Engaging Classroom Professionals and Caregivers Online

Explore ways to engage Classroom Professionals—and possibly students' caregivers, too—while teaching online.

Engaging Classroom Professionals and Caregivers Online
  • Getting Started
  • Planning
  • Remote Teaching & Learning
  • //
  • Classroom Partners

Engaging Classroom Professionals and Caregivers Online

Try

Be prepared to share a quick summary with the adults in the classroom at the beginning of your lesson or workshop. Think about sharing: what the activity is, what the goals are, what the expectations for students are, and how the adults can engage with the lesson.

Try

Invite the Classroom Professionals to participate in rituals and mindfulness activities alongside students. These activities can support student and adult well-being and help build rapport for the entire classroom community.

Co-teaching between you and the Classroom Professionals online will unfold differently than it does in-person, therefore pre-planning and preparation will be extremely important. Explore the GIVE Resource on Getting Started with Remote Teaching and Learning for more information and sample agendas for remote planning meetings with your partnering Classroom Professionals.

Be prepared to share this information with the Classroom Professionals (via email before the lesson, in a quick chat before students join the session, via chat or direct message, if possible) so that they can effectively support your lesson. You may consider sharing this information with caregivers too.

  • What is the activity?
  • What is the goal for this activity?
  • What are the expectations for the students?
  • What is important for the activity to be successful?
  • Most importantly: What role does each adult take on during this activity?

Note: In a virtual classroom, it may be difficult to know which Classroom Professionals will be present, especially the Paraprofessionals and Related Service Providers who may not consistently join the virtual class. A quick verbal poll at the top of class can help you understand who is in the “room” and how they can support you. For example, “It looks like we have additional classroom professionals joining us today. Welcome! Can you introduce yourself and your role in the classroom?” This also serves as a way of making sure all Classroom Professionals feel included and valued.

Engaging the adults in the room during remote learning can pose different opportunities and challenges but is often supported by the same strategies for engagement that you would utilize for your in-person classes. Below are some suggestions for ways to invite the Classroom Professionals to be active participants in your lesson. 

  • Incorporate a conversation about roles into your initial planning meeting so you’re able to set realistic expectations. This can support buy-in when you ask for engagement later on. 
  • Send an email ahead of the lesson, sharing a summary of what to expect and suggestions for how to engage. The more specific the better! 
  • If possible, invite Classroom Professionals to join the lesson a few minutes early so that you can share verbally, a quick overview and requests for involvement. This may also help build rapport with the Classroom Professionals. 
  • You might call on the Classroom Professionals to answer questions or model an activity in the same way you would engage students. However, just as you want to avoid calling on a student in a way that puts them on the spot or makes them uncomfortable, you also want to use good judgement in calling on Classroom Professionals. 

Not all of these suggestions will work in every classroom and for every Classroom Professional. Strong communication and rapport is key in identifying what roles make sense for the Classroom Professionals with whom you’re partnering. Possibilities include:

  • Join live sessions as a co-teacher (this requires pre-planning).
  • Monitor the chat to answer questions, notify the TA when clarifications are needed, and support students in focusing on the lesson.
  • Prompt responses from students during conversations and activities.
  • Model an activity.
  • Identify accommodations, and/or support students in accessing and utilizing supportive devices and technology.
  • If breakout room functions are available:
    • Lead a small group. 
    • Provide one-on-one instruction. 
  • Support classroom and behavior management: 
    • Remind students of behavior expectations.
    • Provide praise and positive reinforcement for behavior that is in line with the expectations and community agreements.
    • Re-focus students on the task at hand.
  • Support you (the TA, or your organization’s administrator) in making sure materials and assignments reach students. (This may include sending materials and assignments via email, troubleshooting any issues with learning management systems, etc.) 

For many caregivers, participating in their student’s learning in this way might be a new experience. With the support of the Classroom Professionals, you may want to send a note to caregivers in advance of your program that could include:

  • An introduction to you and your organization.
  • What to expect during the workshop/residency.
  • An invitation to participate at a level that makes sense for them and their child.
  • Examples and options for ways to participate.
  • Ways they can provide feedback during and after the workshop or residency.
  • Any requirements/suggestions related to space and materials that they may need to prepare ahead of time. 

