Virtual teaching is not easy. Can teachers really provide high quality learning experiences for students or are we fooling ourselves into thinking that we can design lessons where students are cognitively engaged and learning? As teachers, we know it’s all in the design, whether we’re in person or virtual. Teachers have been instructional designers forever and that’s true even in the virtual classroom. So, can an instructional strategy, like Jigsaw, be used in the virtual classrooms? Of course it can.
Sometimes teachers in the virtual classrooms think that synchronous teaching means that they must be teaching and talking for an entire class period when in reality, lecture is not a high impact instructional strategy. Instead, the teacher needs to plan high quality independent work, small group work, and large group share out experiences. Jigsaw can provide students with all of those experiences. For example, a teacher can assign small groups of students independent reading of a part of a text. The students in each group must read their parts independently and then come back to the virtual classroom in order to meet in their small group breakout rooms. Each member of the small group must share what they learned from the text. Then it’s time to mix it up and have students form new groups in which they are able to teach each other what they’ve learned from their reading. Which then leads into a large group share out. The great part about this design is that it has students engaging cognitively with the material in multiple ways. Students are doing the heavy lifting, which means that they are doing the learning. And as an added bonus, a teacher can easily provide a scaffold for struggling students by sending them a voice recording of the teacher reading the text to them. By providing a scaffold like this, the struggling student is able to access the text and curriculum and the rest of the class does not need to know that the scaffold was put into place. It’s all in the design! When the design is right, whether virtually or in person, students will learn and engage! Can teachers really provide high quality learning experiences for students? Oh yes they can!
A sense of curiosity is nature’s original school of education. — Smiley Blanton