What can you do when you can’t peek over their shoulders? - PEBC

What can you do when you can’t peek over their shoulders?

One of the biggest challenges with remote teaching is our inability to walk around the classroom and hear student thinking!  Looking for those scrunched up faces when students are grappling with something challenging, seeing those smiles when students feel successful, noticing the choices students make regarding materials and processes, listening in on new friendships and side conversations, peeking at student work to assess understanding and misconceptions all provide critical formative assessment data that teachers need to be responsive to students’ social, emotional and academic needs.  

For now, Jennifer Engebretson, who teaches 9th and 10th grade math at North High School in Denver, Colorado, is teaching in a 100% remote environment.  Her schedule allows her to “see” all of her students briefly one day a week and then for two blocks later in the week via Zoom.  In the past, Jennifer has crafted math workshops that privilege student thinking; her planning and instruction were heavily influenced by the formative data that she collected from learners throughout the class period.  

As Jennifer shifted to remote teaching, she reflected on her core beliefs: each student needs to be afforded the opportunity to “do the heavy lifting” so that they can become expert problem solvers and critical thinkers, AND each and every student must feel seen.  Then, she reflected on the “in person” assessment moves that were most impactful and found ways to modify many of those for a remote teaching platform. In conjunction with the workshop model, Jennifer is finding that she is able to make connections with her students and support their growth as problem solvers. 

Here are a couple of ideas that have worked well for her and her students:

Multiple Screens

  • Utilizing multiple screens allows Jennifer to see the teacher-facing and student-facing materials simultaneously, manage her LMS, and launch various apps and tech tools efficiently.  Jennifer actually uses four screens to manage her remote classroom.

Pear Deck & Desmos 

  • “Seeing” student thinking in real time during instruction allows Jennifer to leverage student data, recognize successes, and provide clarification when needed. 


  • Creating small group meeting rooms promotes student collaboration and allows Jennifer to join their conversations easily.
  • Creating individual Zoom rooms for each student enables Jennifer to observe learners during independent work time. She can visit students’ Zoom rooms to confer one-on-one about their thinking, build personal relationships and support individual understanding.


  • Deploying extensions such as Forms and Form Mule helps Jennifer and her teammates manage sorting exit tickets and distributing extension or remediation materials quickly.

Ed Puzzle 

  • Generating Ed Puzzles based on student data trends provides extra support or extensions and can be shared across the team.

Learning Management System

  • Schoology assists Jennifer with organization, communication, and the distribution of links, messages and materials   

Jennifer’s students are so fortunate to have her leveraging tech tools in these ways to stay true to her beliefs: students need to be problem solvers, and they need to feel seen and heard. For more details on Jennifer’s work, listen in on our recent podcast, Monitoring and Supporting Progress during Remote Learning. To learn more about elevating student thinking, both remotely and in the classroom, please join us for PEBC’s upcoming Institutes.