing best right now with school?
- Where do you think you are struggling the most in school?
- What is something I can help you with?
5. Small Group Check-Ins
In designated, regular small groups, meet with students to check-in. You can discuss personal lives, academic content, or just have small talk. Students can discuss with each other and also with you. By having these dedicated times in virtual meetings with small groups of students, personal connections are strengthened between peers and with their teachers.
6. Class Discussion
Research shows that class discussion is one of the best ways for students to learn effectively. This applies to virtual meetings as well. Discussions are best done in smaller groups where it is less intimidating for students to participate. Teachers can assign discussion leaders to moderate discussions, especially if they are done in breakout rooms where the teacher is not present. It’s also valuable to have discussion ground rules that are stated before every class discussion in virtual meetings.
Here is a ‘Discussion Ground Rules” PDF.
Virtual meetings are a great place for group-games like Trivia. The teacher can ask the trivia questions, and students can respond in the comments section. Virtual meetings trivia is fun way to review content and make learning interactive.
A great tool for online trivia is Kahoot.
8. Student Collaboration
Collaboration doesn’t mean people are working together in each other’s presence at all times. Collaboration means having a common goal and using each other’s ideas and resources to accomplish it. Teachers can give group projects, and students can have scheduled time where they meet with their group members to check in with each other, brainstorm ideas, and share their work. They can then take what they gained from collaboration meetings to work individually.
Here are resources that can help you and your students collaborate successfully in virtual meetings.
9. Virtual Field Trips
Use virtual meetings to take your students to places you would unable to go in a physical classroom. From aquariums to museums, virtual field trips are a fun and engaging way to change the scenery in a virtual classroom.
Here are some places you can plan for your next virtual field trip.
10. Teacher Read-Alouds
Whether you teach young children or teenagers, everyone wants to be read to! Use virtual meetings to read to your class. With younger students, you can hold the book up to the camera and ask students to read along (on mute). With older students, they can read along with their own copies, you can take volunteers to read, or you can also just read to them.
11. Tell Stories
No matter how much technology has advanced, storytelling is still one of the most powerful tools in the human arsenal. Keep telling stories to students, even in virtual meetings. Tell personal stories, academic related ones, or ask students to share theirs. And just because the stories are being told from a computer screen, still inject passion and enthusiasm into them. Energy and enthusiasm are essential for virtual meetings.
Ask students to share a bit of their lives with the rest of the class in virtual meetings. They could show their pets, a treasure that is meaningful to them, something they are working on at home, or really anything that they would be proud to show their peers. While show-and-tell is fun, it is also great presentation practice for students in a virtual meeting.
13. Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunts are an interactive and physical way to engage students in virtual meetings. Ask students to find a specific item in their house to share with the class in the meeting. Give a set amount of time for them to hunt. For instance, you could give kindergartners 3 minutes to go find an item that is shaped like an oval. With a high school English class, you could ask students to find an item that represents a theme in the novel they are reading. Distance learning scavenger hunts are fun way to make learning content personal and meaningful.
14. Student Presentations
In virtual meetings, teachers are not the only ones who should do the talking. In fact, when students present, the learning can often be more effective. Use Jigsawing to have students master a specific set of content and share their learning with the rest of the class. In doing so, students are learning their assigned content at a deeper level because they know that they will have to present it. Meanwhile, the rest of the class is learning from their peers, which has measurable benefits.
Learning more about Jigsawing here and then apply this strategy to virtual meetings.
15. Teacher-Parent-Student Meetings
Teachers can use virtual meetings to meet with parents and students. During your ‘office hours,’ allow parents to schedule time to meet virtually with you. These can be for remediation meetings, clarification, IEP’s, or celebrations.
Make sure that when you are having private meetings with students and parents that you use a private meeting room link that other students do not have access to.
Whether it’s Mad Libs, 20 Questions, or Guess the Sound, virtual meetings can be for fun non-content-related activities. At least once a week, make time for students to have intentional fun in a virtual meeting. This will heighten student engagement and form deeper connections with students and their teacher.
Here are some great virtual icebreaker activities.