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How can I motivate students to “attend” live meetings?

december 29, 2020

Getting students to show up for live sessions of virtual learning is no easy task. After all, when students are learning from home, there are countless distractions and interruptions that can prevent the best lesson plans from ever being seen.

But, if we expect students who are learning remotely to make substantial progress, we need to find creative ways to reel them into live meetings.

Reward attendance

A basic system of simple rewards is a great starting point for luring students to log in. Allowing them to earn attendance points that can be redeemed for a homework pass, a virtual background, or even virtual lunch with the teacher are all rewards that may be appealing.

Co-plan special days

But to really ramp up the appeal, students need to play a role in determining what the motivations will be. For example, let students decide the themes for a scheduled dress-up day or show-and-tell session. When students are invested in the itinerary, they are more likely to want to participate.

Promote surprises

Another way to foster attendance and participation is to play into their FOMO (fear of missing out). Announce a surprise you have planned for an upcoming meeting. Build up the suspense of what’s to come within emails, pre-recorded videos, class announcements, parent newsletters, or a class Facebook page. Make sure kids know which meeting, on what date, and when the surprise will be unveiled.

It may be a surprise guest—someone from the community or even a well-loved staff member (e.g., art teacher, librarian, custodian, school secretary, etc.). Whoever it is, don’t tell the kids who the guest is—just that there will be a guest!

Another surprise announcement might be to allow students to select a different learning location. (While many teachers require students to work from a hard surface such as a desk, table, or counter, on this day perhaps students would be allowed to attend class from their beds or another favorite spot in the house.) While this isn’t a major change, it may be just enough to entice more participation.

Get kids moving

Just like students need to be up and moving in the traditional classroom, we need to have them out of their seats at home as well. One way to accomplish this is with scavenger hunts that occur within their own homes.

For example, after studying geometric shapes in math, the teacher might announce, “I’m going to give you 40 seconds to run around your house and find as many spherical objects as you can. Crank up your volume so that you can hear me counting down. Ready, set, go!”

If students have been studying adjectives during English-Language Arts, the challenge could be to find an object within their house that they could describe with one adjective and a specific or precise noun. Or maybe students could be prompted to find two objects—one that represents a common noun and one that can be described with a proper noun.

Regardless of the content area, the scavenger hunt can add engagement, build understanding, and even foster a little competition.

Use authentic photos

We know from the success of Instagram and other similar social media platforms, that students love to look at photos of themselves and others. Teachers can capitalize on this reality to boost participation in remote learning.

Ask students to submit to you school-appropriate photos of themselves and their friends in various circumstances at home and in their community. Then use their pictures as another tool to entice participation.

For example, the teacher could promote that during Tuesday’s English-Language Arts lesson, the class will be using student-submitted photos to practice writing compound sentences with proper nouns or complex sentences with dependent clauses.

There are countless ways that authentic, student-submitted photos could be used to practice and apply what is being learned. And best of all, using this type of content helps make virtual learning fun and edutaining.

Be “edutaining”

Setting up rewards and building suspense is just the beginning. What ultimately keeps kids coming back is engaging instruction delivered by an enthusiastic instructor. Remote learning has to be “edutaining” if we want to keep students present and dialed in.

Teachers who pull this off successfully show their energy on camera. They stand up, move around, lean in, and show animation. They use their own enthusiasm to demonstrate that learning can be fun.

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