10 Practical Tips for Teaching Remotely

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Mar 22, 2020
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Teaching Strategies, Teaching Remotely

Thank you to Brian Page for sharing his insights after his first week of teaching remotely with his students at Reading High School (Reading, OH). You can also see Brian in a bonus video as part of our documentary project, The Most Important Class You Never Had. 

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I just completed my first week of teaching online and I’m anxious to share with others what worked and what didn’t. This is not a curriculum or resource post, but if you’re seeking non-tech solutions, be sure to read Jessica’s Best of NGPF: Top 10 Non-Tech Activities for the Personal Finance Classroom.

On Saturday afternoon, around 20 NGPF Fellows got together for an impromptu discussion about how we could support our students. I included some of their wisdom in this post and listed additional ideas here Thanks to Amanda Volz for helping write this post. All of us are scrambling and busy working to make the weeks ahead as great as they can be for our kids, so I’ll cut straight to it.

Here are ten practical tips for teaching remotely: 

  1. Plan an adjustment period: Schedule plenty of time to explain new procedures, expectations, and simply managing their anxiety. I lightened the load a bit from what was typical. And even with this, it was not enough for all of the kids. This is stressful for them, they are balancing lots of different classes, and this is stressful for us too. 
  2. Less can be more: You’ll be teaching kids who will be in a house full of other kids and adults working online at the same time. They are stressed. We are stressed. Consider assigning less work than you normally would.
  3. Schedule your own time: I ended my first week teaching online exhausted and frustrated; I missed the face to face interaction with the kids. Be sure to build in time to leave your computer and go for a walk, and as Tony Montgomery wisely brought up, have your own strict 9 to 5 type office hours. I never left my laptop last week, and that can’t continue.  
  4. Communicate with parents: Before the week started, I sent newsletters such as this one to all of my parents. I provided them with my personal number, and in retrospect, I should have created a Google Number as suggested by Joey Running. I found texting parents directly was more successful than an email, phone call, or Remind notification. If your number isn’t on their phone, they think it’s spam. I also decided to create more video-based messages in the future to make it easier for parents to stay caught up.
  5. Schedule assignments a week at a time: My original weekly schedule included work on Friday. I scrapped that to allow for a day that students can catch up. Click here for an example schedule, which is about 50%-75% of the workload of a normal week.
  6. Survey your students in advance: I surveyed the students with a formal survey in advance of building the online courses out. Two things stuck out: do not start class before 9:00 am and they want to meet face to face at least twice a week. 
  7. Problems from inequities and unmotivated students are exacerbated: Fortunately, all of my students have Chromebooks and WiFi, but I took for granted how much of a difference we all make when we are with our students. The students who need nudges to complete work, more personal attention, or extra help understanding will have an especially tough time. Prepare for how to overcome it.
  8. Fun face time that is engaging is important: Being together as a class was as much a social and emotional relief as it was an educational opportunity. For much of the time, we played games such as STAX, Kahoot, and GimKit. Don’t feel like you have to cram or provide instruction the entire time.  
  9. Use technology to make student schedules more simple: Google just released this Teach from Home resources that include tips such as how to record your online classes and how to set up a Google Meet. And of course, now is not the time to introduce new technology to students.
  10. Focus on the Need to Knows: as suggested by Jill Wilson, a previous special education teacher, and current personal finance teacher. We tend to be overachievers and want to teach our students as much as we possibly can. During this time, that is not what is important. Ask yourself "what are the most important things my students NEED to know" and focus on those.

During my second day online I was conducting class, while my wife was managing an important virtual meeting with her colleagues, and my own kids were asleep. Meanwhile, alarms started going off in our home and my wife and I slid to the side of our computers arguing like vicious mimes about who should take care of it. Fast forward five minutes and there we were standing in the rain in our front yard while fire trucks rolled up to our house. 

So be flexible! And BTW, our house is fine.

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NEW! NGPF has added multiple virtual PDs to assist in your shift to teaching remotely. Register for any of this week's events here

  • Monday at 2:30pm PT: [Teaching Remotely] Transitioning to Online Learning 
  • Tuesday at 10:00am PT: [Teaching Remotely] Using Google Classroom + NGPF (Beginner)
  • Wednesday at 10:00am PT: [Teaching Remotely] Using NearPod + NGPF (Intermediate)
  • Wednesday at 2:30pm PT: [Teaching Remotely] Using NearPod + NGPF (Advanced)
  • Thursday at 10:00am PT: [Teaching Remotely] Using Google Classroom + NGPF (Advanced)
  • Thursday at 2:30pm PT: [Teaching Remotely] Using NearPod + NGPF

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