MCCESC Teaching & Learning

December Focus: How To's for Remote Teaching

You will survive!

We know that with numbers on the rise, you may be wondering when your district goes fully remote, or perhaps the bigger concern is "What happens when we go remote again?" In the spring, many of us were just trying to survive, but now, many of you are experts on remote teaching.

This month, we wanted to share some "how-to's" on some of the more complicated topics of remote learning: student engagement, discourse, and scientific discovery.

In the video below, Professor Michael Bruening, who teaches History and Political Science at Missouri University of Science and Technology, created this parody based on the song “I Will Survive” to show how educators are getting by. It Is intended to show what teachers are experiencing and to help them overcome this new lifestyle.

I Will Survive, Coronavirus version for teachers going online

How Do I Increase Student Engagement During Remote Learning?

Many teachers are just wondering how they can encourage students to log-in to class. The most important thing to remember is that your online class meeting ,in many cases, should not be identical to the way you held class in-person. In order to keep students engaged in learning, TeachThought recommends the following 25 tips:

  1. Start with Students - consider them in every aspect of planning. As much as you may be feeling burnt out, they are, too. Social-emotional activities will let them know that you care about them.
  2. Simplify - prioritize the learning standards and condense your instruction. If you lectured for 45 minutes in-person, it is important to cut that down to the most important information.
  3. Work Backward - consider the end-goal: student learning. In order to get there while maintaining some sanity, it is suggested you consider "small, bite-sized learning activities with clear objectives and intentional transitions–all while planning for and necessitating student engagement and autonomy."
  4. Meet for Briefer Periods, More Frequently - the younger the students, the more important this is.
  5. Be the "Lead Learner" as Much as You Are the "Teacher" - be honest that this is all new to you, as well.
  6. Use Lighting & Sound to Your Advantage - it is all about keeping their attention
  7. Use Games & Music - There are YouTube and Spotify channels that are instrumental pop music so that you can avoid any inappropriate words being played. Brightful offers engaging ways to build community online.
  8. Use Different Tools for Different Things, Usually - There are so many tools out there that could be utilized for meeting, grading, collaboration, etc. But don't overwhelm yourself and the students by trying to use too many things at once.
  9. Think Differently about Classroom Management - Unlike the in-person classroom, remote learning how students and parents involved. Share your expectations prior to each "live" session, and consider ways of recognizing desired behavior.
  10. Try to Ensure the Privacy of Each Student - While many of us would prefer to have students turn cameras on to ensure engagement, that opens their personal space to many eyes. Be sure to talk with your administrator about district policies regarding policy of student privacy.
  11. Design for Participation - Do more than lecture, especially if you are holding a synchronous class. Have rich questions prepared and a space for students to respond - either in small groups or in writing.
  12. Test Everything, Plan Ahead, and Assume Everything will Break - self-explanatory
  13. Empower Students: Emphasize Autonomy & Engagement - using learning plans, menus, and playlists will allow for both. If you would like to learn more, contact Tracy Merica:
  14. Think Before, During, and After the Lesson - This comes back to planning. If you consider what your students know and can do during each of these times, it will help you plan the lesson to be most engaging for students.
  15. Use the Right Platform for the Right Teaching - goes back to #8
  16. Know the Features & Functions of the Platform, Inside & Out - Comes back to testing and planning and assuming everything will break. Having some knowledge of how to troubleshoot when you have a classroom of students waiting for it all to work.
  17. Personalize Learning Objectives or Approaches - When you are choosing lesson styles that work for each student, they are more likely to enjoy and engage in the lesson.
  18. Connect Individually through Messaging or Individual "Rooms" - Effective teaching is all about building relationships
  19. Be Selective in What You Do Together - Lectures can be recorded and shared with students to view before or after the remote class period. Use the time together to introduce, reinforce, or practice the information.
  20. Create Breakout Rooms Ahead of Time - doing so allows you to group according to ability, interest, learning style, or simply to avoid "those kids" being randomly assigned to the same group.
  21. Leverage the Beginning and End of Each Remote Session - This is where you "hook" and leave them wanting more or excited for next time. Plan those times wisely.
  22. Use Quick, Informal Checks for Understanding - Formative assessments, just like in the in-person classroom, allow you make sure that your hard work in planning is paying off.
  23. Be Intentional with Transitions - The transitions are where you can keep them engaged or lose them due to the downtime - plan accordingly.
  24. Use a Timer - This will help in curbing downtime, as well as keeping you to a schedule to keep the class period moving.
  25. Consider Digital Grouping Strategies - not every remote lesson needs to be done whole-group

**BONUS** Teach for Engagement, Not Coverage - If you are planning each lesson "just to get through the curriculum," the likelihood of your students retaining the information is low. Creating lessons where they use, talk about, and apply their learning are going to give you more "bang for your buck."

***If you need support for any of the above suggestions, don't be afraid to reach out to our team, or check out our website for upcoming PLO's! ***

Helpful Graphic for Rethinking Teaching

Below is an awesome resource that might be helpful and reinforces the above list. We have included both a picture of it as well as a downloadable PDF version.
Big picture

How Do I Promote Discourse in Remote Teaching?

Discourse and its Importance

In an article by McGraw Hill (2018), it is stated that "Generally, classroom discourse encompasses different types of written and spoken communication that happen in the classroom. Today, that definition goes even deeper to include representing, thinking, interpreting, expressing, reflecting, agreeing and disagreeing, and even debating and arguing."

The illustration shows us that students learn 10% of what is read, 20% of what is heard, 30% of what is seen, 50% of what is seen and heard, 70% of what is discussed with others, 80% of what is experienced, and 95% of what is taught to others (Williams Glasser).

