Zoom Classroom Tips For Teachers

by Tim Chesonis | Last Updated: September 13, 2020

With the advent of the Covid Pandemic in full force, many teachers around the world are forced to use Zoom to teach their students online for the first time. Wouldn’t you love to hear a former teacher offer some great Zoom tips for the classroom?

Having served as a High School Teacher myself, I have put together numerous practical Zoom classroom tips you can use immediately. Additionally, I will show you 9 Zoom features to help you communicate more effectively with your students to ensure that they get the most out of your online Zoom classroom setting.

You Can Do This!

As a teacher, you have a LOT going on. It is very understandable if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed at the thought of teaching through a medium that you probably have never used as a teaching tool before. I know that you did not plan on teaching your students from your home. But let’s take a minute to see just how far you have come, and put things into perspective.

You had a dream of becoming a teacher and got went through years of schooling, (not to mention your Master’s degree in Education), so that you could carry out your dream of serving as a Teacher.

You were hired as a Teacher because someone thought that you would be a valuable asset to get student that they have entrusted to you.

You overcame many obstacles in life to get where you are right now, and you will overcome this obstacle as well. Just give it a week or two and it will become second nature, I promise. After all, you really do have all the tools you need with Zoom.

Did you Know that Zoom will Let You do This?

There is a LOT of tools that are available to you, some of which you probably were not aware of. All of these tools are available to you, but you do not need to use them all, or make them available for your students to use.

Virtual Backgrounds

One of the fun features of Zoom that your student will love, (assuming you allow them to enable the video functionality), is the ability to use a virtual background. Zoom offers three virtual backgrounds to choose from, or your students can add their own virtual background, or you can allow for none. Of course, you can set up a virtual background too, if you have privacy concerns. To learn more about how to use Virtual Backgrounds, click here to visit Zoom’s website for an instructional video tutorial.

Whiteboard

With the whiteboard feature, you will be able to share a whiteboard that you and your students (if allowed), can write on.

Sharing a Screen

While teaching from your class using Zoom, you have the ability to share the following content:

  • Your entire desktop or phone screen
  • A specific application on your computer
  • Just a portion of your screen
  • The Whiteboard
  • Your Device audio
  • Content from a second camera
  • Your iPhone or iPad screen

Keep in mind that as the host, you can disable your student’s ability to share their screen. To learn more about screen sharing, click here to visit Zoom’s website for an instructional video tutorial.

Polling

Zoom allows you to create polls in class where your students can answer using a single choice, (like Yes/No, True/False), or you can offer a multiple choice polling question to see how many of your students think the option is A, B, C, or D. Can you see how this would help you get a feel for your student’s comprehension level? You can even make the poll completely anonymous or you can know how each student answered your polling question. Want to download a report of the poll you used in class? Not a problem. You can download the pull after the meeting ends and use it for your own records. For instructions on how to use this with your students, click here to visit Zoom’s website for an instructional video tutorial.

Non-verbal Feedback

When setting up your Zoom class, you have the ability to enable the Nonverbal feedback feature, which will allow your students to place an icon next to their name to communicate with you and other students without disrupting the flow of class.

By enabling this feature, your student will be able to click the Raise Hand icon which will show a raised hand icon next to their name. This allows you to see who might have a question. Once called upon, they can easily click it again to put their hand down.

Another way to use this feature in class is to ask a question like, “How many people do not understand what we just covered”? They could then choose to raise their hand or not.

Breakout Rooms

Breakout rooms are just that. They allow your students to break up into groups to work on projects together. Technically speaking, you could create up to 50 breakout groups. You can set it up so that the groups are created automatically, or you can determine who is part of a given group. Additionally, as the teacher, you can pop into any group at any time, just as you would when walking around a traditional classroom to see how each group is coming along with their given assignment. To learn more about Breakout Rooms, click here to visit Zoom’s website for an instructional video tutorial.

Annotation

As the teacher, you can also use annotation tools when sharing or viewing a whiteboard, and your students can annotate on a screen that you share with them. This would work well in a Math class, for example. Instead of having your students come to the front of the class to write there answers on the whiteboard in a traditional classroom setting, you can have them do so on the Zoom whiteboard where all can see.

Chat

Zoom has a chat feature that will allow your students to chat with each other. As the teacher, you can send a private message to an individual user, or you can send a message to an entire group, and you can choose who the participants can chat with or to disable chat entirely. Now, THAT is nice! Keep in mind, however, that private messages between students can not be seen by the Teacher. Unfortunately, one can still pass notes in class . . . but now they are passed virtually.

