Photo: Zoey, age 6, learns to type at her at-home workspace.
When the school day starts with students logging in instead of walking into your classroom, it helps to set up some routines and procedures to make sure you can grab and keep their attention as you teach. Attention is a limited resource—the brain can only focus on one thing at a time—and it’s natural for minds to wander.
Student Engagement Strategies for the Online Learning Environment
When teaching online, it’s not as easy to see that students are getting distracted and bring them back. That’s why it’s important to help students set up a workspace at home that minimizes distractions, keep students engaged from the beginning of a lesson, build in ways to sustain their attention, and establish nondisruptive ways for them to communicate with you when they’re struggling.
Help students set up their workspace.
Elementary students will need help setting up a space for schoolwork in their homes, so provide guidelines to both students and their caregivers about what is needed. Here’s what they will likely need:
- A quiet space that’s free from distractions: Show students and their caregivers your workspace and list the key elements. Having a room with a door that closes is ideal, but the kitchen table or a bedroom corner can work just as well with some adjustments. Face the workspace away from the television or other distracting devices, and send siblings or other family members who are not engaging in quiet work to another room. Clear clutter from visible surfaces—a pile of papers or toys that haven’t been put away can lead to mind wandering.
- Materials required for the lesson: Have students gather the materials they will need for the lesson beforehand by sending out a list of what’s required the night or week before. (e.g., notebook, graph paper, pencil)
- Headphones: Encourage students to use headphones, as this reduces distractions and dampens background noise.
- Webcams (if available and appropriate): Tell students whether and how you want them to use webcams. Student webcams can help teachers monitor their students’ attentiveness, but not all students have access to a webcam and seeing their other classmates’ video feeds may be more distracting than helpful. If you want to use webcams, you might limit their use to only when a student is speaking or only for small-group, collaborative activities.
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