7 Strategies for Managing an Online Classroom


Managing an online classroom has different components than managing a brick and mortar classroom. No matter what age range of students a teacher teaches online, there are certain considerations that they should take into account to effectively manage their classroom and workload. With most states closing schools for the remainder of the school year, teachers are moving past review and spiraling of standards previously taught into new concepts to finish out the school year. Teachers must ensure that their digital classroom platform is managed effectively to ensure students will learn the remaining grade level standards successfully to be prepared for next year.

Below is a list of 7 strategies to plan and create to effectively manage an online classroom.

Create a Routine for the Classroom Time

Students thrive with routines in the classroom whether it is in a building or on their computer from their living room. Creating a routine for the time inside the online classroom makes it more productive for teachers and students. Teachers will think deeper, past the lesson materials, into how to spiral old skills, differentiate for different levels of ability, new ways to engage students digitally with the content, and how to monitor students’ understanding. Students will be able to focus more because the flow of the lesson is predictable and engaging. 

For example, the beginning of the classroom might look like 2 minutes of free talk time, show and tell, typing their response to one of the homework questions in the chat box, answering a “Do Now” problem in the chat box or on a paper they hold up to the camera. 

→ Manage your distance and remote learning classrooms, with our PBIS Behavior Tracking Template

Minimize Distractions at the Beginning of Class

It is best to proactively combat distractions at the beginning of class by naming them and giving one minute for students to remove distractions before the lesson begins. The biggest distractions to an online classroom are additional background noise, objects in their environment, and other digital programs that students can toggle between during class. Teachers should take the first minute of class and direct students to close out all extra browser tabs or programs on their ipads or computers, move into a quiet space in their house, get headphones if needed, and put their phones or toys away. This helps set the expectations beforehand so that less redirection and correcting needs to happen during the lesson.

Set Behavioral Expectations 

It is important for the teacher to create behavioral expectations in virtual classrooms and review the expectations at the beginning of each class, just like they would in person. Teachers can use positive narration, reminders, and incentives to reinforce the behavioral expectations. Students should be listening, taking turns engaging in the conversation and respecting their teacher, peers, and learning environment.

Set Academic Expectations

Teachers should set academic expectations for students as well. Teachers should recognize the students that are doing the cognitive work of the lesson. Teachers can use statements like, “_____ provided text evidence in his answer.” or “_____ shared two different strategies in how she solved the equation.” 

Teachers can use various digital strategies like raising their virtual hand, using fingers to share their answer, type in the chat box, or small group conversations so all students are engaging with the content. Zoom has a feature called breakout rooms where the teacher can assign two or more students to a separate virtual room to have a smaller discussion and then send a minute countdown with a button to click to return back to the main Zoom room. This is a really great tool to use for conversations and getting more students to discuss their thinking and cognitive work of the lesson. Google classroom allows teachers to customize assignments, provide real time feedback on google documents, enrich materials with additional videos and teaching aids, and provide quick exit tickets and polling. 

Implement PBIS Incentives 

Teachers should choose incentives based upon the students’ ages, interests, and the number of students present within a classroom. Teachers can use fun, engaging rewards that are tactile or digital to encourage student participation. Some examples are Kickboard points, virtual classroom field trips, show and tell, virtual lunches with their teacher or principal, or a student can choose the teacher’s hairstyle or outfit for the next class. Rewards should be given for both behavioral and academic excellence.

Hold Office Hours 

It is very difficult to differentiate effectively in an online classroom. Office hours are a great way for teachers to quickly check in with students or for students to reach out to teachers if they need help. Teachers can use office hours for students who might be struggling with the content or to interview students for a comprehension check and grade. Teachers can hold smaller online group meetings for specific ability groups of students or 1-1 meetings with students and families to review skills and strategies. Teachers can choose to have open hours like Mondays from 1-4pm or can schedule specific time slots and have students choose a block of time that they can attend if they would like. 

Balance Equity of Voice for Different Personalities

It is important to think about each student’s personality and the ways in which digital learning may be easy or challenging for them. Then structure the lesson so all students can be successful and participate. More reticent students need more processing time, opportunities to express their thoughts with one or smaller groups of students before sharing with the whole group, and a safe environment for them to express themselves. More outgoing, talkative students need time to get their voices heard and share excitement. Teachers can choose to mute or block certain students from speaking if they are dominating the conversation and can use the chat box and commenting features to balance student voices. Teachers can also use nonverbals and the hand features for students to share their answers. 

Students in any grade need to have an engaging virtual classroom in order for them to remain on task, and learning. Teachers can manage their online classroom easily by preparing and creating these systems beforehand. This way, teachers won’t spend their online class time constantly redirecting behaviors and distractions but rather focusing on student output and academic achievement.