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8 strategies to improve student participation in a virtual classroom

Author: Dawn Mitchell


Hello everyone,

One of the biggest benefits of a weekend is the opportunity to rest, relax and reflect. 

Time to pause and think can give you space to consider what you can do to encourage improvement with your instruction and with student performance.  One area that many of you may want to target as an area of growth is student engagement.

I want to share with you a recent article from Edutopia that provides eight strategies to improve student participation in a virtual classroom.  These are excellent and can be used for live, synchronous instruction for those of you teaching virtually and for the hybrid, asynchronous instruction for our face to face teachers on the days students are not in the classroom.  

Take a look at the link to the article to learn more.  I hope these eight strategies are beneficial to you.


For synchronous learning, some teachers said they translated traditional discussion strategies from the classroom to live video chats, while others found that digital tools helped boost classroom participation.

  1. Spider web discussion: During remote learning this spring, students in Shai Klima’s high school class led their own discussions over Google Meet. Before the live class, students answered questions independently, and then shared their responses at the start of the meeting as a jumping-off point for a broader class discussion.

  2. Using chat to check for understanding: After giving lessons last spring, Paul France had his third-grade students use the Google Chat feature to ask and answer questions or type in emojis, like a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, to show whether they understood a concept. To create structure around the responses, he guided his students in creating norms around using the chat feature—they decided as a group to use only one emoji at a time, for example. France said the practice helped him check for student understanding and pushed students to engage more with the content.

  3. Flip your classroom to stimulate deeper discussion: Forrest Hinton, a high school math teacher, says he found that a blend of asynchronous and synchronous instruction worked well to stimulate student discussion during remote learning.

  4. Adapting think-pair-share to Zoom: Ryan Tahmaseb, director of library services, says he found that giving more project-based learning activities to his elementary and middle school students—and allowing them more autonomy over assignments—naturally encouraged richer discussions in virtual learning. “If we give students as much freedom as possible to experiment, research, and pursue interests within our content area, then they inevitably have a lot more to say,” said Tahmaseb.

  5. A new twist on show-and-tell: To get students comfortable with online participation, Brittany Collins, the teaching and learning coordinator at Write the World, a global online writing community for middle and high school students, converted the familiar show-and-tell activity into “think, write, share.


Although some teachers—and students—said that synchronous discussions were more engaging because they resembled a traditional classroom, many educators found that asynchronous discussions were more equitable because they opened up participation to students with low bandwidth, who had schedule limitations, or who were uncomfortable engaging with the full class.

  1. Online forums create back-and-forth dialogue: Angelina Murphy, a high school English teacher, said she used Google Classroom’s question feature to get her class to respond to readings and discussion prompts during remote learning this past spring. When each student commented, Murphy replied with clarifying questions to create a back-and-forth dialogue and also asked every student to respond to at least two of their peers’ comments to create a broader base of discussion.

  2. Seeing and critiquing peer work through virtual gallery walks: Virtual “gallery walks” give students an opportunity to view their classmates’ projects while learning from each other, according to Joe Marangell, a high school social studies teacher. After his students presented their own projects through five-minute screencasts, they were then required to give feedback to at least two other students on theirs.

  3. Moving station brainstorming online: When carousel or station brainstorming activities are conducted in traditional classroom environments, small groups of students rotate around the room to different stations to answer prompts—and view and add to each groups’ responses.

Sincerely, Dawn



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