In John Hattie's Visible Learning (2012), he shares that:

  • "Teachers talk between 70 and 80% of the class time," and "teachers' talking increases as the year level rises and as the class size decreases" (p. 80).
  • Student engagement is higher when teachers talk less, especially in at-risk students (p. 80).
  • Only "5-10% of teacher talk triggers more conversation or dialogue engaging the student" (p. 81).
  • Teacher effectiveness and teacher talk are inversely linked - "when highly effective and other teachers were compared, the former had more general class talk and less directive talk" (p. 81).

So How I Get My Students to do the Talking?

1) Open up class with a hook. Remember when we were taught this in college? It is often one of the first things thrown out of class because of time; however, it is a great opportunity to get students talking. An easy idea for any subject area is "Would You Rather?" Whether you have your students openly answer or write their answers, this would a great way to assess prior knowledge, application of newly taught information, or simply incorporate humor into class.

2) Give students the opportunity to collaborate with peers - either synchronously or asynchronously. In a synchronous setting, students could be placed in breakout rooms with pre-made (or not) Jamboards or Google Slides. In an asynchronous setting, you could assign questions on Flipgrid, Kialo Edu, or Parlay for students to discuss, debate, or share out their learning.

3) Provide students with sentence starters, higher-level stems or questions that they can utilize to keep the conversations going. Often times, discussion dies off because students do not know how to keep it going or what questions to ask next.

4) Keep looking for new ideas. While researching resources for this article, I found an extensive list of blogs with lessons, instructions, and examples on how to promote discourse in remote teaching.

Teaching Science in a Virtual Classroom by Paul Bozeman

How I'm Teaching Remotely

With remote learning continuing to be in effect for many schools, teaching a hands-on subject, such as science, can be challenging for educators. Not being able to have students experiment, test, and explore firsthand has encouraged new teaching practices. When teachers are preparing to teach science online, teachers have to figure how to take what they traditionally would do in the classroom and replicate that online. Science teachers need and want to push exploration and engage students in discourse. Of course we would all like to be teaching science as usual with lots of hands-on learning, but for many of you, this is just not realistic. The good news is that there are a lot of free resources available.

Virtual Labs-

Online Content


Virtual Field Trips-

Science Discourse and Discussion-

Get online with Experts-
    • National Geographic Explorer Classroom- Offers weekly livestreams with scientists, explorers, and astronauts where students can live chat with questions.

    • Cincinnati Zoo-Posts videos of zookeepers interacting with animals and answering questions from viewers.

    • NASA Live- Posts videos of all kinds of cool space events.

Use videos or create your own!

Lessons Learned

Each month, we are going to share experiences from teachers. More specifically, what they learned during these months of uncertainty.

If you are interested in sharing your lesson learned, register here.

Finding the Silver Lining

Danielle Wilson, 7th/8th Grade Science Teacher at Triad Middle School shared:

The words “unprecedented” and “trying times” have been used so often we have become numb to them. Parents, teachers, students, custodians, bus drivers, nurses, cafeteria workers, student aids, and administrators have been asked to reach deeper and find a strength they didn’t know they had. We have all had to wear layer upon layer of hats sometimes the weight of which makes us feel as though we can’t take one more step before they all come tumbling down. At times it seems we are all Sisyphus pushing our boulders uphill as we are asked to quickly adapt, then adapt again, and again.

Despite all of this, I have learned that no matter the hardship people show up. Students have gone to restaurant parking lots to access WIFI and complete assignments. Teachers are engaging and supporting students simultaneously online and in the classroom. Parents are relearning material from their school years in an effort to help their children at home. Custodians, bus drivers, nurses and cafeteria workers are spending countless hours keeping our students safe, fed and healthy. Administrators are carrying the weight of their decisions to educate our future while keeping them safe.

I have told my students there is a silver lining amongst this great trail-- they will be a generation of problem solvers, of innovators, of planners, of people with heart and grit because they will be the ones who show up just as they are now.

Danielle, you continue to give 100% for your students despite the growing number of hats you are having to wear. We are thankful for your dedication, as well as your contribution!

Digital Successes

Allison Haerr, 7th Grade ELA Teacher at Triad Middle School shared:

During this pandemic, I have learned how helpful going digital can be. During remote learning, I had to switch over many assignments to a digital format. I have continued using the digital formats this year and it helps keep me organized. I enjoy not having to carry home papers and worrying about forgetting them or them getting damaged (my cat loves to chew on papers). With Google Classroom, everything is in one convenient place.

I also do digital rubrics now. This helps because they are all in one place for the students to access them. I mark their grades and comments directly on the rubric, and students can't misplace digital copies!

Making everything digital takes extra time now, but after I get everything converted, it will save me time in the future. This has been the biggest lesson I have learned while teaching during a pandemic.

Allison, your optimism regarding the move to online teaching is sure to make a difference in the attitudes of your students, as well as your colleagues. Thank you for your contribution, and we hope your school year is going wonderfully!

Did you know?

Our Teaching & Learning Department has content specialists in ELA, math and science, but we have additional areas of expertise, as well:

  • Blended Learning and Flipped Classrooms
  • Classroom Management
  • Data Use in Instructional Decisions
  • Formative Instructional Practices
  • Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports
  • Problem-based Learning
  • Restorative Justice Education
  • StartSOLE
  • STEM Education
  • Student Engagement

You are welcome to reach out with any classroom questions you have, and we will do our best to provide you with the answers, resources, or support necessary.


While we are not self-care experts, we can help you with instruction. Please reach out to us if you find yourself needing instructional or curricular help during these complicated times. We know that you have been inundated with resources, so we have worked to organize those for you. We are here to help.


We have linked upcoming webinars and online workshops that are being offered to educators at no cost.

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