Michaela Community School: 20 Rules for Zoom Lessons

Lockdown has caused the teaching community to shift suddenly to a very different style of teaching.

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Michaela Community School: 20 Rules for Zoom Lessons

Lockdown has caused the teaching community to shift suddenly to a very different style of teaching.

Michaela teachers have put together this list of our top 20 pieces of Zoom advice to help colleagues across the country in these difficult times. We hope you will find them useful!

zoom, remotework, teaching, remote classes, virtual meetings, moving class online

20 Rules for Zoom Lessons

Michaela Community School

Lockdown has caused the teaching community to shift suddenly to a very different style of teaching.

Michaela teachers have put together this list of our top 20 pieces of Zoom advice to help colleagues across the country in these difficult times. We hope you will find them useful!

Setting up Zoom and general admin

Your initial settings for a Zoom lesson before inviting pupils are vital because they will dictate whether you can be in control of who is speaking, or whether your lesson is safe from disruptive influences.

1. General settings

You want to take the time before each Zoom lesson begins to ensure you’ve selected all of the right options to give you the most control over the participants. These should be done before you send out the lesson link to pupils:

1. In the participant’s section

1. Create a waiting room

2. Select “mute on entry”

3. Disable the ability for pupils to rename themselves - you may want to give some leeway on this in the first few minutes

2. In the chat section

1. Make it so pupils can only send messages to the host

3. In the settings bar

1. Once you’ve begun screen share, go to the extra options section on the right end of the bar and select “Disable Annotation for Others”

2. Avoiding Zoom-bombing

To avoid having an unknown visitor in the guise of one of your pupils “bombing” your lesson:

1. It is vital that you see a pupil on camera before ever unmuting them. This is done for the whole class at the beginning.

2. In the instance that a pupil joins late or must reconnect for whatever reason, it is best to wait until you can set the class off on a task. You can then ask the new participant to turn their camera on.

3. Go through the “General settings” described in the previous tip every time. The one time you forget to block unmuting will be the time something happens.

4. Once you have seen every pupil, get them to turn their videos off. You can then go to “Security” and deselect “Start video” - now none will be able to turn theirs on until you select this again.

5. Everyone must show themselves on video before ever speaking. If you unmute someone you haven’t seen, then you're opening another opportunity to be undermined.


We typically have riddles or puzzles on screen that pupils can answer in the chat box to keep them busy while everyone arrives.

3. Opportunity for gratitude

1. Build the routine of pupils typing “Good morning sir/miss!” into the chat box. You can then respond verbally. This sets a warm tone for the lesson.

2. As a side note, in all areas of Zoom teaching you can freely overstate how many pupils are doing a given instruction. Like in the above example, the pupils won’t know you’re doing this as only you can see the chat box, and they’re far more likely to participate if they feel like the odd one out while everyone else is getting involved.

4. Opportunity to praise work

Show examples of great pupil work. If done at the beginning of the lesson, it’s a nice celebration in front of their peers. If done at the end it can be used to model what good homework will look like.


We set simple written tasks to keep pupils occupied for the first few minutes. The main purpose is to allow you to take the register and to check that you don’t have any strangers in your lesson.

5. Register

Keep a spreadsheet by your side during the lesson. If you don’t have access to a printer, write up your own ahead of time - but make sure the pupils are in alphabetical order by first name. This makes it very easy to quickly tick through the register, as Zoom also orders pupils alphabetically based on the first letter of their usernames. This also has applications for keeping track of praise. See this in the relevant section further down.

6. Waking pupils up

1. This is particularly useful with lessons early in the morning. Stop your screen share and make sure they turn on their cameras.

2. Start with quick, simple questions where they answer visually (e.g. holding up fingers to choose a multiple-choice option or drawing something and holding it up) to wake them up and add pace.

3. Then you can set Zoom to “gallery view” and instantly see who is being slow, trying to opt out, or thought they could carry on napping. It’s much easier than trying to work out who has or hasn’t answered yet in the chat.

4. There is a tradeoff here, as this then doesn’t allow you to take the register in that time. It also tends to work with smaller groups where you can see them all at the same time on screen.

Teaching content

Generally, you’re wanting short, sharp bursts of content, then checks for understanding. It’s far easier for pupils to switch off and they’re far less accountable for it when they do.

