1. Have a Set Schedule of Meetings
Just like anything else in life consistency is key. Students need to have comfort and certainty about virtual class times. It is easier to remember math class is everyday at 2pm vs a rotating schedule. Enough consistent meetings will create habit and students will start naturally tuning in a the set time each day or week. This will take some work in the beginning but it will pay off.
Not only will the consistent meeting schedule help you keep in contact with your students but it will help them keep in contact with you. Instead of physically knowing where to find you in your classroom they will virtually know where to find you. If they need something they know you will be available at this time each day or week.
2. Use Google Classroom or Your School’s LMS as a class website
Assuming you are not overly techie like some teachers who have their own stand alone class website (hats, beanies, and hoods off to you) you can use google classroom as an email system and virtual bulletin board. Google classroom has an email feature where you can create a message and blast it to individual classes in seconds. This is helpful for class announcements as well as virtual class time reminders. I send weekly announcements at the same time each week as well as zoom call reminders 24 hours prior to our meetings.
One word of caution about this, less is more. If you abuse the email system and spam your students they will not know what is important and what is not. Too much email is overwhelming. Remember you are not the only one emailing your students. Help them cut through the noise by only sending things that matter.
3. Use a Mass SMS System Like Remind to Notify Students of Meetings.
Students are human and they are also trying to navigate this new system of learning, reminders are helpful. The remind app will send a text message to students to remind them about meetings. I send a reminder about 30 minutes then another 5 minutes before our virtual class meetings. This does two things, not just remind them but also it shows them you care if they attend the meeting.
The remind app is simple to set up and like email you just create one message and within seconds it’s sent to all your students. Remind or an SMS app is a valuable time saver and worth looking into.
4. Send Follow Up Communication After Each Virtual Meeting
If you use Zoom or Google hangouts you can record your meetings and either post in google classroom or email out to students afterwards. I use my meetings as live math lessons and most of my students can see the lesson once and be good but others need the replay. You can keep an organized list of replays in your google classroom and during your review sessions you can just point students to certain recordings. Need help with factoring, go watch the factoring lesson again.
Your follow up communications can also serve as reminders for important pieces of the meeting. “Here’s the recording also remember your homework is due tomorrow.” You can also create short formative assessments within google sheets, I suggest multiple choice to see if your students understand. These short email assessments can help up engagement.
5. The Oldie But Goodie The Automated Phone Call
If you have the time you can call students individually if you noticed they have missed a meeting. However, I suggest creating one voice recording and sending it to all students who missed the meeting at once. You can do this through call multipliers like Dial My Call and run it through your google voice number instead of your personal phone.
You can make a recording if they’ve missed just one meeting, another if they’ve missed two and probably an actual live phone call if they’ve missed more than that. This will let students know you care if they show up and you are keeping track. My students know I will be on their case if they miss even a single meeting.
Where there is a will there is a way. We luckily live in an era of technology and mass communication. It is easier now more than ever to keep in contact with your students. Just because they are not seeing you face to face everyday doesn’t mean you’ll lose touch. If nothing else, just communicating you care about them will help raise your meeting attendance.
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