What are the Best Online Practices to Get Results?

1. Help Your Students Set Meaningful Educational Goals

Why set goals? Goal setting is similar to creating a daily to-do list. As you cross off each item, you feel like you accomplished something for the day.

Goals give you something to look forward to and to work for. Because goal setting gives you a purpose, they help with anxiety and boost your confidence. A goal has a plan of action and a result.

Goal setting is key to a child’s personal growth and professional success, as setting goals will be an inseparable part of their lives. Each aspect of their lives will require the goal- setting skills, from which school or profession they will choose, how they will handle relationships, or adjust to life transitions.

A goal is not always something you want, however. It’s a list of things to do. It’s an action plan for the day. When you wake up in the morning and make your daily to-do list, is it a list of things you want? No, it’s a list of things to do. It’s an action plan for the day. For some reason, when asked to list goals, they often only want and desire to show up on the list.

A list of goals may include a few desires sprinkled in, such as, “Go on Vacay,” but that goal needs a sub-list titled, “What I need to do to go on Vacay.” This sub-list would be more effective at springing you into action because it would break down the going on vacay into small tasks like, “Hire a dog sitter, buy airline tickets, ask off work, etc.”

To boost their productivity, effectiveness, and satisfaction, teach your students to set SMART goals.

SMART goals are:

When you teach your students to set SMART goals, you help them bring their goals closer to reality.

Ask your students to create a list of goals for each project or each unit of your course and explain how to write an actionable goal. For example, instead of your student writing, “Pass the test,” have them a list, “form a study group, complete the study guide, create flashcards.” Now they get to cross off tasks as they complete them, and each time, they will feel one step closer to passing that test.

The SMART checklist helps your students evaluate their goals and plan the actions that will help achieve them.

To add accountability to goal setting, have students share their goals by posting, blogging, or privately sharing with classmates or family members.

2. Narrow Your Topic

Narrowing your lesson topics is always important but becomes vital in virtual education. Narrow topics are more suitable for online communication and are more comfortable for your students to research and discuss from a computer screen.

When teaching online, you may have less instruction time, less one-on-one time to communicate with students, and your students have less contact with each other to discuss a broader topic.

Stick to what is relevant as too much information can create confusion the same way too little information does. Appropriate and straightforward instruction leads to a greater understanding, effectiveness, and productivity.

Teach your students how to use time management to plan their activities and organize a time for learning. This should help them learn to identify productivity patterns, set priorities, and increase confidence.

Use a graphic organizer to narrow your topics into bite-sized lessons. The inverted triangle or pyramid always works well as it allows you to present the most critical information first and keep the broader topic at the top of mind for the future. The inverted triangle model helps engage and grab the students’ attention and draw them into the subject.

Also, narrowing your topic will likely result in sticking to the fundamentals, which leads us to…

3. Cover the Fundamentals

You know the story. You walk into class and announce the new topic with enthusiasm. Sure enough, a hand goes up in the back of the class. You sigh, knowing exactly what the question will be but ask anyway, to which the student replies, “Why do I need to know this?”

This will certainly still happen while teaching online. Schooling has become about the mastery of a vast body of information. And much, if not most, of this information, will all, in most cases, never be needed in the student’s life.

The problem here is not about teaching what the student may not need, but because we are missing the lessons, they will likely need — for example, finances, relationships, work ethic, etc.

This is where that mental list comes into play. We have so much to do, so much to say, so much to teach. Our goal is to teach our students awe-inspiring information and hear them have “Ah-Ah” moments, but we run out of time, and many of the fundamentals

get pushed to the wayside of our curriculum. We end up just trying to get through the day, weeks, semester, and the year.

A student of mine had expressed that she wanted to measure her grandmother’s baking pan but didn’t know-how. For many years after, I taught sixteen and seventeen- year-olds taking two and three AP courses in other subjects, how to use a twelve-inch ruler. Whatever your subject is, narrow your topics and be sure to teach the fundamentals. Your students will remember you for this.

Be precise about what you want your students to learn and check with them for understanding. Provide multiple examples and ask them to find their examples.

Online engagement allows you to present the information in a fun and captivating way that sparks student curiosity. It enables you to access a wide range of interactive and practical lesson plans that cover your topic’s fundamentals and engage your students in online education.

4. Turn All Topics into Questions

Phrase your lesson topics in questions. Think of the who, what, when, and where of your topic. Add questions such as, “Would you rather this or that?”

