How To Get Your Students Off The Screen During Virtual Learning

Eye strain. Headaches. Lagging Screens. These are unfortunately three frustrations that students are having during the 2020-2021 school year that were not as prevalent before….


Eye strain. Headaches. Lagging Screens. These are unfortunately three frustrations that students are having during the 2020-2021 school year that were not as prevalent before. Fortunately, I am going to share with you some ways to get your students off of the screen during virtual learning that you can implement right away!

The reality to face is that virtual learning may not be ending anytime soon. To help students adapt to remaining at home, teachers can become even more flexible than they already are in lesson planning. I know this sounds tough, but I promise it will be worth it for the students!

Instead of spending all day on the computer, creativity can be used to help students have a screen break while still working on an assignment.

1. Timed Writing Tasks 

It can be really tough to focus on work while watching yourself on the screen for an entire class period. By utilizing timed writing tasks, students are still engaged and at the computer, but they can turn the camera off for a bit. After providing instruction, put a countdown timer on the screen. Students can turn off their cameras and simply work until the timer runs out. Students can then turn on their cameras and discuss their work.

Before doing this activity, it may be helpful to have an open conversation with students about trust. You are trusting them to stay focused and working and will hold them accountable by submitting or sharing work.

2. Sketching

When classes were held in-person, teachers may have noticed students doodling or sketching on paper. By incorporating sketching into lessons, teachers can take a common interest and add in the content. Students can sketch or draw out their new learnings, ideas, or notes. They can provide a visual representation for any topic, such as key events in a chapter or a science model. When learning new vocabulary, students can also draw a visual representation of the word, which is a great way to help them learn the definition. For a submission, students can take a picture of their artwork and upload it as an assignment on the learning platform of the district. 

3. Apply Real-World Concepts 

Students are experiencing a real-world challenge as it is happening. They are not reading about it in a textbook or being told about something that previously happened. They are adapting to a new temporary normal as COVID-19 impacts so many areas of the world. Teachers can continue to incorporate real-world concepts into lessons. For example, if the lesson is on fractions, students can find something to represent a certain fraction, such as a pie at home. If a lesson is on shapes, students can take a scavenger hunt around the house and find items in the selected shape. Students can listen to the instruction on the computer and then be able to step away from the screen in order to complete the lesson. The class can regroup to share at a certain time or a picture can be submitted.

4. Incorporate Physical Movement and Total Physical Response

During virtual learning, students may be sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours. If a student does need to remain at the computer, try incorporating physical movement into the lesson. For example, students can use their arms to show the greater than and less than symbols. They can also stand or jump up once they have figured out an answer. Students can also come up with different movements to represent the content. To review vocabulary, they can also play a form of charades. By incorporating movement, students are more engaged in the lesson and will be thankful for the break from sitting and staring into the computer. 

5. Choice Boards

Choice boards are a great way to help provide options. The list can include several activities that take students away from the computer. For example, students may complete fractions while working on a recipe in the kitchen or create a diorama of a scene in a book. There will be multiple options that will help tailor lessons to student interests while providing a much-needed break. 

Virtual learning creates new challenges that teachers are working through daily. While planning, just remember it is okay to get students off of the computer screen to complete their work during virtual learning. You can remain at your computer in case students need to stop back in and ask questions. Students will be thankful for the screen break, which will hopefully lead to higher quality work and a calmer mindset in the virtual classroom. 

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