Tips for Teaching Virtually

I recently joined forces with Liz Phillips from Kids Cook Memphis to lead a Bake Shop, a virtual camp for kids ages 8-14 that combined baking and sewing. Liz and I spent a lot of time planning, talking, and working behind the scenes to get ready for the week long camp. We knew that besides engaging and teaching kids new skills that we were also providing parenting relief, so we set up the camp to last all day from 9-4.
Throughout the week, I was constantly reflecting on how the camp was going from both the teacher and student perspective. What was working (and not working!), how could I use the experience in my classroom teaching, and what tips could I share with other educators? So, here is my take on the week. I hope that you find it useful and will share your own experiences or ask questions in the comments.

Keep the Zoom Open
After a quick morning meeting, I taught my first lesson then had the kids get to work independently while still on Zoom. By keeping the video chat open, students were able to ask questions as needed, held responsible for work, created a virtual classroom community. We were functioning much like a traditional classroom setting where students worked independently while a teacher roamed the classroom or did a quick grading of papers. When campers had questions, they just unmuted themselves and asked. During this independent work time, I was prepping for the next lesson, helping my own children, and answering emails. There was something very comforting seeing each other working.
Having the Zoom open helped me manage camper progress guide as needed. At a scheduled time, I got everyone back together, we shared our work, learned something new, and repeated the process. The Zoom was on all morning from 9-11:30 am and then again in the afternoon from 1-4pm. While we used Zoom for camp, the same concept applies for any video chat application.

Use a Combination of Live Lesson and Recorded Lessons
While creating Google Slides and recording close-ups of hands-on activities takes time, it pays off in the end. The combination of live and recorded lessons also means that the written lessons don't have to be super detailed because you can help to fill in the blanks and answer any questions. When teaching a lesson, I went through the slides with campers and we watched the videos together. They were then able to immediately ask questions and I could check for understanding before I set them off to work. During independent work time, they could go back and watch videos as needed.
Recording hands-on activities allows students to see teaching clearly and close-up. Another idea is to use a document camera or your phone to show close-up work during a live lesson. You can record these lessons to be used later for students who missed class or to use as review.

Have Extensions for Early Finishers
This is always a problem, right? What do you do with those who work quickly? Both Liz and I had extensions for campers who had extra time on their hands. These lessons were placed at the end of the Google Slides for the day.
I was thinking about how in a traditional classroom, students could also have independent studies on topics of their choice that they could start to work on when they finished the core curriculum. 

Daily Schedules are Important
Having a predictable daily schedule will help both you and families stay on task. While you'll need to be flexible, it's really nice to know that you're going to do the same things every day like morning meetings, check-ins, breaks, and finish times. The day "zoomed" by and everyone was happy and felt successful.
We also got feedback from students about what they needed in terms of time and instruction. If the majority of campers needed more time for a task, it was given. If there was a group that was ready for the next step, I taught it and was also there to support those that were struggling. Because were were using Zoom and there were 2 instructors, breakout rooms were super helpful.
Yes, there were some bumps in the road, and not everyone completed every project, but for the most part the camp was a big success. Campers were engaged, busy, and making.

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