Free online teaching tips to engage children of all ages on screens
If you’re delivering See Through News projects, or anything else, online, this article provides a few tips for attracting and retaining the interest of your remote students.
They’re written with young children in mind, but are effective for all children between the ages of around 2-125. Give or take a couple of years.
Start with a warmer
A ‘warmer’ is a fun activity, no more than 10 minutes, to get your students engaged, active and focused on the lesson’s topic. If all your students are present, it can be a way of getting them all, including shy students, to speak up, e.g. a snap quiz.
If you’re waiting for all students to join the video call, it can be a great way to keep those already present engaged, without having to talk. e.g. draw doodles on a digital whiteboard while waiting for all students to join.
Use visual aids
Incorporate images, videos, and other visual aids to keep children engaged and help them understand the material. Total Physical Response is a technique that helps communicate meaning, especially for young children, but it works for adults too.
Here’s a good introduction to TPR. The notion of different learning styles (visual, audio, kinetic etc.) has been pretty comprehensively debunked, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful to use as many different ways of communicating as possible.
Interactive activities like quizzes, games, and puzzles help children stay focused and interested, free games available at websites like Baamboozle.com
Make it hands-on
Create hands-on activities that children can do at home, such as science experiments, art projects (e.g. Superhero Drawing Competition) or making a video (Vox Pox, HTLWP).
Use breakout rooms
This allows for more interactive/engaging smaller group activities and discussions. Works best with older, motivated children, younger children may need supervising teachers on on-the-ground colleagues.
Ask questions, take polls, use interactive tools. Call on students to answer by name, ensuring you ask every child at least once, and avoid having favourites. Involve talkative children by tasking them to think up new questions, or calmly ask them to give someone else a chance.
Being enthusiastic and upbeat helps keep children engaged and motivated. If you’re dull, the kids will stop focusing.
Give children feedback on their work and encourage them to ask questions or provide feedback themselves. Make this specific. Don’t say ‘good job’, say ‘That was really great listening’.
Being funny can help lighten the mood and make the learning experience more enjoyable for children. Use websites like Giphy to make your presentations fun.
Every child is different, so be flexible and adapt your teaching style to meet their needs. Plan more than you think. Have an active backup game in case the class gets stale or kids are sleepy.
Keep Calm and Carry On
If you stay chill even if everything is going wrong, you’ll remain in control of the class and the children will like you if you say things like “Oh this isn’t working, is it? I don’t know how to fix it.” Admitting mistakes makes the classroom a safer environment, and teaches children we all learn by making mistakes.
Many thanks to STN volunteer Sam Wain for compiling these hints. As well as being an experienced and innovative online teacher, Sam’s other skills include audio production and composition, which he contributed to The Truth Lies in Bedtime Stories podcasts.
You can learn more about his reasons for volunteering in our Volunteering Voices, and hear his sound design skills in