A challenge that I’ve had with holding Zoom sessions is finding good ways to engage students and involve them more in what I’m teaching. I’ve been in enough Zoom meetings that seem to drone on too long and leave participants disengaged that I wanted to find ways to improve my ability to deliver a synchronous learning experience. Today I met online with my advanced ESL writing class at SLU. We had begin the outline for an argumentative research essay, and I asked that students bring their work to the Zoom session.


I set up a short 3 slide question and answer activity using Mentimeter. At this stage of student’s writing process, they had begun researching support for their outline and were moving towards writing their first draft. We had covered the differences between claims, reasons and evidence, but I wanted to see that students were transferring this in their own research and writing process. My first mentimeter slide question asked them specifically what were their main reasons they were planning to use to support their claim. Many students responded with evidence instead of reasons, so I was able to give specific feedback on each sample reasons. My last mentimeter slide (pictured below) asked them what counterargument they were considering for their essay. Only a few students seemed to have picked clear counterarguments, so I clearly needed to improve my instruction in this area in order for students to complete their writing assignment.

The use of Backchannel chat resulted me getting questions from some of the more engaged students in the class. Many of my Chinese students had to be up at 12:30 a.m. for my class session, so this was likely another factor influencing their participation. I still think this was a better use of the chat than the Zoom chat function.

The Take Away

Both Mentimeter and Backchannel Chat allowed me to gather information from students on how effective my previous instruction was on argumentative elements and where some of their knowledge gaps still were. However, not all students were very participatory. Perhaps the time zone and the new deployment of these tools in the class was new too new for them. So I didn’t feel my synchronous class session resulted in very much learner engagement, but perhaps I need clearer expectations of what I want learners to do during these sessions so that they can participate more fully.

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