Transcription of Meetings

In today’s world, a single accusation can end a career. If there ever is a question as to what you are teaching or what was said in class, this is a great way to protect yourself from false accusation.

Zoom will allow you to automatically transcribe every word spoken in class, if you record it to the cloud. You can even display the transcript text within the video itself, if you wish to use it for later use, similar to a closed caption display.

The transcript itself is divided into sections, and each section has a timestamp that shows how far into the recording that portion of the text was recorded.

How to Setup a Zoom Meeting

I’m going to show you how to set up a Zoom meeting with just a few simple steps. Please note that this is not an exhaustive overview of every feature offered by Zoom. I’m just going to tell help you simply create a Zoom class that you can launch any time you want.

When you launch the Zoom application, you will see a screen like the one displayed below.

When you see the screen listed above, click on the blue Schedule icon located at the bottom left.

As you can see from the screenshot displayed below, I have created a Zoom class entitled, “Math Class”. I’m going to go through each of the settings with explaining what they mean, so don’t worry, it’s really not as complicated as you might think.

1) Topic

This is where you would place the title of your class subject. In our example, I have created, “Math Class”.

2) Date & Time

Here, you will enter the date that the class will first meet, and the start time of the class, (if you go over, it’s OK). If you enter a checkmark next to “Recurring Meeting”, when you save it, it will simply add it to your local calendar. You do not have to check “Recurring Meeting” even though it will be a recurring meeting, because you can launch this class meeting any time you want.

3) Meeting ID

I would highly recommend that you select, “Generate Automatically”, so that it does NOT use your “Personal Meeting ID” (for security and privacy reasons).

4) Security

A 6 digit number will automatically be generated here for you. I would HIGHLY recommend that you require a password to enter the classroom. If you do not use a password, you make it much easier for hackers to interrupt your class by posing as a student. You could change the “password” that your students will use to enter the class room, but it’s probably best to use a number instead of a word, again, for security purposes.

You can force your students to enter a “waiting room” before class starts, so that you can manually admit them. Think of it as standing at the door only allowing YOUR students in the classroom.

5) Video

You setting allows you to determine if the Host, (you, the Teacher), will automatically have your camera enabled when you join the class or not. You can also determine if your students will automatically have their camera turned on when they are admitted into class.

6) Audio

Select “Computer Audio”. This will enable the audio from the computer so that your students can hear from any device, be it a desktop, laptop, tablet or cell phone.

7) Calendar

This is completely up to you, as this only affects the calendar of your choice.

8) Advanced Options

To view this setting, you may have to click on the drop-down arrow, (as was the case on my computer), but you will find the following options. You will want to enable “Mute participants upon entry”, to make sure that your students are muted when they enter your classroom.

As a security measure, you may want to record the meeting, and you can choose to record it to the cloud or locally. We will discuss the reasoning behind that in a little bit.

Once you have set you meeting up, click on the Meetings menu item at the top of the screen. Once you do, you will see the following screen. You’ll note that I have blurred out my Meeting ID (at the top left), and the two recurring meetings that I have on my personal Zoom account, but take note of the Math Class that we just created. To start your Math Class Zoom meeting, all you need to do is click the blue Start button.

When you start your meeting and move your mouse anywhere on the screen, you will see the following menu bar at the bottom of the screen. I want to draw your attention to the two bottom left icons for a moment. You’ll notice that the Mute icon is not disabled, so whatever you say will be heard. Also, notice that the video camera has been disabled. Because I had previously loaded my profile picture in the settings, when my camera is disabled (as indicated by the icon), my profile picture will display for all to see. If you are having a bad hair-day, you might find this beneficial.

So, to mute yourself, simply click the Mute icon. To disable your live camera feed, (when it’s break time and you have to excuse yourself to use the bathroom), click the video icon to temporarily disable the camera, (it will say, “Stop Video”.

I encourage you to click each icon to see what it does and explore. You won’t break anything, and if you do change a setting, you can always change it back. Of course, when the class is over, simply click the red “End” button at the bottom right. This will terminate the online session.

To change any of the global settings for your Zoom meetings, you will want to click on your account profile image at the top right and click Settings. You will then find the following screen where you can change any setting you want. Just understand that the changes will affect all Zoom classes that you create.

