Remote Learning Questioning & Engagement Tricks

We’ve noticed that asking questions online takes a looooooooooong time. Whether it’s processing the question (in Latin) and coming up with a response, or tech delays like unmuting and typing into chat, there are definitely obstacles to this most basic way to engage students. Here are some solutions…

Quick Quiz as Annotation Tasks
I’ve stopped Quick Quizzes entirely, but kept using the same questions as Annotation Tasks. These simple tasks keep students following along with a text by writing in their notebooks. You could call this “accountability” if it makes you feel more like a teacher of the year. Like Quick Quizzes, they’re also an opportunity to establish meaning in a different way. For example:

Ōrīōnī valdē placuērunt sorōrēs septem.

Last week in class, the task was “in your notebook, write down how many sisters Orion really liked.” This isn’t a trick. Students already read “septem” in the previous sentence along with numerals (VII), and they could even count the number of sisters in the illustration. The point of an Annotation Task is to hold attention with something VERY simple to do. As a bonus, the meaning of all the other words can be given in the question itself. An even easier question would be “who really liked the seven sisters.” A trickier question would be “what did Orion really like?” Another task entirely would be “write down what ‘sorōrēs septem’ means,” and well, you get the idea. These also serve as gradebook evidence…

Weekly Latin Work
If you’re familiar with the super reasonable weekly Latin work idea from August, I can report that this helps everyone except students who don’t have the best digital literacy and independent learner skills, which is basically all incoming 9th grade high school students!! I’m not really surprised. In the end, the weekly Latin work was still a homework assignment, however simple, and I haven’t bothered with homework for years.

For Quarter 2, we’ll be replacing this idea with an in-class version that’s even more streamlined—just one pic of notebook from class—as gradebook evidence for in-class participation. You could think of this as one exit ticket once a week. That’s it! Towards the end of class, I just drop the Bitly link into chat so students on laptops can easily type a short URL into their phone and instantly snap a pic, and voilà!

When combined with the Annotation Tasks above, you can see who was responding throughout class, even with those empty squares and muted mics. And if you get back some pretty thin-looking notes, you can follow up with students on the source of their Zoom ghosting. Seriously, just ask. I’ve learned of several different legit reasons, including a student quarantined from his COVID-positive mom along with a sibling and grandmother. Reading the myth of Orion and the Seven Sisters is pretty low in terms of that kid’s needs, right?

Cynthia Hitz’ Engagement trick:
Consider using Cynthia’s trick for additional questions. My take on that is something like:

  • “This Q is for Student X…”
  • “OK class, what did Student X write in their notebook?”

This can engage all students as well as show us if Student X actually writes down (when submitted at end of class). Also, whether they came up with the response on their own, or they heard their/saw classmates respond and then wrote it down afterwards doesn’t actually matter! This is a management tool.

2 thoughts on “Remote Learning Questioning & Engagement Tricks

  1. Thanks for great, practical, simple ideas as always Lance! I’m also virtual, and much reduced class time – only 2 hours per week. I’ve also reduced and almost completely cut out quizzes. My grade depends almost entirely in, “do students reply in the chat when I ask questions?” I’m curious as to your reaction to my homework plan for this year.e.
    My thought for out of class input is to assign it every week or other week, and give a variety of options. They fill out a simple form (see below.)
    The reality is that only some of my kids will do it. Some don’t because they choose not to, others don’t because their circumstances make it ALMOST impossible. So, I do grade it, but it is a SMALL (as in, less than 5%) part of the overall grade. Why? Many of my kids, despite hard circumstances, do have time, AND want to learn more. This allows and encourages them to. The minuscule proportion of the grade means my kids that don’t do it can still get a low A or A-. My kids ARE getting less input than kids in neighboring, more white, and more prosperous districts that currently have in person learning. My hope is that encouraging outside of class input gives a chance for my kids to learn/acquire more.

    • Yeah, I think moving everything that’s graded outside of class to a) completion-only, and b) a low (if at all) grading percentage is the way to go. We have the exact same schedule, so I can relate to the situation. I can say that assigning anything outside of class is still homework, which means there’s still students to follow up with who don’t do it. That’s why I’ve moved to mid- or end-of-class form submission for grading. Absent students don’t have to make it up. They’re just noted as absent (also a sign of lack of input). I still have a “read each night” expectation, and for Quarter 2 we’ll recommend specific texts each class, but that isn’t tracked. If it were, I’d do something similar like you did.

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