How to Get Started With Online/Virtual Teaching in 10 Organised, Low-Stress (and Even Fun!) Steps

~ Written in ‘teacher speak’ by a former spec ed adaptive/assistive technology specialist ~

Part 0: Introduction and Outline

I got talking with one of the life guards near the end of my lane swim last night about all the changes in our lives due to the pandemic – like having to reserve a lane for lane swim and bring our own kickboards and other swim gear. She told me that she’s in her last year of her Bachelor of Education and her classroom placements will most likely be online. Her supervising teacher is great and has been teaching a long time – but this will also be her first time in an online classroom. So how is she, and other student teachers supposed to learn to effectively teach online when their teachers are still learning how?

As the conversation continued, I realised that the challenge of starting teaching online for the first time begins with not knowing the terminology, especially which online teaching tools match up with the traditional classroom teaching methods, tools, and just simply things found and used in classrooms.

For example, when I asked her if the set up allowed her to use apps like Khan Academy she said that the ‘app’ they had to use is BrightHub [].  

The thing is, BrightHub isn’t an app. It’s an LMS – a Learning Management System – aka this is her online classroom. Apps are teaching and learning resources (teaching tools) – like worksheets, manipulatives, textbooks, quizzes, task cards, interactive notebooks, literacy centres, projects, math centres, science centres, and etc. are.

For all those teaching resources that you as a teacher use in your in person classroom, there’s an app for it (in some cases likely hundreds).

Are you going to be meeting your students at their kitchen tables this year, as your first year of teaching online?

My life guard is going to take some (all?) of my now unused teaching resources that have been cluttering up my home during this pandemic (yeah!), and she’s so nice, and in such a challenging situation I want to help. I’ve offered to sit down with her and her supervising teacher and share my experience and knowledge (outdoors, socially distanced on a Starbucks patio). 

I started writing her an email over coffee this morning, and realised that what I’d actually started was an article series that could help other teachers and student teachers new to teaching online. Even if you’ve already started teaching in your virtual classroom, you need all the support, resources, tips, you can get (as well as yoga, chocolate, coffee/tea, and a good bottle of wine).  

Note: There will be one short (or not so short) article here on the specific details for each step. But let’s stick with scaffolded outline for this first article so you know what to expect in this “unit” on how you can get started with teaching virtually. Wait until you read each article to do each of the ten steps.

So, here’s an outline of how you can get started setting up your online classroom.

It’s not scary – Only steps 1, and 8-10 involve touching a computer or device (unless that’s the only place where your curriculum expectation are). 

  1. First learn some of the basic online teaching tech lingo. (Don’t worry, that’s the next article in this series!) 
  1. Order some ‘getting started with virtual schooling’ unit and lesson planning supplies (online) ~ That’s the second article in this series. ~
  1. Look at your main curriculum expectations. Think in terms of unit planning.
    • write each individual one on coloured cue cards. 
    • use a different colour cue card for each subject or course you are teaching
  1. Reflect on what what teaching and learning resources you’d be using if you were teaching in person before covid, (and not online during a pandemic). 
    • Stick with your top 10 favourites, making sure that all learning styles are covered.
    • Write each individual one on unlined white cue cards
    • Use a different colour ink for each (Sharpies markers are great for this as they come in over 30 colours)
Chemistry quiz with books, water molecule and chemical powders. Multiple chiooice type questions.
  1. Find a comfortable large workspace (the floor is great). Make sure your pets aren’t around – especially if you have cats!
    • For one course or subject at a time (or a set of subjects/courses if you typically do cross-curricular units):
      • Lay out your curriculum expectations in the chronological sequence you’ll be teaching them in and number them in order
      • Place the teaching and learning resource cards in a pile under each curriculum expectation. You’ll likely have to write multiple copies of cards for each teaching and learning resource.
Azriel “helping” me prep vocabulary cards in July, 2016.
(Azzy went over the rainbow bridge in 2018.)
  1. Seriously consider and reflect on cross-curricular unit planning.
    • If you’re teaching two or more subjects or courses to the same group of students think about the curriculum connections between the subjects. 
    • Can you connect the curriculum expectations for two or three subjects/courses to each other?
  1. If you had an UNLIMITED BUDGET, no school board red tape (*sigh*), NO PANDEMIC, and maybe a TIME MACHINE, and a SPACESHIP or Dr. Who’s TARDIS, where (and when) would you like to take your students on FIELD TRIPS?
    • Think big:
      • What are your passions?
      • Where do you really want to be living and teaching?
      • Even consider time travel.
  1. Now, you can start exploring digital teaching and learning resources, and
    • While this can be overwhelming, because there’s just so. many. apps. and  online. stuff. I’m here to take you through them. 
    • We’ll look at your top five to start in the article on step 8. K.I.S.T. – Keep It Simple Teacher.
  1. Get to know your LMS – your online classroom/school, or choose one if your board/school hasn’t (argh!), and set up your classroom for the year.
    • Some examples are: Canvas, Blackboard/Blackboard Learn, BrightHub, Moodle, Google Classroom, Edsby, EdModo, Apple Schoolwork, Schoology,…
  1. Finish unit and lesson planning, 
    • This includes setting up at least your first 4-6 weeks in your online classroom and sending the “welcome to school”

Click here to go to the main posts page and learn “How to Get Started With Online/Virtual Teaching in 10 Organised, Low-Stress Steps

Link to next article:

#1: learn some of the basic online teaching tech lingo.

[Note: When the article is published this line will be deleted and there will be a link to the article above.

Elizabeth McCready ~ The Ginger MapGeek ~ September, 18, 2020.

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