Setting Up a Virtual Classroom

Virtual learning looks different for everyone, and there isn’t one right way to do it. Here are some tips to get the year started off on the right foot.

Just as you would in a physical classroom, set aside extra time during the first few weeks of school to clearly define and review your class norms and expectations. Having consistent expectations and procedures will help students know what to expect and put everyone a little more at ease. For example:

  • Be consistent to ensure that students and parents understand what virtual platforms you will be using when. Review the different settings and functions in the virtual environment, such as how and when to mute themselves.
  • Establish how you will handle calling on students, communicating instructions, delivering lesson content and handling bathroom breaks.
  • Encourage students to “get dressed” for virtual school each day. For children and adults alike, getting dressed in the clothes you would wear to a normal day of school can really help get your mind and body ready to learn.

Students will have different levels of comfort with technology, and some parents may not be able to help them. Spend time getting students familiar with the technology, including the online learning platforms. This may require individual calls with students and possibly their caregivers to help support them and answer questions.

As students adjust to new teachers and new virtual platforms, expect that they will struggle at times to remember directions. Try to:

  • Provide repeated communication about announcements and assignments.
  • Provide reminders in multiple ways, such as announcing an assignment verbally, placing it on the class calendar and sending it in an email.

Students are more likely to engage in classroom activities when they feel comfortable and safe.

  • Clearly communicate behavioral expectations.
  • If you’re worried about cyber bullying, consider disabling private messaging between students.
  • Let students know how best to communicate with you if they experience any problems. 

Incorporating brain breaks, snack and socializing times, and scheduled activities at the same time each day creates a sense of predictability and comfort in the classroom. You can even schedule set times for everyone to get up and move around or to get a drink of water.

Every student faces a unique situation at home, and joining live classes will be harder for some than others. Try to provide opportunities for your students to learn and participate on their own, using various platforms.

Not all students will feel comfortable speaking up in a virtual group setting when they feel confused or frustrated by an assignment. Setting aside a designated time for students to check in with you in a smaller group, or one-on-one, will make it easier for students to approach you when they have questions or concerns.

Without the typical opportunities for in-person interaction at school, it’s more important than ever to get feedback from students and families. Create a survey that students and parents can regularly complete (anonymously or not) to provide opportunities to express any needs, concerns or suggestions they may have.

Virtual learning can sometimes feel as though there is no distinction between home and school. Try to clearly establish what hours you are available to students and parents and what platforms you will use to communicate with them. Try to stick to the guidelines you set to help students and caregivers learn to respect those healthy boundaries.