How To Prepare Lessons For Online Learning
Thanks to the current pandemic, I have had to find innovative ways to plan lessons as a high school English teacher. Through the process of preparing lessons, I have had to change my approach to serve my students the best way possible.
As a result, I have learned ways to prepare engaging and effective lessons in an online environment.
Teachers, this article is for you
So, I am going to share my insights in hopes that it can help other teachers and instructors as well.
Understand That Online Learning Is Different Than In-Person Learning
Understanding the differences between online learning and in-person learning might be obvious, but it might be overlooked. So, what I did was to have this in mind when planning my online lessons.
I used tools and content I used in the classroom, but I also implemented technological resources that helped me get the knowledge to my students. For instance, I used Google Classroom and Google Forms.
Another thing I did was to put myself in the student's shoes and thought about ways I could increase engagement when meeting online.
“Empathy grows as we learn.” — Alice Miller
I also thought of the challenges I would face when meeting with the students remotely, like losing the student's attention to the different distractions they might have at their homes.
As a result, I would think of ways to keep the lesson fun, like incorporating games and different dynamics where the students were more involved. Instead of just being spectators, have them be the protagonists of the lesson.
Study Your Student Population
Teaching online presents challenges, for instance, keeping your students motivated and engaged. A way that has worked for me is to study your students. That is, find out their interests and incorporate them into your lessons. Furthermore, integrate your student's interests with the educational standards.
For example, if you are an English teacher, you can use a video from an artist your student like of an interview. Then, you can tell your students to identify the different parts of speech that the artist uses when speaking.
Here are some ways you can find insights and implement them in your lessons:
1. Watch your student’s behaviors.
2. Identify your students learning styles.
3. Ask questions about their interests.
By watching your student's behaviors, you can identify patterns and see how you can teach best. For instance, if your students like to talk and contribute ideas, you can incorporate debates into your lessons.
This will help students stay engaged in your class, and apply what they learn in class. Furthermore, you can identify your students learning styles. You can see if your students learn best by watching, hearing, or even being hands-on.
Now that you know what learning styles work best, you can implement them in your classes. In my experience, tailoring my lessons to the student’s learning styles might spice things up, help students grasp the concepts and ideas better.
Diversify Your Teaching Strategies
A second way I found to keep students motivated and interested when teaching online is to diversify the strategies I used to teach. For instance, I would use videos, educational apps, and games when teaching certain topics. Remember, most of your students are always in their homes which can be monotonous and boring at times.
So, diversifying and integrating fun strategies into your lessons will help spice things up, as a result, increase student retention and motivation to keep succeeding in your class.
Here are ways you can diversify your teaching strategies:
1. Use videos whenever you can to explain concepts.
2. Use a different technique every week.
3. Have your students vote what way to learn next.
4. Choose a theme for each week and integrate them into virtual lessons.
Sometimes students might get tired of reading all the time, so by integrating videos into your lessons you can spice things up in your virtual meetings. Students can reinforce their learning by watching a video about a concept you are discussing in class.
In my experience, having pictures, sound and video might help students see the concept differently and grasp the concept.
For instance, I like to use conversational videos in my English course. I might use an interview of my student’s favorite artists and about a topic they are interested in. This can be a new album that the artist is releasing and they might have listened to already.
Then, I would integrate the learning standards into the activity we would do after watching the video. For example, listening and language standards. I would have the students identify nouns, verbs, prepositions in the interview.
This would have students engaged during the lesson and on the lookout for different words when the people in the interview were speaking.
Now, to keep things interesting in the long term, you can switch learning strategies every week or day. One day you can use video lessons, another a game, then a reading and so on. By switching learning strategies you can reduce the monotony of the online lessons, thus, increasing engagement.
Another thing you can do when having online lessons is to have students choose how or what they want to learn next. This might help students feel that they are part of something and increase motivation.
Instead of having your students be spectators of the lessons, have them be active participants in the lessons. Make them feel important and that their opinion matters, can help a lot, in my experience.
Lastly, you can choose a theme for each virtual lesson. You can find interesting topics that happened during the week and incorporate them into your discussions.
Reward Your Students
I am a firm believer in rewarding students for great behavior and outstanding academic performance, even so, that I discuss it in my other article tailored to help parents with remote learning.
What Parents Can Do To Help Their Kids When Learning Remotely
Without a doubt, the recent pandemic has changed how we educate students.
Nonetheless, this strategy can also help teachers when teaching online.
