Member & Vendor Login

Your Cart

Remote Learning Part #2: How to use your instructional minutes for maximum engagement!

Brittany Cufaude

Brittany Cufaude


  • Recommended flow for synchronous instructional minutes
  • Engagement strategies for online learning 
  • Routines and getting to know you…recommendations of routines to make the most of your first few weeks

Ok, we are in this now!  Let’s roll up our sleeves and dive in.   In the last blog, I covered how you might set the table with social-emotional learning and equity in your virtual classroom.  Every district is handling this differently, but most of us are grappling with: “how I am going to make this synchronous learning time engaging and get the biggest bang for my buck (time!)?”

Synchronous Instructional Minutes

No matter what your schedule looks like, we need to get creative in how and what we are doing during this time.  As I address in the Teaching Effective Direct Instruction Remotely course, we really want to mindfully balance out synchronous and asynchronous minutes.  Also, I highly recommend partnering with your grade-level teammates to create pre-recorded content to deliver direct instruction and modeling. If you do so, you can meet with smaller groups of students for guided practice following an asynchronous video viewing. This is all made crystal clear in the course!

That having been said, here is a way of thinking about how you might structure a 1.5-2 hour block(s).

1.5-2 Hours Synchronous Learning Sample Schedule

Focus Estimated Time Task Example
Activate 10-15 Minutes Video/Image “Intro” that builds on learning from the day before and allows you time to get everyone logged-in and ready First Few Weeks- Connect to Social Emotional Learning:

7 Habits Video

Power of Yet

Growth Mindset

Activate 5 Minutes Review Learning Outcomes Learning Outcome Example:

Standard Concept (nouns) and Standard Skills (verbs)

Students will identify key details in a text that supports the main idea.

Anchor 5 Minutes Set-up rules/anchor chart Zoom/Google Meet Class Norms

Active Listening

Accountable Talk

Direct Instruction


**Remember, you can pre-record these instead of delivering these live!

20-30 Minutes Build on learning that was assigned ahead of time (video of skill, reading, math problem, etc…) OR can deliver that skill live Read Text (listen to or read ahead of time), then Model how to find key details and identify main idea.
Guided Practice 20-30 Minutes Practice skill delivered in direct instruction peer to peer Breakout rooms/partner/triad for collaborative conversation.
Reflect/Set-Up Independent Practice 5-10 Minutes Revisit Learning Outcomes and connect into Independent Learning Learning Outcome Reflect: We identified key details and determined main idea, and now you will revisit and write your own summary


In the blog from last week I touched on the two key pieces to starting a virtual classroom successfully: Establishing a Schedule and Consistent Routines and Setting Clear Expectations.  The above schedule takes into account both.  Whatever schedule you choose it has been clearly communicated to both students and teachers.  This could be done via the different communication methods we mentioned last week.

More than ever students need to feel safe and supported, and the best way to do that is to make them know what is happening and when.  The second part of this is setting clear expectations.  In the Distance Learning Playbook, by Fisher, Frey, and Hattie, they reinforce this as well.  In order to have that visible learning, we as teachers need to know exactly what we want to accomplish during that time, and then students need to know what they will learn and understand a clear path forward as to expectations before, during and after the synchronous time.  The Activate and Reflect portions of the lesson components above build that in for you and the students.

Engagement Strategies for our “New” Classroom

I don’t know about you but when I am teaching online I feel like I am talking into the great ether (Definition: the upper region of air beyond the clouds). Hello, are you there?  Are you with me?  So how can we keep students engaged, how can we mix it up?  Keeping the above possible schedule in mind, below are a few engagement strategies you can put in place in your virtual classroom.


Engagement Strategies for Synchronous Online Learning

  • Pear Deck (I am IN LOVE with this tool!)
  • People Tab
  • Chat Box (to share ideas)
  • Present your Screen
  • Record your meeting and have students interact with later
  • Change the layout
  • Full Screen
  • Turn on live captions
  • Pin participant/Grid View
  • Mute participant/remove participant
  • Breakout Rooms (in pairs or triads for collaborative conversations)
  • Non-verbal cues (thumbs up/down, raise hand, yes, no)
  • Whiteboard (Annotations for both teacher and student)
  • Remote Control (Pass remote to students to lead)
  • Shared Google Doc (to capture notes)
  • Virtual Backdrop (Can be changed daily to have your Learning Outcomes, Anchor Charts etc…)
  • Build in Movement Break–Turn camera and microphone off and do specific movements


Routines and Getting to Know You

Just as in our face to face classroom we have to get to know our students AND set-up routines that support our procedures as well as our instruction.  The key to this is to build these authentically with our students what it looks like and sounds like.  Whether using your digital whiteboard, a shared google document, or an old fashion poster paper and marker (on your mock-easel behind your head) we need to have students be involved in crafting these.  Below are some recommendations of a starting place for must-have routines.


Procedural Routines Instructional Routines
Zoom/Meets/Teams Class Rules/Norms Active Listening
How to Enter/Exit Our Classroom Accountable Talk
Breakout Room/Small Group Rules (ELA) How to Preview/Read Text
Non-Verbal Tools/Agreements (ELA) How to Annotate Text
(ELA) How to Respond to Text
(Math) How to Deconstruct a Math Problem


Hang in there this week and I will be back next week with another important ingredient; how to assess students and provide feedback to start the year off right.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *