Online Adaptations for Classroom and Behavior Management

Discover strategies for supporting positive behavior and fostering a connected classroom community while teaching online.

Online Adaptations for Classroom and Behavior Management
  • Teaching
  • Classroom & Behavior Management
  • //
  • Remote Teaching & Learning

Online Adaptations for Classroom and Behavior Management


Set up clear, collective, and consistent expectations about online features like use of the chat, camera, mute, etc.


Nominate students and/or Classroom Professionals to play specific roles in online learning like monitoring the chat and leading the opening in live sessions, or responding to message boards and providing positive feedback on student work in asynchronous situations.


Preparation can help both you and your students feel set up for success and may help mitigate behavioral challenges that would otherwise come up.

There are many tools, platforms, and formats utilized for virtual instruction and distance learning models. It is important to communicate with the Classroom Professionals to understand the expectations for your remote engagement with the students, to build on what is already working, and to have an open conversation. For resources related to planning with Classroom Professionals in remote work scenarios, explore our GIVE Resource on Getting Started With Remote Work.

Whether you are planning an asynchronous lesson (pre-recorded or written) or a synchronous workshop (live), it is important you consider the length of the lesson. Establish short and realistic time frames during the planning process.

  • Keep live sessions between 20 to 60 minutes. If the lesson will be longer than 30 minutes, build in at least one break to be off-screen, to stretch, go to the bathroom, get some water or materials. Younger students will need shorter sessions than older students.
  • Keep pre-recorded sessions under 10 minutes.

For a live class, give plenty of notice to students about the live class including the date and time. Send a reminder before class. Create an agenda and communicate any supplies expectations. Share the agenda, lesson plan, or any prep materials beforehand so they can be prepared for what is expected to happen. This could also be helpful to send after class as well, to reinforce what was explored or to provide options for students who couldn’t make the class. Plus, repetition is always helpful!


For a live class, log in early to help troubleshoot any technical issues and get your classroom set up so that you’re ready to give a warm welcome to your students.

  • Greet students by name when they log in.
  • Have an icebreaker or task to do at the beginning of class while students are logging on.
  • Try using features on Zoom and Google Meet such as the whiteboard, Jamboard, or polling for interactive engagement.

Nominate co-hosts (e.g., Teachers, students, Team Teaching Artist). Co-hosts can help support with tasks like monitoring the chat, muting/unmuting, admitting participants from the waiting room (if applicable), etc. Encourage students to lead activities or sections of the lesson like the opening or closing.

In synchronous or asynchronous lessons, having a structure with an opening, a closing, and repeated rituals is helpful and offers a moment of community-building and emotional check-ins so you can assess how students are doing.

Always offer options for choice and agency.

  • Ask students to rename themselves to what they want to be called or give them an added task with this (e.g., “one adjective to describe how you feel, and your name”).
  • Give them choices throughout, and use features like polling or the chat to do so and make it fun.
  • Send students on missions to get items or get up and do a task in the lesson.

Leave time and make clear transitions, even in the digital space. For asynchronous lessons, leave in pauses for responses to reflection questions, and build in time for transitions.  For live lessons, be explicit about transitions, and give ample time. Put up a timer on the screen so students know how long they have left.

For asynchronous lessons, provide a way for students to get in touch and communicate with you that is comfortable for you and the school. For synchronous work, build check-ins into your class time and use opening rituals to offer students a moment to share how they are feeling or express themselves. Consider utilizing tools like chats, private chats, polls, whiteboards, Pear Deck, Flipgrid, Padlet, and breakout rooms. On platforms with breakout rooms, you can put each student in their own breakout room with an assignment, and have one-on-one time with each student.

Digital Platform Tools and Management

Virtual platform tools like mute, video on/off are the way in which we receive a lot of information about our students and are often ways in which we instinctively assess engagement. It is important to remember that students may be on mute or have their video on/off for a variety of reasons (e.g., something happening at home that they don’t want others to see/hear or a technical issue). Don’t make assumptions about students’ engagement solely based on the way in which they interact with functions like mute or video. Use of the chat, participation in polling, use of reactions, and return of assignments are also ways to see if students are engaged or able to participate. Follow up with the Classroom Professionals you are partnering with if you have questions about specific students.

The digital experience can be overstimulating for students. Some examples include:

  • switching between various visual settings;
  • screen sharing;
  • seeing multiple participants;
  • seeing a single speaker;
  • sound variations, harshness, or focus;
  • lots of visuals flying in and out of videos.

Consider your space and the effect it may have on students:

  • the light on your screen;
  • clutter or distracting items in your background.

Consider how you balance between multiple modalities of instruction and expression and how you can offer sensory breaks:

  • everyone turns their camera off;
  • everyone on mute for a breath;
  • everyone looks for a household item that makes them feel calm.

Communicate openly about these functions at the beginning of your residency (and be flexible with them).

  • If there are times when the full group is muted, explain and contextualize why, and try to build in moments where students can share their voice later. 
  • Encourage agency (asking students to turn themselves on/off mute instead of controlling them).
  • Transparency: “I am hearing a loud sound, I am going to put you on mute, [name of student].” 
  • Encourage engagement through other means like the chat or polling feature. 
  • You can support students in using these functions if they are not able to do so themselves (e.g., turn camera on/off for them). 
  • Use verbal and nonverbal cues just like you would in a typical classroom. Create cues for the digital cues (e.g., mute/unmute) or use those that work for you in other settings. Create cues for participation/interaction (hand up in camera, reaction buttons, make up your own cue). Students can also help create these cues with you to instill a sense of investment and ownership.

  • Muting all students can be a very easy and streamlined way to eliminate noise, but it also cuts off a student’s ability to express and connect with others. Be mindful of how and why you are using mute.  
  • Turning off the chat can also limit chatter but can again feel like you have cut off a student’s ability to express themselves and connect with others. 
  • Do an Access Check at the top of the live class and throughout to see if needs are being met, including audio, video, and other needs. Make sure you do it verbally and in the chat.


Consider starting each class with a ritual or moment of movement/stretching and mental health check-ins.

  • Mental/personal check-in (e.g., “Using your thumbs, show me how you’re feeling today. Thumbs up, down, middle, two thumbs-up, etc.).
  • Use a poll to check in with the students.
  • Have students type in the chat words, emojis, or colors to describe how they’re feeling.

  • Create moments for students and caregivers to experience mindfulness together. You can create guided mindfulness meditations that both caregiver and child can listen to live or pre-recorded, or provide partner stretches for the caregiver and their child to do together.
  • Utilize or encourage use of free apps (e.g., Stop, Breathe & Think, 10% Happier, Headspace, Smiling Mind).
  • Invite students to close their eyes or turn off their camera.

For more mindfulness tips and videos, visit the GIVE Resource on Using Mindfulness to Support Classroom Management.