Teaching Tuesday: 7 Ways to Activate Student Engagement With Technology in Virtual and In-Person Settings

By Allison Y. Casias, Ed.D., faculty

student engaging in virtual learning environment

Whether teaching students virtually, in person or a mix of both, teachers continually revise and recreate engagement strategies to meet the needs of their students. Here are a few ways you can activate student engagement and encourage your students to turn on their cameras and participate in class.

Integrate Music in the Classroom

Engage your students by utilizing music in the classroom. Start the class period with a hip song. If you have students online and in-person you can start class a few days a week with a fun song. Allow your students to get up and show a few good dance moves and make sure to point your camera to the class so your online students can see all the fun and join in!

Name a Classroom DJ

To go along with the song idea, have a selected student be the classroom DJ for the day. Remind them the song must be school appropriate and ask the DJ to explain why they chose the song. Consider rewarding extra points to a student who can present the music video to the class.

Encourage Virtual Drawing

You can be silly with your virtual students and tell them you will put funny stickers on your face or their face while you are teaching if they turn on their camera for a certain amount of time. To up the ante you can tell students that you will use a marker and draw something funny on your face or use polka dots if they leave their cameras on for the entire class period. Are you brave enough? This activity can be adapted to in-person settings by using real stickers on engagement cards.

Pet Show

Furry friends got a lot of attention when students stayed home for virtual learning. A fun way to get your online students interested in turning on their camera and microphones is by asking them to present their pets to the class. You can select one or two students to share each day. For students who do not have pets, allow them to present something that is special to them. This can be adapted to in-person settings by having students bring in a picture of their pets or sharing a digital image.

Create a Scavenger Hunt

You can create a scavenger hunt for your students. Make a list of items that are related to your class subject and allow students five minutes to look in their homes, backpacks or classroom for the items. Have students with the most items found present them to the class.

Host First Chapter Friday

On Fridays, select a student to choose a book from their grade level and read the first chapter to the class. Online students can turn on their camera while they are reading or share their screen if they are reading a digital book. For students in-class they can sit or stand in front of the class to read the book aloud. Incorporating learning environment routines like this can provide many benefits to student engagement and academic performance.

Teach Phone Etiquette

Teach students how to make a proper phone call, answer a phone call and leave a voicemail. This is a skill that all our students need to learn. You can find scripts online or create a script for your students to read from. You can even partner with another teacher and have your students call each other and practice answering the phone.

A sample script can read: “Hello, this is Dr. Casias’ classroom, how can I help you?” (Pause for response) “I’m sorry, she is helping a student right now, would you like to leave a message for her?” (Pause for response) “Thank you so much, I will give her this message promptly…Goodbye.” You can also adapt the script to the content of the subject you will be teaching.

These are just a few ways you can take 5⁠ to 10 minutes at the start of class to boost engagement with virtual or in person students. You and your students can get the class off to a quick start and have fun utilizing these engagement strategies and others.

At Grand Canyon University’s College of Education, our teaching and learning cycle provides a structure for reflection for teacher and principal candidates. The college provides guidance based on research regarding the professional teaching and learning process and is grounded in our rich Christian heritage. Learn more about earning your education degree from GCU and return each week for a new Teaching Tuesday post.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.