Student sitting on steps using a laptop

Originally published March 18

1.   Zoom meetings with cameras on

When students open the class video conference and see the faces of their classmates, there is a sense of community bestowed upon them. To be able to see each other’s smiles, laughs, and frowns allows them to connect more with each other. It allows students and teachers to capture non-verbal cues: head nods in agreement, puzzled looks, and smiles of appreciation. 

But, is it possible for all students to turn on their camera? With the new zoom updates, students can now set their own virtual background. They can be placed in a kitchen, office, and even on the beach. If they prefer to not use the background templates, they can opt to blur their background so their face is the only thing visible. Establish an expectation for students that requires them to turn on their camera. Students may initially feel anxious, but those feelings will subside as this becomes the standard routine as the year progresses. 

2.   Introductions and closings

When students enter and exit a classroom, expect that exchanges are made such as: “Good morning,” and “Hello,” or “Goodbye,” and “Have a great weekend.” Even though these simple conversations may seem abnormal in a virtual classroom, we encourage it. It promotes student engagement and relationship building and nurtures a sense of community. Overtime, students are more likely to unmute their microphones and talk in front of the class. As an educator, encourage this by greeting students by their names when they enter. It’s a simple way to build rapport with students. 

3.   Implement engagement activities

Implement engagement strategies that allow students to have fun during class. This also offers another way for students to share their voice without talking verbally. Here are some examples:

4.   Academic/psychological safety

Google re:Work conducted a study to determine “What makes a Google team successful?” After interviewing 200+ Google employees, they concluded that psychological safety is the most important predictor of a team’s success. Transfer psychological/academic safety into the classroom, and students are far more likely to answer a question in front of the class. If they know that they will not be scolded or humiliated for answering wrong, then the threat decreases. 

5.   Engage with students

Ask students questions about their personal lives: hobbies, sports, weekend plans, pets, etc. This conversation shouldn’t be limited to just during the beginning or end of class. Incorporate the specific likes and dislikes of students into projects and assignments. Something to be aware of when doing this, however, is to be mindful and respectful of different cultures and home situations. Always consider if the question promotes inclusivity and is one that all students can comfortably answer. 

6.   Ask for student feedback

Asking for student feedback is an important way to engage students, center student voices and promote a positive, welcoming school community. The reason being that every class is different. One may prefer to do the majority of their communication through the chat, while others turn to sharing verbally. Use a google form, mentimeter, or any other poll/feedback form to record student’s opinions.