Schools have closed for a virus threat, and many students are now learning from home. It’s a new world. How can educators work with parents to sustain student learning, and not go crazy with remote learning in the age of COVID?

By sharing ideas and best practices in classroom management, applied to the home setting. We brought together educators from around the country to share their best practices for this new learning environment.

The two modes of remote learning are synchronous (in real-time) and asynchronous (students choose a time for their learning). Each mode has unique challenges, but with proper planning, your students will stay engaged and get the most out of their lessons. And parents will maintain their sanity.

Student working remotely at the Northshore School District in Bothell, WA

Synchronous Online Classroom Management

Classroom management can be challenging in person, so how do we manage students when they are not actually in the classroom?

Students will have access to tools they don’t in a class setting, such as a mute or unmute button, sending an IM, or just plain hanging up! It is important to set clear and explicit expectations on the first day of class, especially if this is an unexpected change from being in the classroom.

  • Remind students of the classroom rules and norms that have been created for their classroom and explain that there will be some new ones in this setting
  • Instruct students that they should be on mute unless they are talking
  • Set norms for messaging, including when is an appropriate time to send a message, and guidelines around message content
  • Give students the opportunity to interact with each other. This will help keep students engaged and on task, as it can be tedious to sit and watch a lecture or slide show on a screen for long periods of time
  • Break the learning into smaller chunks of time. Give students opportunities to get up and stretch
  • Set expectations for breaks. For example, for a short break, students shouldn’t leave the room, but during a longer break, students can go get a glass of water from the kitchen, go to the bathroom, etc. Be very clear on when students should return to work. Teachers, use this time tto get work done or take a break yourself
  • Encourage participation by playing games. For example, ask a question and have everyone respond in a message, or play games such as Jeopardy or UNO (if everyone has access to cards)
  • Use your video as much as possible, as this will help students feel engaged and connected. If students see you calm and happy, this will help reassure them
  • Verbalize what is going to happen next, even if there is a visual. Give students time to process that they will be moving to a new task or taking a break
  • Deadlines should be very clear, including when and how materials should be turned in

Learning from home has many more opportunities for students to be distracted from learning. By making it fun and engaging with clear expectations, students will be able to continue learning and growing with their peers. Share these guidelines with parents and guardians, as they will be the boots on the ground and can model and assist in managing the classroom during remote learning in the age of COVID.


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Asynchronous Online Learning

Classroom management is just as important when learning is happening in an asynchronous setting. Here are some tips and tricks to help parents and students get the most out of it.

  • Make materials succinct and easy to access. Avoid sending multiple emails or notifications about the same project or work. Overwhelming parents with too much information can lead to them missing something or giving up on getting materials to students
  • Be mindful of the type of work that is being assigned in this setting. It should not require a lot of help by parents and caregivers if it’s expected to be done during the school/workday
  • Give parents clear instructions, as you would for a substitute teacher, on how the task should be completed
  • Provide guidance on approximately how long a student should be working on each task. An open-ended time can cause frustration for both students and parents. Include suggestions for what to do if students are struggling to stay on task
  • Set expectations if work is not being completed, along with strategies to help parents engage their students. It should not become a tension point in a household

The Learning Environment

Working from home can be challenging for adults, and especially challenging for students of all ages. For example, kids are used to interacting with peers, the home has different rules, and there can be many more distractions. Here are some strategies to help create a learning-friendly environment without much work:

  • Dedicate one location from where the student will be doing their learning. This will create consistency and help the student focus on their work
  • Turn off all unnecessary technology that can be a distraction such as the television, cell phone, or game system
  • The student’s bedroom may not be the best place to learn. This is where the student may have toys or other distractions. This is often the area where a child will go to relax and unwind away from school tasks
  • If a parent is also working from home, make sure the child and parent have their own workspaces that will not interrupt or interfere with each other
  • If a camera is going to be used during the lessons, be sure that what is in the background is something you and the students are comfortable showing the whole class
  • Suggest to parents that students work on tasks during a set time frame, instead of having it hang over the students’ heads all day. This will increase the students’ focus on the task and they will have a sense of satisfaction when it is completed and can move on to other things
  • Let parents know that the time spent in a classroom and the time spent working in an online classroom are very different. Online learning is more condensed than in the classroom
  • Send parents a sample schedule for the day including breaks, lunch and playtime
  • Be flexible. An unexpected change to online learning will be hard on teachers, students, and parents. If something isn’t working, be willing to pivot and try something else


The COVID-19 virus that appeared in early 2020 has proven disruptive to all aspects of everyday life, and particularly in social settings like the classroom. This social health event may be the catalyst to greater acceptance and use of remote learning scenarios. With proper planning, we can still achieve positive learning outcomes.


Robin Lowell is a Senior Manager of Accessibility at i2e LLC

Learn more about i2e training for your school or system.