6 Tips for Virtual Cold Calling and Checks for Understanding

Academics, Engagement, Possip, Students, Virtual Learning / /

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Many teachers may have perfected their in-person cold calling techniques. Popsicle sticks, numbers on desks, playing cards handed out at the door, or online number randomizers are in the in-person teacher tool belt. But now teachers are stepping into a totally new arena when it comes to virtual cold calling.

This week in Possip, we’ve had parents provide feedback to schools around equity and diversity in the students being called on in class. We know this is a time of learning for everyone.  we wanted to share some ideas we’ve come across for increasing participation during virtual classes through cold calling. 


  • Set Cold Calling Virtual Expectations

First, talk about the logistics of cold calling with students. Being on mute can slow down cold calling and make for some awkward pauses. It’s best if students know they should be in a quiet/silent location if possible so they can keep their microphones unmuted. If that’s not possible, the class should understand that there may be some “unmuting” pauses during cold calling. It will get to feel normal and students will get faster with unmuting when needed. Also,  make sure you let students know how cold calling will work in class. This lessens anxiety and builds trust with students. It’s also best practice to let students know ahead of time when there will be a cold call so they’re fully prepared and confident. 



  • Break the Ice with a Whole Group Chat

Full group chats with an A/B/C/D responses can break the ice and help students feel comfortable sharing the rest of the class. This could be a fun icebreaker about their mood (I.e.using mood meter quadrants A=Green emotions (high energy), B= Yellow emotions (low energy), etc. https://casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Hinsdale-Introducing-Staff-to-the-Mood-Meter.pdf ) or their plans for the weekend (A= have plans, B= might have plans, C= probably don’t have anything going on, D= nothing planned). This helps students feel like they got over the initial participation hurdle and feel more relaxed being called on individually later. 



  • Use Your Class Roster Or Meeting Participant List 

Making sure you have data to back up your cold calling balance is important. Teachers may feel like they’re equitable, but in reality, some students can be called on much more than others. Creating a tracker to see how many times teachers have called on each student in class based on a class roster or daily zoom participant list will help you keep track of who is being called on and what voices are or are not being hearing. 



  • Use Technology to Randomize

Technology can help you randomize cold calling, also. If you have a class roster, enter names into a random name selector and share that screen when cold calling. This makes it less personal like the teacher is “calling someone out” and has the technology take on the job. Here are two technology resources to use in your classroom:



  • Send a Student Name List in Chat for Cold Calling Order

Teachers can also have a prepared order of student checks for understandings during class. Teachers can chat in names in the video chat platform throughout the class. This way teachers know exactly when they’re calling on which students and that it’s an equitable balance of student voices. 



  • Incorporate Whole Group Checks for Understandings (CFU’s)

To get more ideas shared and more voices heard, there can be a “silent discussion” on a shared google doc. This is a way to have all students adding to during the conversation. Teachers can hear from more students and can benefit more introverted students. You can also use whole group CFU’s with low-tech toolss like holding up a whiteboard or high tech tools like Kahoot. 

Check out this blog that gives more ways to check for whole group understanding: https://www.ashlylocklin.com/instructional-coaching-blog/2015/1/19/50-ways-to-check-for-understanding-in-the-virtual-classroom