5 Remote Friendly Teaching Strategies to Deepen Empathy

During Universal Human Rights Month this December and every month, optimizing classroom activities to foster learning and caring about global human rights is a crucial task of modern educators. For all of the vital information that is available about histories of struggles for human rights and coverage of ongoing struggles, teaching this material demands parallel attention to deepening our capacities for empathy and perspective taking. Based on a bedrock of social-emotional learning (SEL) methodology, Facing History offers these 5 remote-friendly teaching strategies to aid thoughtful teaching in remote and mixed learning environments:

Contracting for Remote Learning
Contracting is the process of openly discussing with students how classroom members will engage with each other and with the learning experience, and it is an important strategy for making the classroom a reflective and respectful community. Since remote learning deeply affects the progression of classroom communication, it is important to update your class contract so it accounts for any new logistical circumstances so students can feel engaged, valued, respected, and heard.

Bio-poem: Connecting Identity and Poetry
“Who am I?” is a question on the minds of many adolescents. This activity helps students clarify important elements of their identities by writing a poem about themselves or about a historical or literary figure. By providing a structure for students to think more critically about an individual’s traits, experiences, and character, bio-poems allow students to build peer relationships and foster a cohesive classroom community.

Reflection upon the complexity of one’s own identity is also crucial for building an empathic bridge to the inner worlds and social lives of others.
[NOTE: We invite you to make logistical tweaks to ensure alignment with your current teaching situation.]

Text-to-Text, Text-to-Self, Text-to-World
Reading comes alive when we recognize how the ideas in a text connect to our experiences and beliefs, events happening in the larger world, our understanding of history, and our knowledge of other texts. This strategy helps students develop the habit of making these connections as they read. When students are given a purpose for their reading, they are able to better comprehend and make meaning of the ideas in the text.

Promoting processing on these multiple levels also trains students to carry this mode of analysis beyond the classroom and apply it in situations where they have the potential to make a difference.
[NOTE: We invite you to make logistical tweaks to ensure alignment with your current teaching situation.]

Graffiti Boards
Virtual Graffiti Boards are a shared writing space (such as Google Docs, Google Jamboard, Padlet, Flipgrid, or VoiceThread) where students can write comments or questions during a synchronous session or during a defined asynchronous time. The purpose of this strategy is to help students “hear” each other’s ideas. Virtual Graffiti Boards create a record of students’ ideas and questions that can be referred to at a later point, and give students space and time to process emotional material.

Students’ responses can give you insight into what they are thinking and feeling about a topic and provide a springboard for both synchronous and asynchronous discussions. Further, this strategy allows students to practice taking in the perspectives of others and trying on others’ experiences in a manner that also provides them with space to process material that may be challenging.

Journals in Remote Learning
Journals play a key role in a Facing History classroom, whether the learning is in person or remote. Many students find that writing or drawing in a journal helps them process ideas, formulate questions, retain information, and synthesize their perspectives and experiences with those of classmates.

Journals make learning visible by providing a safe, accessible space for students to share thoughts, feelings, and uncertainties.

They also help nurture classroom community and offer a way for you to build relationships with your students through reading and commenting on their journals. And frequent journal writing helps students become more fluent in expressing their ideas in writing or speaking.

Facing History and Ourselves invites educators to use our resource collection for remote and hybrid learning, Taking School Online with a Student-Centered Approach.

Topics: Online Learning, Empathy

By Kaitlin Smith
Kaitlin Smith is a Marketing and Communications Writer for Facing History and Ourselves. At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you’re engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.

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