Encouraging Active Listening in the Digital Classroom

Keeping students actively engaged while teaching via distance learning can be frustrating at times. It can be more difficult for students to focus in a distance learning situation than in a physical classroom, as there are so many distractions at home. But as we know, students will get way more out of their virtual classes when they are actively listening and participating. Here are some tips and suggestions to encourage active listening and participation from your students during their distance learning drama classes.

1. Keep video screens on.

All students should keep their video screens on and focused on their faces, so you can see what they’re doing. If a student needs to turn off their screen, they need to let you know why. You don’t need to demand that they all be looking at their screens all the time (some students might need to look away to focus), but you should be able to see them.

2. Try wearing headphones.

Headphones can reduce household distractions and allow your students to hear you better.

3. Ask your students questions.

Let your students know that you’ll be calling on them to answer questions to see if they’re absorbing the material. Don’t let them know who you will call on in advance. Keep students on their toes.

Try this: Write each student’s name on an index card. When you ask a question, hold up the index card to indicate which student you are calling on to answer the question. See if that student sees that they’re being called on.

4. Keep lessons active.

When possible, let your students do the majority of the talking. Ask students to share their thoughts and opinions. Have them give demonstrations. Have them re-state important points in their own words. Encourage them to give feedback to their peers. Have them verbally summarize exercise directions. It will be useful to establish a signal, gesture, or notification for who talks when, otherwise students might just talk over each other.

5. Use a written response sheet.

At the end of each class, have students fill out and submit a response sheet about that day’s lesson topic. Similar to a reflection, this will give you an idea of what students absorbed from that lesson, and what interested them. Give them a time limit (e.g., within 30 minutes of the end of the virtual class). See below for a free sample response sheet.

6. Adjust class sizes.

If scheduling permits it, you might try holding one large class for the full group of students, and then smaller group tutorial-style meetings to discuss topics and concerns. It can be difficult to monitor large groups on online platforms. Smaller groups lend themselves better to direct feedback and teacher-student interaction.

7. Include a participation mark.

This depends on whether your administrators are having you grade your students, but having a participation mark can often affect students’ decision to actively listen to lessons.

8. Be gentle with yourself and your students.

Distance learning is still new for most of us, and it can be a challenge to get students to even show up to online classes, let alone actively listen and participate. Praise and thank your students who attend your lessons, and pat yourself on the back for the work you are doing. It isn’t easy, and you are working hard to give your students a great educational experience.

For more tips on active listening, check out the following posts:

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