Starting a session

Arrive at least 10 minutes early to make sure you’re there when your students arrive.

During the 1st session, take 10-15 minutes to make sure everyone is comfortable using Zoom. Go over Zoom etiquette:

  • How and when to ask questions (use raise hand icon, use the chat, etc.)

  • Turn off microphones when not speaking so the sound is better for everyone

  • Tell people with low bandwidth to turn off all other programs…

  • Video is optional, you can turn this on/off

  • Please find a quiet room with decent light

  • Use a visual thumbs-up to tell the teacher you’re following

  • Etc.

If you want to record the session (for instance to edit and sell it or use extracts for promo, or to review your performance), make sure they get everyone’s approval first.

Early Engagement

Spend a few minutes connecting. Do a round of introductions during first workshop, then check in with everyone at the start of the following workshops.

Specify who is who! They might not remember your photo from the booking page. Say “Hey I’m [...], I’m the instructor, I’m gonna be teaching you about [...] for [...] weeks. We’re starting in [...] minutes.”

Lead workshop by letting participants know what of value you’re going to give them. “Today we’re gonna have so much fun, at the end of the workshop / this session, you’ll be leaving with [...]”.

Ask participants what they want to get out of the session. Not too long! Laser style - e.g. “In 10 words or less”.

No need to ask who are you / where are you from… takes too long.

Opening/Closing Routines

After your initial workshop, continue to plan a routine for opening and closing each session. Participants will have just arrived from some other activity and will often need a transition activity into the online platform and into a more creative head space! Try to repeat these opening/closing activities (and any other routines you create) within your course. It will put participants at ease to have some idea of what to expect. Closing activities will also help them positively reflect on what they’ve learned and accomplished. 
Some simple examples for Opening:

        -Having music on while people arrive
        -Whip Around - take turns sharing their name and a piece of information
        A word to describe how I am feeling…
        -If you really knew me, you would know…
        -Rose and thorn…(one postive and one negative thing from their day)
        -One thing I am hoping to learn today…
        -My internal weather report is…
        -Fodder 5…(Take 5 minutes to write/sketch stream of consciousness)

Silence & Reflection

Build silence and reflection into the course structure. The human brain records 17sec and then processes it. Good teachers slow down and take breaks often enough to allow silence for the students.

Silence is key because it gives students time to catch up, think on the concepts you are introducing, and to formulate and ask questions they might have. The engagement level increases dramatically when you provide this silent reflection time.

Make sure you give students plenty of time to respond to a question. Ex: count to 100 in your head before trying again, or crack a joke. Ex: “don’t all answer at once! I can’t hear you.”

Build a relationship

Build on existing knowledge to build a relationship. It’s easy when teaching a course to assume that students know nothing and to over explain. Online, this is especially problematic because you don’t get the visual cues needed to show you that these students are comfortable with a topic.

To avoid this, spend extra time planning your lessons to identify key shared points of knowledge that you can safely assume students have. Not only does this eliminate moments of repetition, it allows students to connect new ideas to pre-existing knowledge – a concept that helps boost retention and improve comprehension in your course.


Make sure you look at chat to check for questions, check in on participants (different viewing modes), watch your eye contact.

Use jokes to break the ice if needed.

Use engagement tools: when it’s appropriate incorporate screen share, annotate shared content, send out polls, and solicit feedback in chat.

Check in on quiet students. E.g. “What did you think of that?”

Not just interaction between teacher and students. Also student to student. E.g. role play, form teams.


Students might be shy; might want to communicate over chat (better to engage them through speech).

One way to break the monotony is to have one student read the questions aloud. Choose that person at the beginning and change every session. “Today xx will assist me”.


When you give an exercise, give a specific timeframe: “We’re gonna take 10min to do…”.

Put people in motion: “grab your pen/paper”, “turn off your camera”.

Movement & Expression

Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you can’t use your body.

Get up, invite participants to move around… get creative! Don’t be shy.

Play with your surroundings if you want. Inspire people.

Be expressive, move your hands.

However, beware of “distractive” movements (like swinging on your chair, touching your hair…).

Look at the camera! Very important. Make a point of it. It will make people feel like you’re looking at them directly. Gauge reactions by looking at the screen, but alternate by looking at the camera so the audience feels like you’re really talking to them.

Breakout rooms

They’re great. Do use them.

You can name each room so you know what every subgroup is working on if that differs from one group to another.

Go around the rooms and make sure everything’s ok.


To share videos in a session, use links to those videos; don’t try to share video through Zoom.

Ending a workshop

At the end of the workshop, ask “What are you leaving with today?”. Be clear that it shouldn’t take too long. Can even be just 1 word. Interrupt people if needed (in a friendly but firm way!).

Communicate to your students that you will be there an extra five minutes to answer any questions. 

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