Official blog of Partnership for Inquiry Learning

3 Ways to Use Zoom to Teach during School Shutdown

March 19, 2020

student watching teacher video on ipad

by Julie Patterson

Zoom is a videoconferencing app that has lifted the time limitations in its free version for K-12 educators. You can get more info at

Use Zoom or similar tools for teaching remotely.

Here are some ideas and tips for teaching remotely using Zoom (or any videoconferencing tools like it) effectively during shutdowns for the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Hold “office hours.”

Send out a link and let students and families know you’ll be available to answer questions during a specific timeframe. Try one hour per day, or one hour every other day at first. You can adjust your availability as needed. If lots of students show up, shift towards inviting them to specific timeframes in small groups so everyone gets a turn to interact with you.

2. Record a minilesson or read-aloud or demonstration.

If you’re already familiar with other tools for making simple videos—a camera app, a “record screen” function on your computer, or even a Powerpoint presentation with a voice recording—stick with what you feel comfortable doing and can do quickly. But if you don’t yet know how to do those things, it may be easiest to learn just one app like Zoom that has multiple capabilities.

Unlike some of those simpler tools, Zoom will allow you to move seamlessly from one mode to another, so you could create one video that includes footage of yourself as well as footage of your computer screen. Video demonstrations are effective ways of giving instructions, so you might model how to navigate an app, how to use whatever is handy as counters to help visualize math sentences, or how to re-read a draft to check for spelling or punctuation errors.

Short videos are ideal, so don’t try to do too much. Keep it as simple as possible. You know your audience well, so keep those students in mind.

3. Host a virtual community meeting.

In the short-term, students might benefit from a short social interaction with classmates. Invite them to join you for a modified morning meeting in Zoom. You can invite each student to share something, review the date and weather, sing together, and perhaps give one instruction for the day. The goal might be as simple as helping your students feel connected to one another and relying on your usual classroom routine to inject a sense of normalcy into their lives.

Keep it accessible.

We must be sensitive to the fact that families didn’t specifically enroll in online courses and might not have the technology to do all that we might like in ideal circumstances, especially if caregivers and siblings are also working from home.

  • Make recordings available as .mov or mp4 files that will work on mobile phones without logging in to special software.
  • Avoid required online sessions at specific times. Make these optional instead. All Zoom meetings can be recorded so those who couldn’t attend live can watch later.
  • Remind students and families to speak up. Invite them to let you know what’s difficult for them and what’s working well so you can best accommodate their needs.

Be patient and forgiving.

This is a difficult time for everyone for wide ranging reasons. No one is going to perform at their absolute best (including you—and us) and that’s okay.


Kids with tablets and laptops at home

This is the first in a series of resources to support teachers who are teaching remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we all shift to teaching online, the Partnership for Inquiry Learning is working to support you in reconceptualizing what reading, writing, and math workshops might look like at home. We encourage you to keep in mind, however, that this emergency shift to e-learning is different in many ways than we might expect to see in a course intentionally designed for online delivery. In some cases, pedagogical best practices might be superseded by the realities of what’s actually possible during an unprecedented pandemic. We encourage you to keep this in mind as you plan for your own classes.

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