448050911201448 Distance Learning- 5 Tips for Maximizing Student Engagement | Polka Dots and Protons - Interactive Science Notebooks & More

My goal is to make interactive science notebooks engaging for 5th grade and middle school science students while improving science test scores. NGSS expert, teacher, tpt author, mom, & widow

Distance Learning- 5 Tips for Maximizing Student Engagement

We've all been tossed into a new realm in education, especially those of us who were in a traditional classroom. I teach science and love to keep learning interactive and hands on. Now, I've dealing with a 2D computer screen to engage my students.
This is a stock Zoom meeting photo. I wouldn't really put a pics of my students online.

I've found some tricks that have worked for me. I have 62 middle school science students and 42 of them joined our most recent Zoom meeting. It was optional. Considering, it was optional, I was SUPER happy with the turn out. 68% is a D if you were grading me. But for these circumstances, I think it is an A. They are in middle school and it was optional. That can be a tough audience. I have had every student engage in some way so far was we have been distance learning. So that is 100%!!!

Tips for Maximizing Student Engagement During Distance Learning:

Mystery Picture -from NewsEla article North Pole Lacks Enough Ice for Sculptures

  • Guess the Mystery Picture: 
Post a mystery picture on Google Classroom and have students guess what it is and how it relates to what we are studying. My brilliant teaching partner, suggested getting photos from News ELA because with the article we'd have a great story to tell too. Guessing what the mystery picture is gets students to comment on Google Classroom. The answer was revealed at our weekly Zoom chat meeting. I used a Google slide show to guide the meeting and there was a slide that answered the mystery pic. This is great to do on a slide show because then I posted the slide show on Google Classroom and students who couldn't make the Zooom meeting still learned the answer. We had some entertaining guesses. 

My favorite guess was: I think this ice sculpture looks like a person on a slide diving onto a huge coronavirus and little coronavirus' floating around him/her. (She went on to relate it to the thermal energy topic we were studying.)

  • Data Challenge: 
Each week, students collect simple data and share it in a Google Form. The data challenge is posted on Mon. and students complete it by Tues. evening. On Weds., I post the results and graphs (so easy with Google Sheets!) The data challenges are simple but get students engaged. 

We've counted how many items are plugged into the wall in one room. (energy conservation) We have taken our temperature and then again after exercising for 2 min. (thermal energy) We've also shot rubber bands and measured the distance they flew. (kinetic and potential energy)

  • Keep it Simple: 

This isn't the time to add stress to our students. I am a new widow. My own children have lost their father, had their home flood, and now are living through a pandemic. This has all happened in less than a year. These are mutliple, tramatic events. My heart pounds even when I'm resting. Let our original plans for the spring semester or trimester go. Just like Elsa, Let it go. 

Our kids need compassion and engagement. They will be okay even though we won't get to it all this year. You are saying but, but, but... Nope, I'm going to stop you if you are going there, you have to let it go. Move on. My life hasn't been going according to plan and it is what it is. We adjust and make the best of it. Limit emails. Be concise in our communication. Zoom once a week. Keep parents updated with a weekly email. We are all overwhelmed, lots of emails isn't going to work right now.

    Quizizz is so fun!

  • A Contest: 
Kahoots are fun but I love Quizizz because students can take them over and over. They put cheesy memes after each question too. Middle schoolers love a cheesy meme. They have prebuilt Quizizz games or you can modify one or make it yourself. It is great because you can share via Google Classroom. I sent the top two finishers treats in the mail. I let them know the game would be open until 5 pm on Fri. so we had a clear deadline. Learn more HERE.

  • Good Old Fashioned Mail: 
This is a tough time, on top of that, I have students in tough situations. We have a group home for foster youth in our district. I sent a package of treats and fun things to play with to these kids. They just need to know I care.

  • You already know this but... Give Feedback: 
Letting students know what they did well and that you appreciate the work they are doing goes a long way. If a student is struggling, offer a one on one Zoom meeting to answer questions. Be flexible. This is new territory for all of us.

What is working for your students? Let's learn from each other. I have a lot to learn right now. I did my first Screencastify today. Scary and I looked pretty goofy. I started with a cheesy science joke and then explained about this week's assignments. Blessing and health to all. This is tough  but you are the expert on what your students need. You've got this!