Virtual classrooms are…

   …very different from live math classrooms. Even though they’ve been around a long time, for many this is a brand new arena of teaching. We have lots of strategies that work in live classrooms. Happily, some of the same strategies are just as effective in online classroom management. I teach math classes online, so many of my examples come from that perspective. However, the strategies can be applied to any subject.

FIRST DAY EXPECTATIONS

Just in like person, online classroom management starts with day 1. On the very first day, you set the tone for the rest of the class. This is the tone not just for behavior but also for work ethic. If there are technical issues, these need to be solved quickly! I always recommend to parents to set their children up for success. It starts with a home environment that helps them focus. You can follow through on that by teaching students online etiquette. 
 
I always start with the same introductions you might have in class. In my live math classes, I often play a game called “Snowball Fight”. Students write down some fun facts about themselves on a piece of paper. Everyone balls up their paper and throws it across the room in a pretend snowball fight. Other students pick it up and read it out loud. Students all try to guess who it is about.
 
You can do an online version of this game using Zoom’s chat feature! Have students private chat to you four answers to fun fact questions. Some of these questions could be pets, siblings, the state they live in, or weird facts no one would guess. (make sure they know how to choose “You” versus “Everyone” in chat).
 
Then, randomly copy and paste one student’s answers privately to another student. That student reads it out loud and tries to guess who it is! This doesn’t have to be a first-day game only. It’s fun to play it halfway through the class as students get to know each other better. Then, it becomes a game of trying to stump each other with fun facts.

GREET EVERY STUDENT BY NAME

This isn’t an online strategy, this is an everywhere strategy. I love to greet every student as they log in by name. It acknowledges that I know they are there, I “see” them, and they are valuable to me. In my classroom, I expressed that with a handshake. Online, I express that with a hello and sometimes a question about how they are or what they have been up to.

CONNECT STUDENTS TO GOOGLE CLASSROOM AND ASSIGNMENTS

Since I teach teenagers, it is sometimes hard to know if they are paying attention or if they are watching YouTube. One of the ways I do this is live monitoring their work through Google Classroom documents.
 
Before the class starts, I open the Classroom and each student’s individual assignment. I make sure they are each in a different tab and I line up the tabs in an order that makes sense to me. For me, that order is what unit and what lesson they are on from “least to greatest” in order of math concepts!
 
Pro Tip: If you have more than 10 students, and more than one class, you may want to start your week by opening a separate browser for each class. This way you can leave them open for the week and easily scroll through the different browsers to find your class.
 
My assignments are sent to kids inside Google Slides from the Google Classroom. When they are on the correct page, you’ll see a little bubble on their slide and if they have selected a fillable field it will be outlined in the same color as their little bubble. This isn’t foolproof, but it is one way to check that they are logged into their work and can see and interact with the assignment. If you’d like to read more about how I use Google Classroom to teach online, I have another article here.
Google Classroom Image showing a student logged onto a Slides page and highlighting work.

SET AN EXPECTATION OF INDEPENDENCE

For me, nothing makes online classroom management easier than when students are able to act independently. This is my favorite strategy because at the end of a teaching session I can look back at all the progress everyone made, even if I was super busy with just a few students!
 
Once you know that students are able to interact with their work, set a daily expectation of independence. I tell students each day that they should log into Google Classroom 5 minutes before the start of our class and be on the page of their work. Of course, that never happens, but since I expect it they do usually get logged in right away once class starts!
 
Then, I do a quick check-in to make sure that each student is in their work, saying out loud that I see their little bubble and going over the daily tasks. If you have a class that it more than 10 students, this may not be possible every day but you can quickly check students’ bubbles and remind all of them that you are doing that.

TEACH SHORT LESSONS

This is another strategy that applies to virtual and in-person classes. The truth is that students have a hard time learning when all they are doing is listening. They need to create, write, collaborate, cooperate, formulate…in other words they need to “do”. And it is in this “doing” that the power of online teaching in Google Classroom can come alive.
Whenever you give them an assignment that you can see happening in live monitoring, it is like being transported to an in-person classroom. If you give them a document they all collaborate on, like an online newspaper to write, you can see the fields being inserted and by whom. You can watch the participation happening. You can see the math equations being solved.
This is a quote saying "Students have a hard time learning when all they're doing is listening.
In other words, you can see that they are working and not playing Genshin Impact!
 
If you spend more than 10 minutes giving a lesson, I can almost guarantee some of your students will begin to chat online, play games, or watch videos. I talk about giving online lessons through Zoom Witeboard in this article if you’re interested.

CONSIDER USING NETIQUETTE POSTERS

Netiquette Posters can be used in your own background on a wall so that students can see them. Another helpful tip is to send these in an email to parents and students and then go over them on the first day of class. I love Samantha in Secondary’s classroom management tips in general, and her two netiquette posters are great! (and free!!)
Samantha in Secondary Product Netiquette Poster
Samantha in Secondary Product Netiquette Poster
I’m sure there are plenty of ways that each of you use strategies for online classroom management. There are so many veteran teachers out there for all of us to learn from! I’d love to hear from you.