Engaging high school students and their families during distance learning

As teachers and school staff navigate remote instruction, consider these tips for engaging high schoolers and their families: 

Listen to families.

Administer surveys to families to gauge the type of support they need. Ask for preferred communication types, comfort level with technology, and what their biggest concerns are for their children’s education. 

Designate a centralized platform for communicating with families.

Utilize tools such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, or Facebook to keep in contact, and as a safe space for families to communicate with each other. Review security settings for the platform you choose and ensure only your students and their families can access your content/group. 

Consider conducting a daily or weekly announcement video shared via email and through the designated communication platform(s). 

Make information accessible. 

Strive to be inclusive of families who speak various languages and write communications at no higher than a sixth-grade reading level. 

Not all families have experience with technology or know how to email or fill out an online form. Conduct webinars or short videos explaining the platforms you will be using and how they will support home learning. Many platforms have already developed instructional videos that you can pass along to families as well.

Encourage families to create self-accountability plans. 

Self-accountability plans include students reflecting on their learning and performance, setting goals, and creating action plans. Self-assessment strategies include student reflections, rubrics, graphic organizers, oral assessments, and individual targets. 

Throughout the learning process, students can ask themselves: What are my learning goals and how will I achieve them? Am I making progress toward my goals? How effective are my study and learning strategies? What will I do differently next time? 

Consider alternatives to traditional assignments.

Offer opportunities to extend learning using virtual field trips or online lessons. There are many great resources for this like Google Earth VR, StoryCorps, National Geographic Education, National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Archives, Ford’s Theatre, Newseum, Big History Project, and Smithsonian Learning Lab.

Consider opportunities that aren’t tied to grades, where students can explore or research topics for enjoyment. Wonderopolis® is a great resource for this, because students and their families can find content for practically any topic that interests them. Each Wonder of the Day® includes informational text, fun and engaging activities, and related media, all helping to build background knowledge and vocabulary skills. The site also features Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, a new technology that expands content accessibility through a variety of reading assistance features.

Let students and families know you’re there for them, even from a distance.

In closing, strive to check in often to address frustration or confusion and to ensure students are keeping up. Checking in can help the emotional wellbeing of your students. Remember some will be experiencing the loss of their extracurricular activities, prom, and graduation. 

NCFL is here to support you and the families you serve. Is there a topic you need more help with? Could you use more support or resources for online learning? Comment below to share your thoughts.