One more note regarding setting up your Zoom class meeting. If you prefer, you can do all of this online at via their website at zoom.us.

Now for the fun stuff! I’ve got so much more to share with you!

Getting Yourself Setup

There are two very important things you must do to set yourself up for success. You need to make sure that you have great lighting, and you want to make sure that you position your desk so that your back faces the wall. Let’s talk about why this is important.

Most of the lights in our homes use lightbulbs that give off a yellowish tint, which is the worst kind of lighting you could use to illuminate your face during Zoom meeting. Natural light from a window, is by far, the best lighting you could use to show your face. Always make sure that the light is in front of you, and not behind you.

If you are not able to sit by a window while teaching, purchase a desktop lamp that puts off white light. They are extremely inexpensive, and can be purchased online or at your local Walmart.

If you are not sitting in front of a wall (which we will talk about in a minute), make sure that you turn off all lamps and ceiling lights behind you. Those lights will turn your profile into a silhouette in a Zoom meeting. Equally important, you want to make sure that a desk lamp that offers white light, does not wash you out, (there is such a thing as illuminating your face too much).

Ideally, set your desk up near a window so that natural light will flood in. Just make sure that the window is not behind you, but rather in front of you or next to you.

If it is at all possible, set your desk 4-5 feet from the wall so that your back faces that wall. The reason for this is to protect your privacy. If your desk is positioned in such a way that your students can see things in your home, you will be asked about those items in your home . . . . over one over again. You want to remove any and all distraction from your students. For this reason, (not to mention privacy concerns), you really want to make sure that position your desk so that your back is 4 to 5 feet from the wall, (with no pictures).

Do Not Teach from Your Bedroom

Under no circumstances should you ever conduct an online Zoom class from your bedroom. Even if you were to put your desk up against your bedroom wall, with your back facing the wall, someone in class is going to ask who room you are in, and you just might let it slip. The LAST thing that a student of yours needs, is to know that every time they see you in “class”, that you are in your bedroom.

Have a Backup Plan

Sometimes the power goes out, or perhaps you forgot to pay you Internet bill, and they turn your service off. How will you respond to such an “emergency situation”?

In a traditional classroom setting, you have un-announced fire-drills. The reason that they are un-announced, is because you want to see how your students will handle an emergency situation. After they have been taught what to do, have an un-announced “Zoom Fire-drill”. Out of the blue, say, “ZOOM FIRE-DRILL!” and immediately end the meeting.

If your students already know what to do in such a situation, you would reconnect to the Zoom meeting using the Zoom app on your cell phone using LTE, (which does not require the use of your Wi-Fi or your Internet service provider). This allows you to simply restart the meeting from your cell phone and admit your students they enter the room again. You might loose a few minutes, but you won’t miss the opportunity to finish teaching your lesson.

Help Your Students get Setup

For your Zoom classroom to be a success, everyone must be able to see you and hear you. Imagine the difficulty your students would have in learning in your classroom if they could not see you, but only hear your voice. Or imagine how difficult it would be for them to see you, but not be able to hear what you are saying.

For this reason, it is imperative that you take time to ensure that each student knows how to connect to your Zoom meeting, and adjust the settings to ensure a great learning experience. Don’t assume that they know how to use Zoom. Walk through the settings and have each student “test” their mic.

This may take some time. Plan for it. The first time that they connect, celebrate their success by giving each student the opportunity the say hello to you and their classmates for a moment, and then ask them to place themselves on mute again. By doing this, you are teaching them how to take take themselves off of mute, and how to place themselves back on mute. You will want them to know how to do this should you call on a student to respond to a question during class.

Manage Your Expectations

Remember that you are the adult here, they are kids. You can’t allow frustration to dictate your attitude, behavior or tone of voice. The following tips will help both you and your students.

S-l-o-o-o-o-o-w D-o-w-w-w-w-w-n

Surely you would agree that it would be better for your students to comprehend the material in a traditional classroom setting. I understand that you have a curriculum that you need to complete by the end of the quarter. However, I would encourage you to slow the pace to the point of comprehension.

Teaching online is very different than teaching in a traditional classroom setting and it is much more difficult to communicate effectively via an online class. You may be able clearly present the material, but that does not necessarily mean that your material is being fully comprehended. This is why it is important to remember that your students will learn at a different pace online than they would in a traditional classroom setting.

