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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WATCH NEXT ▶ https://youtu.be/-mzXW_uBU1w *Hey Hey!* Do you need some remote, distance, online learning hacks to incorporate into your teaching? These tips and strategies for remote teaching will enhance your work-life balance as a teacher and (hopefully) keep you sane during this time. Let me know in the comments if you have any other distance learning/teaching tips that may help other teachers; especially if you are further along in the remote teaching journey than I am! #distancelearning#remotelearning#remoteteaching *SIGN UP* for regular updates HERE https://mailchi.mp/4b53faf5e751/kafoo… *SUBSCRIBE HERE* https://goo.gl/njMj9G Please consider subscribing as I am keen to hit 2000 subscribers this year. 🙂 I’m currently at 1789 at the time of this upload…) *GET* your 2020 Digital Teacher Planner HERE https://gum.co/KHetUa *WATCH* SIMILAR VIDEOS HERE Remote Teaching playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… Teach From Home Teacher Tag https://youtu.be/sW9TF7v8l1E Classroom Management Tips https://youtu.be/X3TJjNXVcWI 5 Mistakes New Teachers Make https://youtu.be/qygFew2gjZ0 Google Classroom for Beginners https://youtu.be/fRlmgO4FVa0 Remote Teaching in Australia https://youtu.be/-mzXW_uBU1w *CURRENT FAVES* These are the YouTube channels that I am currently watching (and LOVING!) … Janice Wan Vlogs https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvEp… Chronicles of Teacher Tay https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0He… The Michelaks https://www.youtube.com/user/alittleb… Sarah’s Day https://www.youtube.com/user/sarahsda… *GET* your 2020 Digital Teacher Planner HERE https://gum.co/KHetUa Here at Kafoople Land my passion is for you to be able to: 🌸TEACH WELL 🌸LIVE WELL and 🌸BE WELL

Why We’re Teaching Reading Comprehension In A Way That Doesn’t Work

As the documentary details, many teachers—and professors of education—are unfamiliar with the overwhelming evidence that systematic phonics is the most effective way to teach children how to decode written language. While there’s been some pushback, quite a few teachers who have listened to the documentary or an accompanying piece on NPR—or read the New York Times op-ed by the documentary’s producer, Emily Hanford—have expressed dismay that they were never given this information as part of their training……….

Source: Why We’re Teaching Reading Comprehension In A Way That Doesn’t Work

The Characteristics Of A Highly Effective Learning Environment


For in-person professional development from TeachThought on how to create an effective learning environment in your classroom or school, contact us today.

Wherever we are, we’d all like to think our classrooms are “intellectually active” places. Progressive learning (like our 21st Century Model, for example) environments. Highly-effective and conducive to student-centered learning.

But what does that mean?

The reality is, there is no single answer because teaching and learning are awkward to consider as single events or individual “things.” This is all a bunch of rhetoric until we put on our white coats and study it under a microscope, at which point abstractions like curiosity, authenticity, self-knowledge, and affection will be hard to pin down.

So we put together one take on the characteristics of a highly effective classroom. They can act as a kind of criteria to measure your own against–see if you notice a pattern.

10 Characteristics Of A Highly Effective Learning Environment

1. The students ask the questions—good questions

This is not a feel-good implication, but really crucial for the whole learning process to work.

The role of curiosity has been studied (and perhaps under-studied and under-appreciated), but suffice to say that if a learner enters any learning activity with little to no natural curiosity, prospects for meaningful interaction with texts, media, and specific tasks are bleak. (Interested in how to kill learner curiosity in 12 easy steps?)

Many teachers force students (proverbial gun to head) to ask questions at the outset of units or lessons, often to no avail. Cliché questions that reflect little understanding of the content can discourage teachers from “allowing” them. But the fact remains—if students can’t ask great questions—even as young as elementary school—something, somewhere is unplugged.

2. Questions are valued over answers

Questions are more important than answers. So it makes sense that if good questions should lead the learning, there would be value placed on these questions. And that means adding currency whenever possible—grades (questions as assessment!), credit (give them points—they love points), creative curation (writing as a kind of graffiti on large post-it pages on the classroom walls), or simply praise and honest respect. See if you don’t notice a change.

3. Ideas come from a divergent sources

Ideas for lessons, reading, tests, and projects—the fiber of formal learning—should come from a variety of sources. If they all come from narrow slivers of resources, you’re at risk of being pulled way off in one direction (that may or may not be good). An alternative? Consider sources like professional and cultural mentors, the community, content experts outside of education, and even the students themselves. Huge shift in credibility.

And when these sources disagree with one another, use that as an endlessly “teachable moment,” because that’s what the real world is like.

4. A variety of learning models are used

Inquiry-based learning, project-based learning, direct instruction, peer-to-peer learning, school-to-school, eLearning, Mobile learning, the flipped classroom, and on and on—the possibilities are endless. Chances are, none are incredible enough to suit every bit of content, curriculum, and learner diversity in your classroom. A characteristic of a highly-effective classroom, then, is diversity here, which also has the side-effect of improving your long-term capacity as an educator.

5. Classroom learning “empties” into a connected community

In a highly-effective learning environment, learning doesn’t need to be radically repackaged to make sense in the “real world,” but starts and ends there.

As great as it sounds for learners to reflect on Shakespeare to better understand their Uncle Eddie—and they might—depending on that kind of radical transfer to happen entirely in the minds of the learners by design may not be the best idea. Plan on this kind of transfer from the beginning.

It has to leave the classroom because they do.

6. Learning is personalized by a variety of criteria

Personalized learning is likely the future, but for now the onus for routing students is almost entirely on the shoulders of the classroom teacher. This makes personalization—and even consistent differentiation—a challenge. One response is to personalize learning—to whatever extent you plan for—by a variety of criteria—not just assessment results or reading level, but interest, readiness-for-content, and others as well.

Then, as you adjust pace, entry points, and rigor accordingly, you’ll have a better chance of having uncovered what the learners truly “need”.

7. Assessment is persistent, authentic, transparent, and never punitive

Assessment is just an (often ham-fisted) attempt to get at what a learner understands. The more infrequent, clinical, murky, or threatening it is, the more you’re going to separate the “good students” from the “good thinkers.” And the “clinical” idea has less to do with the format of the test, and more to do with the tone and emotion of the classroom in general. Why are students being tested? What’s in it for them, and their future opportunities to improve?

And feedback is quick even when the “grading” may not be.

8. Criteria for success is balanced and transparent.

Students should not have to guess what “success” in a highly-effective classroom looks like. It should also not be entirely weighted on “participation,” assessment results, attitude, or other individual factors, but rather meaningfully melted into a cohesive framework that makes sense—not to you, your colleagues, or the expert book on your shelf, but the students themselves.

9. Learning habits are constantly modeled

Cognitive, meta-cognitive, and behavioral “good stuff” is constantly modeled. Curiosity, persistence, flexibility, priority, creativity, collaboration, revision, and even the classic Habits of Mind are all great places to start. So often what students learn from those around them is less directly didactic, and more indirect and observational.

Monkey see, monkey do.

10. There are constant opportunities for practice

Old thinking is revisited. Old errors are reflected on. Complex ideas are re-approached from new angles. Divergent concepts are contrasted. Bloom’s taxonomy is constantly traveled up and down, from the simple to the complex in an effort to maximize a student’s opportunities to learn—and demonstrate understanding—of content.

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