Engaging students at the start(er)
Many educators delivering virtual lessons through Zoom, Meet, or some other platform, will tell you that the first 5-10 minutes is a juggling act of letting students into the call, taking a register, solving minor (or major!) technical issues, and re-explaining a task. Often, for those who arrive to the lesson on time, the start of the lesson can be frustrating as they wait for everyone else to 'get ready'. This undoubtedly has a negative impact on their engagement.
Traditional starter activities such as Q&A require teacher involvement, and you can't provide that because you are trying to do all of the above. So, stop thinking about traditional starters and instead introduce tasks that students can do on their own. Here are some ideas:
During synchronous learning, starter activities that require teacher participation may lead to students waiting around for the teacher to carry out administrative tasks in the first 5-10 minutes.
Activities that allow all students to get to work as soon as they start/join the lesson will increase engagement.
When you find something that works well, repeat it! I now use Google Jamboard for almost every starter in my GCSE History class. They know it, they like it, everyone participates and I don't need to be there.
As students are getting on with the task at hand, you can still be taking steps to further improve engagement. Welcome students into a call with a personal greeting, and chase up any missing students using your usual communication channel.
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