Ten Secrets to Virtual Teaching or Tutoring

Are you planning to do some summer teaching or tutoring online? Are you still adding to your distance learning toolbox? If you are a veteran teacher, you might feel as though you are running out of new tools. If you are a new teacher or an education major, you may be looking for ideas to just get started with virtual tutoring or teaching. Either way, fill the void with these 10 (+1) secrets to successful virtual teaching or tutoring. 

  1. Plan Ahead. The key to making the best use of instructional time (virtually OR face-to-face) is structure and organization. Develop a calendar and a session (or class) schedule with a consistent routine. Take the time to set up before your session and have materials at the ready to maximize teaching and learning. Google Chrome has some excellent extensions to enhance the functionality of your favorite Google tools and websites including Google Docs, Slides, and Forms for your organizational needs. Read all about Google Keep for more planning assistance. Continue to get familiar and comfortable with technology tools for teaching. 
  2. Build Relationships. Connection is key with and among students because students must feel safe in order to learn. Start with a fun and friendly activity to warm up when you first meet your students. Make sure you set time aside at the beginning of your session to check in with each learner. Ask questions and listen attentively to their response, share a little about yourself, and ensure each student also gets to interact with their peers. Try these ideas for building relationships virtually! 
  3. Set High Expectations. Work together to set goals that push your student a bit, but ensure these goals are achievable and provide them the support they will need to achieve. (Extra Secret: Scaffolds for learning are imperative to success for English learners and students with special needs, but typically scaffolds help all learners.) Teach students to monitor their own progress toward their goals. Consider a visual method to keep track of learning and accomplishments. Also, don’t forget to set norms for your sessions or at least ensure your students understand Zoom etiquette. Proactive communication around behavior expectations can help keep students on track with learning.  
  4. Connect New Concepts to Prior Knowledge. Try a KWHLAQ or assign a free write on what your students know about the concept coming up in the next lesson or unit. Use an anticipation guide or facilitate a discussion on the topic. Virtual field trips and videos are an engaging method for introducing new concepts as well. 
  5. Make it Relevant. Learning is easier (and so is teaching!) if a connection can be made to a student’s real life and the learning at hand. Choose developmentally appropriate content and use student voice and choice whenever possible to identify topics. With older students, link their learning to future hopes, dreams, and current interests.  
  6. Teach to Transfer. Surface learning is one thing, but you will want to push your learners toward deep learning and eventually provide opportunities for new knowledge to be transferred to new situations or contexts. This will allow your students to show what they know and begin to own their knowledge. Take some time to study this infographic providing a mental model for learning transfer. 
  7. Provide Numerous Learning Opportunities. Repetition helps solidify learning, so at times, repetition or recall is useful. Be sure to move beyond that method to fully galvanize learning. Give students a chance to “deploy” their learning or skills. Encourage students to connect their learning to other classes, community involvement, or their home life for deeper understanding. Have students share their new knowledge with others. 
  8. Try Media, Collaboration, or Movement for Increased Engagement. Our students are on screens much of the time and are absorbed in social media (sometimes too much), and some prefer this method of learning. Embed media into your lesson to meet students where they are. Work toward daily opportunities to collaborate, too. Learning is social, so be sure to offer chances to work with peers or others outside of school. There’s a connection between motor and cognitive processes, so take a brain break or use movement in your learning activities. 
  9. Give Timely and Specific Feedback. Include strengths, progress toward the learning objective (written in student-friendly terms of course!), and next steps for learning. Model this process for your students and teach them to do it as a method of self-assessment. Watch as ownership for their own learning grows. Need a few tech tools for formative assessment? Read 6 Google Tools to Enhance Your Formative Assessment Routine.  
  10. Use What WorksThere is plenty of information out there on research-based strategies, high-leverage practices, and practitioner experiences to help you choose what works for teaching and learning virtually or otherwise. Use this information to inform your lesson plans, professional interactions, and professional growth. No need to reinvent the wheel, but don’t be afraid to change what works into an innovative lesson, engagement opportunity, or novel learning experience. 

Would you like to learn more about online teaching and learning? Take some time to peruse our courses on the topic! Learners Edge Courses: Online Teaching and Technology  


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