The Sage Oak Blog: Live Synchronous Instruction Strategies

Live Synchronous Instruction Strategies
Contributions by Sage Oak teachers Carly Pina and Kiley Duncan

The state of California passed new legislation in July 2021 (AB-130) that requires nonclassroom-based charter schools to implement live, daily instruction opportunities for all students in the 2021-22 school year. These new regulations have proven to be new and unchartered territory for nonclassroom-based teachers. Daily live instruction and engagement can be challenging for elementary school students, a lesson we learned from the pandemic.

So how do we apply in-person classroom setting practices to a virtual classroom? Sage Oak teachers and regional mentors Carly Piña and Kiley Duncan took the time to train and equip our teachers for this new daily task with tips and tricks on engaging students and implementing classroom management in a virtual setting.

#1 Zoom View Settings – Being in a classroom setting in person, you can easily view all your students’ faces, see whether their eyes are on you, or if they’re playing with something under their desk. In your virtual classroom setting, whether in a gallery or immersive view, you can see all your students’ faces at once, making it easier to implement engaging activities, check-in with students, and see all their faces to ensure they are paying attention.

Zoom Gallery View

  • Use Zoom gallery view to view all students when you are not presenting. Once you stop sharing your screen or slides, Zoom gallery view makes it easier to view all students and ensure they are paying attention.

Zoom Immersive View

  • As the host, you can choose the Immersive View setting instead of Gallery. Individual backgrounds will be removed, which can help remove distractions, and students will appear as though they are sitting next to each other in a virtual classroom.

Zoom Presentation Virtual Background

  • Click the “Share screen” settings on your Zoom account, select “Advanced,” and “Select Slides as a Virtual Background.”
  • With this feature, you can place your video anywhere on the slide with the ability to move your image around and increase or decrease your video size.
  • You can also use this feature to place your video image onto your student’s screen.
  • Use this feature to draw students’ attention to specific portions of the lesson and keep them engaged; they can follow along with your video as you discuss each concept or problem.

Zoom Backgrounds

  • Use your background to engage the class instead of a bulletin board in an in-person classroom setting.
  • Create your own Zoom backgrounds using a program like Canva.
  • Use this technique as “get to know your teacher” or for students to get to know each other. Place images or clip art on your background that describe or showcase facts about yourself. Students can take turns describing what they see in your background and guess what each image means about you.
  • You can also use this technique to teach new concepts. Pick images, clip art, concepts, project highlights, etc., and have students guess what ideas you’ll be teaching for the day.
  • For a quick engagement or getting to know each other activity, ask students to show up to class with a specific background to show their interests, for example, “Show up to class with an image of a place you’d like to travel to.” “Show up to class with an image of your favorite animal.”

#2 Hand Signals – Use non-verbal communication to keep students engaged and learn concepts. Non-verbal communication such as hand signals helps avoid students speaking over one another and allows the teacher to easily and quickly check in with students and tell when someone is paying attention. If a student is not following hand signals with the class, they may not be paying attention.

Temperature Check

  • Ask your students questions as a quick “temperature check” using a 1-10 scale. Students can use their fingers to show you their answers without needing to un-mute their microphones and avoid the issue of students talking over each other.
  • On a scale of 1-10, how are you feeling today? You can easily view all students as they hold their fingers up, and you can easily take a mental note of which students held up low numbers so that you know to check in with them later.
  • You can also use this strategy to take note of when kids feel confident or not so confident about the lesson material or concepts.

Non-verbal communication

  • Use hand signals to communicate throughout class time. Work with your students to create a hand signal “lexicon” or create your own classroom hand signals to help with classroom management.
  • Besides just raising their hands or showing their fingers, create hand signals that have specific meanings. A hand signal like two thumbs up can mean “I agree,” and two thumbs down can mean “I disagree.” Students can use these classroom hand gestures to respond to open discussion questions to non-verbally communicate with the teachers whether or not they agree or disagree with another student’s response. Teachers can call on students to voice their opinions individually.

Learning Concepts

  • Engage as many learning styles as possible using whole brain teaching.
  • Use actions to help students learn and memorize concepts by creating hand signals associated with words.
    • Teach the components of an essay:
    • Thesis: Make a fist
    • Body Paragraph: Layer hands over one another
    • Conclusion: Move hands from the up position to down

#3 Classroom Management & Engagement

Classroom Rules

  • Create a Google slide to share at the beginning of class each day. This can be your virtual whiteboard for students to reference as they enter the class.
  • The welcome slide is a great way to set daily classroom expectations and provide important information to students as they join Zoom. The slide can include important information about the day’s class, such as class rules and supplies students need for the day, and you can even have a warm-up question (math problem, quick write, etc.) so that students can begin working as soon as possible as class begins.
  • Embed a YouTube video timer on your slide, find a 1-3 minute timer that will help students know how much time they have to grab supplies, mute their mic, turn on their camera, and work on the prompt.
  • During this quiet work-time, you can take attendance and let students join the Zoom into the class.

Chat Feature

  • Use the chat feature effectively with the “waterfall” technique. Ask a question and ask your students to type their response, but not to press enter until you give the secret command “waterfall.” As soon as you say “waterfall,” students will press enter simultaneously, and the answers will trickle in. This technique gives students time to think of individual answers and opinions rather than copying their classmates’ responses in the chat.
  • Try to ask simple questions so that students know the answer and would be excited to share their responses.
  • You can also use this technique as an “exit ticket” to check that students paid attention during class – ask: “what was your favorite part of today’s lesson?” or “what is one concept you learned today?”

Parking Spots

  • Use parking spots or interactive programs that allow students to post answers in real-time. Sometimes, if there are too many students in a class, it can be challenging to track their answers in the chat as they may easily get lost in the long list of responses.
  • To track participation, reserve a parking spot for all of your students to answer questions interactively. Use a program like Google Suite’s JamBoard or Padlet and create a background image that shows parking spots or have students add posts to the Padlet using their name.
  • Students can interact on the board in real-time using a sticky note or post and either park their response in their individual parking spot or post it to the Padlet with their name.

We hope these live, synchronous teaching strategies help you engage your students in a virtual setting. To view visual examples of the concepts listed above, please click here to view the presentation slides.