Questions are precious tools in teaching as they encourage critical thinking and more answers demonstrating the depth of understanding. Most teachers are familiar with the goal of Bloom’s Taxonomy to move students from memorization to higher-level thinking. The cognitive skills that help students learn are (in the hierarchical order, based on their complexity):

The most demanding cognitive process is creating new knowledge. When we teach our students new information, we want them to take it with them and relate it to other areas of their lives.

Encourage the growth mindset in your students. Children with a growth mindset are curious and see mistakes as learning opportunities. They are ready to take healthy risks and are continually stimulating their brains with new challenges. Also, students with a growth mindset can handle constructive criticism because they are focused on continuously improving themselves.

On the other hand, kids with a fixed mindset tend to believe that their skills and intelligence are fixed and cannot be improved. They avoid changes and efforts and tend to give up easily when confronted with life challenges.

The growth mindset will help your students set SMART goals and put effort into achieving them. These qualities will also help your students explore and learn with confidence because they are not afraid of failures but identify the obstacles and find constructive ways to overcome them.

5. Teach for Impact by Telling Stories

Students have told me the darnest things over the years. Kids love sharing stories about their everyday lives and experiences. Stories aren’t just for bedtime. And they aren’t just for children.

Storytelling has become a necessity in marketing and sales. Businesses rely on storytellers to sell their services and products. The narrative of someone’s small business is what will gain loyal clients. When we were kids, we shared stories about our school days; as adults, we now share information about our students, clients, patients, etc.

It is believed that the oldest form of storytelling is represented in Chauvet Cave in France, dating 36,000 years ago. Later, around 700 BC, the first written story by the Greeks appeared. But there were many stories told within families and passed from one generation to the next verbally. For example, it is believed that Aesop’s Fables were passed along verbally for three hundred years before being written down.

How did storytelling become so important? Think of the Civil War, for example. If stories had not been verbally passed on and written down in cherished letters home and sacred journals in the war camps, what would we know? If the few existing photographers in the 1860s had not shown up on the battlefields, the Civil War story would have been Gone with The Wind. And we would not have Scarlett O’Hara to share her story.

Today, storytellers are highly regarded and often highly paid people. They are our screenwriters, commercial writers, playwrights, authors, news reporters, bloggers, radio personalities, and songwriters.

Students connect emotionally to stories. Stories spur students’ curiosity about the world around them, boost creative thinking, and spark interest in the topic.

When you tell students a story of your own experiences, it enables them to privately imagine how they would respond in the same situation without repercussions. Stories give us time to anticipate, contemplate, and process information. No matter where you travel in the world, you will find storytelling. Storytelling is universal.

6. Get Students Involved in Their Own Assessment and Evaluation

What is the student self-assessment? Well, it can be as simple as having your online learners give you a thumbs-up to show their grasp of the lesson and that they are ready to move on to the next step or stage of the activity.

Or, self-assessment can involve an intensive journal writing activity. Depending on the subject, grade level, learning style, and goal of the lesson, self-assessment takes on many different aspects.

Self-assessment in pre-school children may involve asking them to circle a face with a smile or a face with a frown to indicate how they feel about their activity.

On the other hand, college-level self-assessment must dig for a deeper understanding and evaluation by enhancing performance. Self-assessment should promote and allow for self-correction and improvement; otherwise, it may not be beneficial.

Coming from a career teaching high school art, formative assessment is natural and expected. My art students would complete a project and then self-evaluate in four categories; craftsmanship, effort, technical ability, and originality.

Their self-evaluations were then turned in with their projects and taken into consideration when I completed my assessment. The students were honest and often wrote extra thoughts or pertinent information next to their scores. This process gave me insight and connected me to their learning experience in a way that I could not have had otherwise.

Self-assessment is a vital ingredient of formative assessment. In the virtual classroom, formative assessment increases student motivation, achievement, and independence.

The purpose of student self-assessment is to provide feedback that improves performance and offers an opportunity for adjustment and correction.

To enhance your students’ self-assess, provide examples of mastery, so your students get to know what excellent work looks like. Provide your students with the specific vocabulary that will help them evaluate their work. Encourage the students to share their voices, give constructive feedback, and treat each other with respect.

In today’s classroom, I can imagine the creative ways teachers could have students present their self-assessments, rather than on a piece of paper.

Use savvy apps and technological tools such as self-assessment question cards, emoji worksheets, exit slips, lesson tweet slips, etc. that could stimulate your students and make the self-assessment process even more intuitive and fun.

Dennise Heckman has been teaching & coaching since 1996. She majored in illustration at the Savannah College of Art & Design, holds a Master of Education Degree

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