Friday, June 21, 2024

3 Strategies for Increasing Synchronous Engagement

Maintaining students’ engagement in a lesson is the foundation to effective teaching. Student achievement increases significantly when teachers use strategies to capture students’ attention and actively involve them in the learning process. Students who are not engaged, or become distracted or disinterested from the lesson, are less likely to learn efficiently. So when schools closed and instruction went online, it became a distraction minefield for our students! I was scrambling to pull together lessons, learn new tech, and find different ways to engage students online. I also had to think about different ways to measure student engagement. Cameras on or off, there was a virtual wall making it difficult to understand what students were learning or not learning. I needed new instructional strategies. And all I could think about was – am I boring?! 

So, it was easy for Bethany and I to come up with the theme of our first episode, “I’m not boring, you’re boring!” to help teachers increase synchronous engagement. During our brainstorming session we came up with three strategies to be less boring over zoom and capture student engagement. 

Strategy #1: Collect Student Feedback 

Giving a survey and asking students about their experience learning in your class can be extremely insightful. Students are honest, they will tell you what is boring them. Here are some surveys you can use:

Strategy #2: Give Choice

Allow students to choose which activity they can complete to demonstrate they have learned… they will likely choose the least boring one! Some examples include:

  • Giving choice from a selection of readings. Allow students to choose what they want to read, have those students get together in a breakout room and complete some sort of analysis. My favorite tech tool to use would be Jamboard! Take a look at these Visual Thinking Routines from Infused Classroom. They are totally awesome!
  • Give the same task, but give students a choice in their zoom environment. Here is the slide I use: Let Students Choose Their Breakout Room. I actually collected student feedback on this routine… the verdict? 5/5 stars. Student approved. 
  • Give choice based on where students are in the learning cycle. This can be informal where students self assess their proficiency on a learning target. They mark themselves as Proficient, Approaching, or Need Support.  Based on their selection they are prompted with the next task. Students who need support should stay and learn on zoom. Find out more here: Targeting Students Who Need Support.

Strategy #3: Reinvent a Tech Tool! 

One thing distance learning has forced me to do is learn more tech tools than I would have otherwise. In fact, I think we can all agree there is a tech tool we have learned this year that will follow us back into the classroom regardless if we are distance learning or not, and that’s a win! Here are some of tech tools and instructional strategies, enjoy people:

Google Slides and Pear Deck

Combining google slides and pear deck provides a way teachers can measure engagement and the opportunity to give instant feedback. Teachers can highlight a specific student response, toggle between responses, or in some instances share all student responses. It also makes embedding links and other resources a breeze. Learn more about Pear Deck Remote Resources.

One of my first and easy transitions to technology was thin slides! Create a template on one slide and duplicate as many times as you have groups or numbers of students. Give students a short amount of time to work (2-5 minutes) and then have them share out their work (approximately 30 seconds). Students can see everyone’s work and leave comments. Teachers can formatively assess and also leave comments. Low tech for high reward! Here is the how to guide: Thin Slide Step by Step.


I miss 4,579 things about teaching in the classroom, but one of the things I miss the most is hearing my students think. The buzz of conversation and collaboration within their groups really helped guide my instruction, picking up little tidbits of how they were thinking, where they were struggling, and what solutions they were using. Flipgrid is now the tech tool I use when I want to hear my students talk about content. Students can record reflections, give book reviews, practice world language skills, build classroom culture, etc. Have students use the screencasting feature to share powerpoints, data, graphs, drawings, and more. 


Teachers are so creative and this list could go on forever. A quick google search, “How to________ during distance learning” and there may just be a resource. Thank you to all who are currently sharing their resources, you guys rock! Here are some tech tools reinvented by Stephanie Arredondo and Christian Ruiz, two awesome teachers at AVHS. Take a look: New Digital Tools Resource.

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