7. Freeze screen-share

Sometimes you might check ahead to remind yourself what is on the next few slides. You can pause the shared screen on whatever it is currently showing.

1. Look at the options bar at the top of the screen. It appears next to “share screen” once you’ve begun sharing.

2. The pupils will see a frozen screen, but you won’t, so remember to turn this off when you want to move on.

3. This is similar to lessons where visualisers are used. You’ll forget from time to time that the pupils aren’t seeing what you’re seeing, so it’s a good idea to train pupils to leave a quick message in the chat box if they think this is happening - such as “screen frozen”.

4. You can then “resume share” by clicking in the same place you did to pause it.

8. Overnarrating tasks

Be cautious in choosing which details you read out from a slide. We can easily get into the habit of reading everything on the screen, especially every question as we introduce an extended writing task. Instead of clarifying the task for pupils, pupils end up distracted and disengaged, and you’ll be exhausted by the end of the lesson.

Instead, set them off reading with a task to show comprehension at the end. Praise speedy, accurate responses.

Checking for understanding

This is one of the areas that can differ most from the classroom setting, where some traditional checks become cumbersome while new methods arise. The trick, as in lessons, is to know when to deploy which check for maximum effectiveness.

9. Chat box vs. hands up

1. Use the chat box frequently for short, punchy answers. Hands up and then warm or cold calling are better for longer, more complicated answers, though they limit the number of responses you can receive.

2. The balance should lean more towards chat box answers, however. This is for the same reason that you want short, sharp bursts of content in your teaching. It involves far more pupils and is much faster. You can also train pupils in how to write longer answers in the chat, by getting them to use shift + enter to start a new line without sending the message.

3. Depending on the subject, you can also have pupils draw diagrams/equations and show it on the camera, stopping screen share and putting gallery view on to maximise what you can see.

10. “Can you repeat the instructions back to me?” and “ghost” pupils

1. Another strategy that we use in the classroom, but that is easy to forget during distance learning. Pick a weaker pupil and see if they can repeat the task back to you.

2. It also has utility when you think you have a “ghost” pupil, who was on camera at the beginning but has then slunk into the background, doing nothing. Cold call them early on and then you can follow it up later. It makes it look like you’ve figured them out, rather than having the awkward silence when you pose a normal question and get nothing in response.

3. Equally, you can look over the chat box to see which pupils aren’t participating, so are likely ghosting, to find this out more discreetly. Make and note and follow it up afterwards. You can also save your chat script, and after the lesson use ctrl + F to see which pupils had low participation.

Written tasks

We usually have shorter written tasks throughout the lesson, ending with an extended task at the end.

11. Hands up when finished

1. When finishing an activity, tell pupils to use the “hands up” reaction so you have an idea of how many of them are done. It’s better than, say, writing “done” in the chat box, which can be difficult to keep track of.

2. This also allows you to praise the fastest as hands up are ordered by speed.

3. You can get the speediest to type up one of their best answers in order for additional praise, to give feedback, or to provide models of good work to share with the class. You can also set challenges for those particular pupils on the fly.

12. “Live” marking

During an extended writing task, you can simulate the experience of looking over a pupil’s work and giving feedback. Pick pupils, perhaps those who haven’t been participating much or those who have finished suspiciously early, and get them to write up their current answer into the chat box. This keeps them accountable can also give you an insight into misconceptions that aren’t self-reported. It’s also another chance to spot ghost pupils.

End of lesson

Set them up for success with their homework, and sign-off with the correct tone.

13. Talk through the homework

1. Have screenshots of the homework on a slide at the end of your PowerPoint/document. You can talk through what they need to do and answer questions. It’s also far easier to manage on a slide, rather than swapping between Word and PowerPoint and then re-sharing the screen.

2. Ideally, homework should be formulaic in its structure. This makes it less likely that pupils will get boggled and means you can devote more time at the end to explaining the harder sections of the homework (usually the final questions).

14. Sign-off, qu

Michaela Community School: 20 Rules for Zoom Lessons
Tags Zoom, Remotework, Teaching, Remote classes, Virtual meetings, Moving class online
Type Google Doc
Published 03/05/2021, 11:23:26


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