Plan for Issues to Occur with your Own Equipment

You may think this is silly, but do a run through to ensure that you know how to deal with any surprises that may come up, (and they will come up at the most inconvenient time).

For example, Let’s say that your class has already started, and out of the blue, you loose internet connectivity because the power goes out, and the Zoom meeting comes to an abrupt end. What do you do? Knowing how you will handle such situation ahead of time can turn an emergency situation into a simple inconvenience.

Plan to Deal with Technical Issues with your Students

If possible, ensure that each student know right up front who they should call, should they have ANY technical issues. As the teacher, you can’t afford to take time to fix a computer issue that a student has during class, otherwise, you will never teach anything. For this reason, I would encourage you to make sure that you provide a “Technical Support” slide at the very beginning of your Zoom meeting. Put it right up there for all to see 10 minutes PRIOR to the start of the class, and encourage your students to write that information down should they need it.

Decide Now to Roll with the Punches

Your students will reflect your attitude, behavior and the tone of your voice. If you respond negatively in any way, your students will do the same. Remember, you are always teaching your students, whether you mean to or not. They are watching your every move.

Managing Your Student’s Expectations

In order for your students to win, they need to know the rules of the game. Because they are kids, repetition is required, which is why it is important to make them aware of what your expectations are for them, every day.

Now, there is a positive way to do this, and a negative way to do this. I would encourage you to use a list of 5 bullet points that comprise 4 or 5 words and place them in a slide to display just before class officially starts each day. Think of it as placing instructions on the whiteboard prior to the start of class so that your students see them when entering the classroom.

Make these bullet points broad. For example, one bullet point you might want to use could be “This is a Place of Respect”. It’s broad enough for you to be able to elaborate on, a place where everybody shows respect to everyone else. Use your core-values, but limit them to no more than 5. These are things that you can (and should), refer to throughout your day to keep them fresh in your student’s mind.

Consistency is Key

As you are well aware, consistency is key. There is a sense of safety and stability your students will find when you follow a routine, especially when teaching from an all new environment. Just as kids need consistency in the traditional classroom at the beginning of each school year, they will need consistency when attending class online.

One thing that I would encourage you to be consistent with is to make your students aware of Today’s Agenda. Even though they may already know the flow, find creative ways to make them aware. For example, call out a student and ask them, “Hey, Johnny, what are we doing next?” This will not only make them aware of what comes next, but it will give them a sense of ownership regarding the next activity.

I would also highly encourage you to set aside a time for your student to voice their comments and questions during the Zoom meeting. This will give them the opportunity to share (excellent means of participation), but it will also help you as their teacher to determine their comprehension level. Kids love to hear themselves speak, and all the more if they can see themselves while they speak. Of course, you will need to limit the amount of time that they are allowed to share, but its definitely beneficial to allow them to share any questions that they may have. It gets them more familiar with how to interact using the Zoom classroom setting, it encourages participation, and builds confidence at the same time.

6 Tips to Help Manage the Behavior of Your Students

1) Be Available Before and After Class

Being available before and after class tells your students that you care. There is no way around it. It may be a little inconvenient for you, but it will change your student’s perspective about you, and they will respect you for it. Think of it. Do you remember the teacher who could not wait to leave school or didn’t have the time of day for you when you were in school? Now, do you remember the teacher who did give you the time of day, the one who lingered after school making themselves available to you? On a smaller scale, that still applies.

2) Say it and Show it

It is not fair to expect good behavior from your students if they are not told what good behavior looks like. Not only does it have to be modeled, but your students need to be told what it looks like.

As previously mentioned, start your class consistently 10 minutes PRIOR to the official start time of class. This will give your students the ability to read the slide that you put up, mentioning what is expected of them, and perhaps the agenda, so as to manage their expectations. It will also let the parent know what you will be covering. I would encourage you to do this regardless of the age of your students.

3) Start Your Class On Time, Every Time

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you need to allow your students time to connect to your class. If you do, you will NEVER start on time, and you will loose valuable teaching time.

Hold your students accountable, should they be late . . . regardless of the reason. When I was in the 6th grade, Mrs. Rich would give 40 minutes of detention to any student who was not sitting in their chair at the beginning of her health class. Needless to say, students were never late twice.

4) Tone is Everything, Especially in a Zoom Classroom

The tone of voice you use during your online Zoom meetings has more impact now that it did when teaching in a traditional classroom setting. Your students can only see your upper body and can only hear your voice. They can not gather information from your body movement. They are not able to pick up on non-verbal queues such as walking around the classroom, or how you stand, or what is in your hand. For this reason, they are relying heavily on the tone of your voice, so be very cognizant of that as you teach.

