Synchronous Sessions assist in developing a learning community for students because it opens up a channel of communication for the students that would not be there otherwise in real time. Students have a constant with an online session- it is set for a specific time each week and they know they can count on attending, talking to their teacher, chatting with their classmates, and asking all of the questions that they want. It also means a deeper look at some of the content that they have viewed or will view and a chance at direct instruction, which is limited in real time in the online classroom. Once a student attends, they will continue to come back because they get to know the teacher as a person- their sense of humor, their passion for their content, their knowledge of the content material. They will be drawn to communication with their peers and know that someone else is going through the same thing they are. Let's face it, for a high school student, completing an online course is not the easiest thing to accomplish, but if they have the support of one another, they know that they have a friend that is in it with them. Many times the students that usually attend will build a point of contact, like a group chat, and they will support one another in reminders, asking and answering questions, and even just socializing. This gives the group a whole new reason to buy in to the course! The Synchronous Session is essentially your opportunity to put the finishing touches on building a classroom environment!
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Music and greeting-
I added a song that I might play in the beginning of the class, or before it actually starts, while students come in and greet one another. I usually post a message for them to type a greeting to their classmates as we listen that is posted in a share pod. This doesn't seem instructional, but the truth is that the more they hear the language, the better they will be at pronunciation, grammar, all of it! It's more input!
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This is an example of a review activity that I would have my students complete in the first 10 minutes of the synchronous class.
If I were teaching the preterite tense conjugations, for example, and getting into irregular verbs, this would be part of the lesson that I would give. We would go over the material (including the mnemonic device I teach, which is a very short chant to go with this rule) and then we would do a few together.
Following the lesson and examples, we would play a game to solidify the knowledge we learned as well as include past knowledge so that the two are chunked in the memory.
The activities shown are examples of what I would do in the Synchronous Session. Transitions are pretty smooth, but even more so because we use Adobe Connect, which means that I can have one display option set up for the warm up, another for the lesson, and another or the interactive activity. I simply click on the page to the right that is previously prepared for each part of the lesson. This makes transitions smooth but obvious to the students. This serves a formative assessment because I get to watch the students interact with the material, so I can assess whether or not they need additional instruction on the same topic or if they are ready to move on to something different. Participating in the activity itself will give students a chance to interact, get to know one another and their teacher, trust that it is a safe learning place, and feel comfortable making mistakes but also knowing the right answer!