There they are – the boxes on the video-conference screen, empty but names or images uploaded. We are hearing from many teachers of learners’ reluctance to turn on their screens during online classes. Disheartening and exhausting to face those void boxes and teach your heart out every day, we know. Are you wondering how to get your students to turn their screens on?
There are many reasons that they might not want to turn them on: maybe their room is messy or their siblings are right there working alongside or they haven’t done their hair or a toddler is naked or they are actually doing something else or they just don’t want you to see other aspects of their home environment. Or maybe these kids just want a little control in very difficult circumstances…
Given all of that, maybe we can cajole them to join us on video, just even for a few purposeful minutes a day to start, in order to build the learning community we all miss. Here are some teacher-tested ideas:
- Scavenger Hunt: Ask students to fetch three or four everyday objects in their home. Declare the first five learners to bring them back and show them on screen the winner: a fork, a shoe and a water bottle. A hat, a sponge and a raincoat. You can try this every day with a new list.
- Show and Tell: Invite learners to each turn on their screen and share one personal object in their room or workspace. Might be a favorite book, a special toy, a cool poster or family photo. You can invite a few students each day to do so. Give a heads up in advance so they can be ready.
- Dress Up Day: Pick a theme, and encourage students to join in the theme, turn on their cameras to share their outfit. Think spirit week: hat day, sports jersey day, college garb day, school color day…You could even gather data on who is wearing what.
- Warm Call: Give learners something to talk about. Ask a generative question, and provide some time for learners to think or write (warm up): chicken or the egg? innocent until proven guilty? Googol or infinity? Would you rather…? After a few minutes to gather their thoughts, invite a random sampling of learners to turn on their screens and share their ideas.
- Turn the Tables: Turn off your own screen for a few minutes of class time but keep talking. Give students a taste of the experience of being on the other side so they can see how it feels. Then, ask them again to turn their screens on.
To learn more about distance learning strategies, please join us for an upcoming event.