5) Genuinely Smile when you Speak

This may take a lot of practice, but will provide cooperative students in the end. Your students will reflect you. If you are in a bad mood, they will be too, however, if you reflect a good positive attitude, they will pick up on that too, and it will change the atmosphere of the class.

You need to determine well before class starts that your attitude will be one that others will want to emulate. Show-time starts an hour before class. Managing your class room starts with how well you maintain your private life. They will never grow beyond the example that you set.

6) Moderate the Chat

Some Zoom classrooms are set up with a Teacher’s Assistant. If you believe that your students are responsible enough to be able to handle Zoom Chat feature, (you can enable or disable this feature prior to the start of class), and you happen to be blessed with a Teacher’s Assistant, you can give them the responsibility of moderating the Chat in class. This will prevent the kids of chatting unnecessarily, and it will also keep the chat focused on what is being taught. Additionally, you can let the students know that you have record of everything that was written in Chat.

7) Allow for bathroom breaks

It can be easy to forget this, but everybody needs a break at some point. I would suggest that you allow for a 7 minute bathroom break. Why 7 minutes? Because you will find that they will constantly be checking the clock to ensure that they don’t go over 7 minutes. 5 minutes is too short, and 10 minutes really means 15 minutes in their head. They may use this time to use the bathroom or get a snack. Either way, its a break from monotony, and they need that.

Set up a countdown timer that they can see, (yes, I’m talking about the old white cooking timer that literally DINGS when it goes off). Be sure that your webcam is focused real close on it so that it can easily be seen. You will find that your students will probably be in their seats prior to the timer dinging.

2 GREAT Tips to Help Encourage Participation in Your Zoom Class

As you know, participation plays a HUGE role in comprehension. If you want your students to do well and flourish, you will need to find ways to get them to participate and pay attention. The first tip below is a bit obvious, but the second tip is a lot of fun.

Encourage Questions Throughout the Class

Encourage your students to ask questions about what has been covered in the lesson. They can use the Raise a Hand feature in Zoom to make you aware of their question, or if you have an Assistant who is moderating Chat, they can answer the question while you continue to teach. If warranted, your Assistant can bring the question to your attention by reading the question allowed or by sending you a private message through Zoom Chat.

When you fist start teaching in a Zoom classroom setting, you will feel like you will never get through the course material in time. Trust me, you will. But it’s going to take your students time to adapt to the new environment. The more consistent you are with the daily routine, the faster you will be able to transition from one topic, (or lesson), to another.

Play Kahoot in Class

If you have not heard of the game, Kahoot.com, you really need to check it out. It’s a quiz-like game where all of your students can enter the same 6 digit code that you give them, which will allow them to participate in the game. You get to determine the questions, and points are assigned to the students who get the correct answer.

But it goes beyond that, the faster they answer the question, (it’s multiple choice), the more points they get. You could use this game as a teaching tool (each day I you wanted), and offer extra credit to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners.

You can use Kahoot as a tool to teach your kids, and they won’t even realize that they are learning. You also can use it just to break up the monotony. You can play a Kahoot game that has nothing to do with what you have covered in class. For example, the game might be titled, “Name that Tune”, (for older students, of course). Then create 10 questions with each question containing 5 words to a given song (just do a Google search of the top 10 songs). High school students will LOVE you for this! You could also ask Marvel Movie questions. You can even mix it up with material that you covered in class with “Name that Tune” questions. The point is to have fun.

Closing Thoughts

There is no need for you to try to reinvent the wheel. Zoom provides all the tools you need to teach with confidence. You don’t need to adapt to the tool, the tool adapts to the way that you teach, providing you with numerous ways to effectively communicate with your students.

I would encourage you to familiarize yourself with Zoom and all of it’s features by inviting your own family and friends to join you in a Zoom meeting. In this pretend scenario, you are the teacher, and they can be your students. Practice by asking questions and having them raise their virtual hand. Unmute them so that they can answer your question, and when they are finished, mute them again. Engage in Chat back and forth, and after you try out all of the other features with your family, be sure to play a game of Kahoot over Zoom.

The more you use Zoom, the more familiar and confident you will become when teaching your students. Enjoy Zoom, and have fun with it!

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.

Tags: