Are you switching to online teaching and aren’t sure how to engage students in a zoom classroom? These days, more teachers than ever are conducting their classes through online virtual classrooms. I taught online, through Outschool, for several years, and loved it! Online classrooms have already been increasing in popularity for years, but due to the spread of the coronavirus, this trend has rapidly accelerated. If your class has recently been moved online, you’re not alone.
One of the most popular options for conducting online classes is Zoom. This web conferencing software is used by businesses throughout the world, but it also works as a great tool for teaching. Many teachers struggle to keep students engaged during online classes but Zoom offers many features to help.
How to Engage Students in a Zoom Classroom
If you’re new to online teaching or even just new to Zoom, it’s worth taking the time to learn these features before your first class. Mastering the tools available to you in Zoom will help you encourage student interaction, keep students paying attention through the entire class, and engage students in a zoom classroom
Use Breakout Rooms
One of the most effective Zoom tools for encouraging student interaction is the “breakout rooms” feature. Breakout rooms allow you to divide the students into any number of smaller web conferences so that they can have small group discussions among themselves. It works just the same as dividing students into discussion groups in a physical classroom.
Zoom allows you to randomly assign students to rooms, or to manually choose which students go into which breakout. The manual assignment option can help with assigning group projects or even separating troublemakers. I loved using this feature when I taught Opinion Writing online. Students would be assigned a debate topic and then I would create Breakout Rooms for each side of the debate. They had 10 minutes to discuss and prepare before coming back to “class” to hold our discussion.
After the groups are created, as a teacher you’ll have the option to move between the groups whenever you want. Students will also have a button available to ask for your assistance when you’re in another room.
Another great Zoom feature is the ability to conduct polls. Polls allow you to ask all the students a question and have them vote on an answer. You can conduct polls with just one option for any answer, but more often you’ll want to provide multiple answers for the students to choose from. You’ll also have the option of conducting the polls anonymously.
Polls can be a good way to keep the students focused because they require active participation. They are also quick and easy to use, so they are unlikely to lead to disruption.
One of the most important things to know about polls is that they can be created before the class begins through Zoom’s meeting management page. By preparing your polls ahead of time, you won’t have to slow down your lessons. You can also use these polls to check students work during educational games!
Encourage Raised Hands
A great thing about Zoom is that communications are a two-way street. You can lecture to your students, but they can also talk back to you. When you’re in the middle of a lecture, it can be helpful to keep students muted so that their background noise doesn’t become a distraction. At other times though, you’ll want to encourage the students to speak.
In small classes, you might be able to lead a group discussion by just allowing the students to speak freely. In larger classes, you’ll have to call on the students just as you would in a normal classroom. Zoom has a built-in virtual “hand raise,” to help with this process.
Make sure that your students know how to raise their hand in Zoom, and that they are comfortable using it. As you teach, keep an eye out for the raised hand alert, and respond to it just like you would in a normal class to engage students in a zoom classroom.
Let Students Share Their Work
Like most web conferencing tools, Zoom has built-in screen sharing. As the meeting host, you’ll have the option of enabling screen sharing for just yourself, or for everyone in the room. You can even toggle these settings back and forth in the middle of a class.
Screensharing is a great way to let your students share their work with the class. A student can choose to share their entire screen, or just a specific document. Once their work is shared, both you can the student can annotate it.
Ask Students to Annotate
Zoom’s annotation feature allows you to draw on any screen that you’re sharing with students. Many teachers use this to make additional notes on top of their slideshows and other files.
What fewer teachers realize is that they can have their students annotate too. Students can annotate directly on the teacher’s screen share, which is a great way to get students interacting with the material. You can even have multiple students annotate the same screen at once.
Zoom offers several options to help manage multiple annotations at once. You can have students use different colors, and you can turn on labels to show which student wrote what. Finally, once you’re all done, you can choose whether to clear all annotations, or just clear the student annotations while leaving your own.
Conclusion and Takeaways
Switching to an online classroom may feel intimidating, but Zoom puts plenty of tools at your disposal to help ease the transition. Online teaching doesn’t have to be just lecturing. There are still plenty of opportunities to let your students interact and to keep them engaged all class long.
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