Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Connecting with Students through Opening Questions

The first 5 minutes are the most important part of a class or meeting. The closer students feel to their teacher and learning environment, the more engaged they can be in their learning experience. 

Engaging students while meeting through Zoom can be difficult. the teacher-student separation is widened by the teleconferencing chasm/. It is up to the teacher to create an environment that supports their students' interest in learning.

I have found that the key to connecting with students is to engage them in discussion at the beginning of class.  At first, I would ask them "How are you?" or "What is exciting you this week?"  This was useful for the first few weeks, but I realized that this was a prime opportunity to build community.   

The tough part was developing new questions. My well of creativity quickly ran dry so I Googled "icebreaker questions" and found a fountain of phrases.  I didn't want to ask questions that were too personal but still interesting.  This could be the perfect opportunity to begin class with some Bell Ringers.  Asking a question relevant to what we would be discussing would be an effective way to get things started.

These are the questions I have used throughout this semester.  They are in chronological order. Most of them came from Amber at Learn Grow Blossom.  
  • If you were to write a book, What would be the topic?
  • If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
  • What class do you wish we offered at UNI? Why?
  • How do you help others?
  • Where would you like to travel?
  • What is one thing you could do all day long without stopping?
  • What do you think is your hidden talent?
  • What is your favorite type of music?
  • What is the hardest part about being a kid?
  • Who inspires you?
  • What are 3 things you cannot live without?
  • What Bugs You?
  • When are you MOST creative?
  • What would YOU ask a teacher?
  • What do you like to do outside?
  • If you could travel back in time 3 years and visit your younger self, What advice would you give yourself?
  • Which country would you like your class to collaborate with? What would you like them to do? (preceded a discussion on Global Collaboration)
  • Have you ever used QR codes? How could you use QR codes with your students? (set the stage for our QR Codes lesson.)
  • If you could select a nickname, what would it be?
  • What is your favorite card, board, or computer game?

Do Opening Questions Make a Difference?

While I don't have any survey data yet, I have felt a closer connection with my students this semester than in the past. Review the questions that I have asked.  These are questions that unveil interesting information about each student but they don't pry into personal secrets.  My students have told me that they feel a personal connection with me. Mind you, I have never met most of these students in person but we have a connection. Some of them say that they feel closer to me than any of their other professors.

Yes, they DO make a difference!

How are you opening your classes?  What has been your students' reactions to your opening activities?
Share your ideas in the Comment section below.


NOTE: I completed some research where I asked my students about their reaction to this Opening Question Activity.  It will be shared in a future posting and ultimately in an educational research journal.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Take Attendance through your Zoom Chat Room


 Taking attendance can be difficult through Zoom.  Your students are on multiple gallery screens and you don't have the time to flip back and forth between screens while you check them off in your grade book.

Taking attendance doesn't need to be difficult.  It can even be fun!

Use your Zoom Chat Room

Use your Chat Room to take attendance. Have your students type "I'm Here" into the chat room and, Viola!, your attendance has been stored in the archives.


Save your Zoom Chat Room

An important part of this process is to save the Chat Room to a file so you can see it later.  

Click the ... box at the bottom right corner of your Chat column (see illustration). Select Save Chat and it will save your chat comments to the Zoom folder that Zoom created on your computer when you started Zooming a year ago. 

Other Ways to Take Attendance

If you are interested in other options, you will find some other postings in Dr. Z Reflects with suggestions:

How do you take attendance?