What Teachers Have Found to Be Essential to Remote Teaching

June 2, 2020
Written by
Matthew Kelly

What Teachers Have Found to Be Essential to Remote Teaching

July 24, 2023
June 2, 2020
Written by
Matthew Kelly

We’ve been awfully curious about how educators have handled the stay-at-home orders; specifically, what teachers have been focusing on and noticing in their remote teaching. At this early stage of the work, we realize everyone is creating their own interpretation, but Jim Knight recently checked in with teachers on Twitter and received tons of great responses.

Jim’s tweet garnered so many insightful and helpful ideas, and we wanted to share what real teachers have found to be the most important factors to incorporate into their strategies for remote teaching. We’ve compiled and summarized some the most shared concepts below. For a complete list of all of the comments, check out the original tweet and comments.

Checks for Engagement and Understanding

“How many students remained engaged during the lesson? Why were they engaged? How do you plan to use this technique again/share it with other? If they weren’t engaged, why not and what techniques could you try to involve students more in the lesson?” – Stephanie Bikowski

Many teachers who responded to Jim’s question mentioned that student engagement is essential for remote lessons to be successful. Not being in the physical classroom with students can make it difficult to assess their engagement with the material or their understanding of the lesson. Keeping the following in mind can help keep students engaged and create new avenues for checking on understanding:

  • Students know busy work when they see it, so keep tasks engaging and important
  • Record how much time students spend listening vs. actively participating
  • Using Zoom primarily as a touch point or a conversation tool can help keep “face-to-face” time from becoming a teacher-talk session
  • Utilizing tools like chat functions and fun, exciting visuals helps keep students focused
  • Monitoring which students were the most or least vocal and determining why can guide new strategies for increasing engagement
  • Making yourself available outside of Zoom videos (via email, Google Classroom, etc.) can provide more opportunities for students to solidify and demonstrate their understanding of the lesson

Student Feedback

“One of my students (10yrs old) gave me some feedback on my lessons. I asked how the videos were, and he said how much he liked how I made it feel like I was talking how I would be to him in the classroom.” – Jason Smith

Since we’re all learning how to adapt to our new normal, the simplest way to find out what works and what doesn’t is sometimes as simple as collecting direct feedback from students. If opportunities for student feedback are regularly occurring and recorded, patterns will emerge and can help inform future lessons. There’s no one way to collect feedback, but a couple of easy options are:

  • Use the Zoom poll feature for quick info on how students feel about aspects of your lessons
  • Create Google forms that asks specific questions, such as “Did you find it helpful or confusing?”, and also gives them a forum to bring up their own thoughts by asking questions like “What has been the most challenging part of distance-learning?”

Student Choice

“Choices. Students should have a role in the learning process. Letting them make decisions gives them ownership.” – Rhonda Kinstner

Considering the many challenges of remote learning and teaching, it can be easy to forget the importance of student choice. For students, the difference between watching their teacher lecture over Zoom and getting to decide how they will engage the material can be huge. Incorporating more choices for students can take shape by:

  • Make a week’s worth of lessons available at a time, so students can work at their own pace
  • Building in parts of the lesson or activity that students can manipulate or guide
  • Providing options for how students can complete assignments

Connections Before Curriculum

“Opportunities to connect with students. Let them see you and know you still care.” – Diana Beitz

Finally, the most commonly referenced item that teachers mentioned they would put on a checklist for remote teaching is creating and maintaining human connections with students. Social distancing has made us all feel more isolated and disconnected. Relationships are central to effective teaching, and they are more important now than ever. There are endless ways to cultivate meaningful connections with students, but there are several that teachers have found to be especially impactful during remote teaching:

  • Establishing the humanity of both the teacher and the students by sharing something silly or by simply asking, “How are you?” and really listening to the answer
  • Make connections with the community and with real life
  • Encourage engagement with family members and items on hand
  • If you usually tell stories in the physical classroom or routinely incorporate any type of informal, conversational, or personal time into your lessons, continue these norms in remote lessons



While these areas were the most commonly mentioned in the responses to Jim’s tweet, comments ranged from blank to blank and beyond. We are all still learning every day the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and teachers and students alike will continue to face challenges and create opportunities for growth and success.


Are there any other items that would be on your remote teaching checklist? Please add to the comment section below.

Don’t forget to check out all of the other helpful comments on Jim’s original tweet.

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