One of the great myths of online education is that you can’t use the same teaching strategies you use in a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom. You can, and they are just as effective online as they are in the face-to-face setting! You just have to know how to adapt them. Here are a few tips you can use:
Put it to song. When I was a high school student, my math teacher put the quadratic formula to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel” and I have never forgotten it. That one little song helped me pass that quarter of math because so much of the curriculum depended on that formula. In an online setting, you can give this type of trick an immortal status. Record yourself singing the song and post the digital file to your course. This could be posted as an announcement when the students reach that part of the curriculum. It can live permanently in your resources area of the course. You can even embed it in the unit so that it is part of the students' lesson.
Mnemonic devices. I will never forget the lesson my 3rd grade teacher taught us when she put up a picture of our solar system and said, “My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto). Today, this can be modified to say “My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Neptune” to account for Pluto’s demotion to a dwarf planet. Having this mnemonic device helped me remember the order of the planets in our solar system and gain a deeper interest in space. Put a mnemonic device on a PowerPoint slide and post it as an announcement, place it in your resources folder, or embed it into the unit. You can also email it to your students when they reach the appropriate part of the course.
Act it out. I once saw a science teacher who taught the water cycle through a “cloud dance.” I thought it was an ingenious idea. In the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom, she had all her students get up and do the dance with her. But in an online setting, the cloud dance had a permanent home. When it came up in the curriculum, she posted a video of herself dancing as an announcement. She also turned on the webcam during her live sessions and performed the dance for her students in real time. Recordings of the dance also lived in the resources area of the course.
Flashcards. Need students to memorize some vocabulary words? Put it on flashcards! In live sessions, you can do this in PowerPoint and have students guess the word before displaying it—or define the word before displaying the definition. There are numerous ways to do this in a virtual setting besides PowerPoint, too. Did you know you can create a website very easily? You can create a list of words on web page and have the definition pop up when students click the link. Then you can email the website to students in addition to posting the PowerPoint version of flashcards for students to use online or print out.
- Book read-alouds. One tradition of many brick-and-mortar classrooms is the read-aloud when the class reads a novel together. Either the teacher reads to the students while the students listen or color or fill out worksheets, or students take turns reading. You can do this in the online setting. After checking for copyright, you can record yourself reading a novel to your students. Post the various recordings in your resources folder so students can read along with you. This could be offered as an assignment with students filling out worksheets or taking notes as you read to turn in, or as extra credit where appropriate. You could even use this as a class bonding experience, and create a thread in the discussion board so students can make comments about the book as they listen to your recordings and follow along on their own.
These tricks can help you teach and help your students learn just as much online as they did in the traditional brick-and-mortar setting. The additional perk? They are fun!
Kelli Hicks is a teacher with more than twelve years of experience, including four years teaching online English, sociology, and ESL courses for Fuel Education. Additionally, Kelli serves as the State Lead Teacher for Utah and is a shift lead for the FuelEd Academic Support Team (TAMS). Kelli has taught both online and within traditional brick-and-mortar schools focusing on at-risk and ESL students. She graduated from Utah State University with a bachelor's degree in English education, minoring in sociology education with an ESL endorsement.