Not all of these suggestions will make sense for every caregiver and student. Caregiver involvement should be dependent on a student’s needs as well as their desire for their caregiver to be involved. Encourage caregivers and students to make the choices that work best for them. Possibilities for caregiver involvement include:

  • Join for live sessions, either on or off camera.
  • Help the student ask questions, either verbally or in the chat.
  • Cue student responses or provide hand-over-hand support during activities.
  • Participate in and model activities–including any rituals and mindfulness activities that may support the well-being of the caregiver as well as that of the student.
  • Provide feedback (or relay feedback from the student) to the TA or Classroom Professionals.
  • Assist students in accessing and utilizing supportive devices and technology.

For when a caregiver is acting as a student’s paraprofessional or classroom aide…

Camera Play

  • Play with the camera and use it whenever you can
  • Try to engage the eye of the caregiver & the student
  • Make it fun for the caregiver to play along with their child

Collaboration

  • Collaborate whenever possible with caregivers. Make sure that the lessons relate directly to the student’s needs and provide clear ways caregiver can participate during the session.
  • Be clear with instructions so the caregiver can support the lesson. Try to send along written instructions ahead of time for the caregiver, or address them directly in your video.

Context

  • If you are providing recorded content, videos and recorded audio should have clearly marked, “Length of Activity” and “Materials Needed” so that both students and caregivers can be prepared.

Circle of Feedback

  • Include Caregivers, Classroom Professionals, TA and Students in sharing feedback.
  • Possible feedback steps:
    • Ask questions about initial goals.
    • Ask for Glows/Roses/Values.
    • Ask for Grows/Thorns/Challenges and Suggestions.
    • Ask for feedback directly from the student and/or their caregiver to make sure you hear some direct responses.

This model is only recommended if the Teaching Artists and Classroom Teachers have time to look at the lesson plan prior to the workshop. 

  • In this model, you’ll have both Teachers join you in facilitating your lesson. 
  • This is an ideal model if you are working with Teachers who express an interest in being involved during your pre-residency planning meeting. 
  • You carry most of the content sharing, and demonstrate the instructional part of the lesson, whether teaching a synchronous or asynchronous class.
  • Offer moments when the Teachers can jump in and model what students are being asked to do. 
  • The Teachers can play off of you and provide additional guidance. 
  • All of you share the work of guiding the classroom and address student needs as they arise, either when students share verbally or via the chat box. 

This model is only recommended if the Teaching Artists and Classroom Teachers have time to look at the lesson plan prior to the workshop and have breakout room capabilities.  

  • In this model, the Teaching Artist delivers enough of the lesson to get everyone started.
  • Then one Classroom Teacher works with half the class, and the second Classroom Teacher works with the other half of the class in separate breakout rooms, using the same lesson for each group. 
  • You will take on the role of the floater and provide support as needed, observe, document, and play tech support. 
  • Then you can continue to deliver instructions or check in with the entire class during particular periods of the lesson. 
  • For the final share/reflection/closing, you all return to the main room and continue together.

This model is recommended for a team that has NOT had much time to review lesson plans beforehand.

  • In this model, you will be the lead educator, and teachers will take on the roles of assisting and observing. 
  • As the lead, you will present and facilitate the lesson. 
  • One Teacher will be your assistant, supporting you in transmitting information, instructions and answering any questions that may arise. This can be done verbally, through written instructions they share on their screen or in the chat box. 
  • The other teacher could manage tech, take screenshots as needed and observe the level of student engagement, providing support as needed.

This model is recommended for a team that has NOT had much time to review lesson plans beforehand and have breakout room capabilities. 

  • In this model, after you introduce the lesson, the Special Education Teacher or a Paraprofessional can add specific strategies for some students to use when working on the lesson, then focus on working with those students in a break out room for a short period of time. 
  • Your role is to work with the remainder of the students.
  •  The General Education Teacher can assist you and provide extension activities for students who need them. 
  • For the final share/reflection/closing, you all return to the main room and continue together.

This model is recommended for a team that has time to review the lesson plan beforehand.

  • In this model, all Classroom Professionals are given the opportunity to teach the lesson with a small group. 
  • Since the Classroom Professionals have familiarity with their students, they facilitate breaking up the room into three or four groups and assign themselves to each group. 
  • Before you break into groups, you can share pre-recorded content, a demo, video or media that is applicable to the whole group. 
  • Then, each Classroom Professional leads the lesson for their group and is responsible for the group for the duration of the session. In these groups, students may complete an entire lesson, or just a section of it. 
  • You may want to provide written instructions for each Classroom Professional to follow.