Teachers can reward their students in my ways. Here are some examples you as a teacher can reward students:
1. Recognize your student’s efforts.
2. Reward them with bonus points when they go the extra mile.
3. Incorporate fun activities into your class.
4. Schedule the rewards.
By recognizing your student's efforts, your students may feel more motivated to keep studying and give more effort when you meet online for class. You can recognize their efforts by giving them compliments, such as saying: “Good Job!’. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Another strategy you can use is to offer bonus points when your students go the extra mile in your class. You can give points when asking a question, or when you see that the student has an interest and contributes to the class discussion.
By incentivizing the student who contributes to your class, you might inspire other students to go the extra mile as well. Students may read extra articles related to the class, do extra homework, or answer questions in class.
Now, when preparing your lessons, you can incorporate fun activities for your students. These fun activities can serve as a reward when students are cooperating with the required work in the class. By incorporating fun activities, you can balance the workload and give your students a break from all the hard concepts they might encounter in class.
In my experience, incorporating fun activities help students stay engaged in the class in the long term. Even when learning online.
Remember, when teaching online, you as the teacher might lose some control and attention over your class, because your students are not in the same location as you.
So, by incorporating games and other fun activities, you can increase engagement in the virtual meeting and reduce the number of students that get distracted by other things surrounding them.
Lastly, on this point, schedule the rewards, that is, have them in your lesson plan. Keep track of the difficulty of the topics you are teaching, if the students are cooperating, then have a set time when you want to reward them with a fun activity.
By scheduling your rewards, you might not forget, even when the semester gets hectic and you start to get even busier.
Plan According To Your Students Resources
A challenge that arises when teaching students online is access to technological resources. For example, computers and the Internet. Not all your students might have these at home. If you assume they all do, some students might not be able to learn and take your classes.
A way I learned to get around this constraint, is to identify the resources my students have and find tools that help me prepare lessons that serve my students the best.
For instance, I identified that most of my students had a smartphone, so I used Google Forms and Google Classroom to distribute the assignments. Google Forms was great when evaluating the theoretical part of the course.
As I could create assignments that had sections where my students could choose or type their answers, and submit them when they were done. Students could do these assignments even on a phone if all they had was a smartphone.
This eliminated the need for students to print assignments and have them scan the finished assignment, to then send them to me. Remember, this was during the pandemic, where access to printers and scanners was even harder if the students did not have them at home.
Also, Google Forms was a great tool when having the assignments printed out, as they were easy to print and distribute to the students that did not have access to computers or smartphones.
By the way, this article is not sponsored by Google. These were just tools that helped me when preparing lessons for online learning, even in these tough pandemic times. You can use similar tools if you would like.
Here are ways you can identify your student's resources and incorporate them into your lessons:
1. Ask your students.
2. Create a poll or online survey.
3. Check your school.
By asking your students what resources they have available at home, you can plan your lesson according to the tools they have access to. This way, you can make sure all your students have access to your lessons.
Something I learned when planning lessons for online learning, was to think about all of my students and find tools that helped the most students have access to my lessons. That is, think about the macro, not the micro.
Now, if you can’t ask your students personally, or by phone, you can create a poll or online survey using a tool like Google Forms where students can simply fill out the form and send it to you.
Lastly, check your school, there might be some resources you did not know about that you can use to teach your students remotely.
When preparing online lessons, remember that online learning is different when teaching in person. Having this in mind can help you empathize with your students and prepare lessons that help them learn best in an online environment.
Study your student population, identify their interests and learning styles. These insights might help you prepare online lessons that serve your students best.
Diversify your teaching strategies to spice things up in your online class for the long term. Students might get easily distracted and lose motivation as the semester goes on.
Reward your students for good behavior and academic performance, this can help them stay motivated as well. Telling a student that is doing a great job might go a long way.
Lastly, plan your online lessons according to the resources that your students have. This can help make the learning process a fair one because you most likely won’t penalize students that don’t have access to computers or the Internet in their homes.
You can try to find a middle ground, where you can upload assignments and activities that students can do easily with the resources they have.
I hope this article helps!
If you liked this article, I think you might be interested in these articles as well:
5 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Online Tutoring And Teaching
How to make your tutoring and teaching sessions more productive
Disclaimer: Results may vary. These tips and advice are based on my experience and opinion as a teacher, former undergraduate student, and tutor. Everyone is different, so, the advice shared in this article may or may not work for you.