The first class

Previous post: The foundational bricks

After the opening conversation, I am ready to plan the first class (in online teaching parlance - the trial session). What are the elements that I include in this session and why do I structure it this way?

~ o ~ x ~ o ~

I log on to the interface about 5 minutes before the child and upload an image like the one shown below on the first slide. I also check that my laptop and internet connection are working smoothly.

In my experiences, these trial sessions have always been 1 hour long. As you may have deduced, I divide it into three parts:
  • introductions (~ 15 minutes)
  • the core class (~ 40 minutes)
  • sharing feedback (~ 5 minutes)
Why do I have a tabular agenda like the one above? In the post linked here, I explained how and why agendas were useful in my classrooms in Pune. They lend a visible structure to the lesson, state the goals of each segment and allow children to see the connections between different segments. In the above example, the child can see that we will be revising percentages to lay the foundation for simple and compound interest, then understanding the concept behind simple interest before ending with some practice on simple interest. Essentially, the flow of the lesson is no longer a mystery to them!

Let's briefly explore each part of the trial session...

~ o ~ x ~ o ~

First, introductions. As described in this post, I believe photos to be impactful tools of communication. So, I start the trial session by showing the child snaps from my prior teaching experiences - usually ones where I am with my students. I use these photos as aids to describe my background, why I got into teaching and how it is something I enjoy to this day! Following that, I share a few of my interests so that the child gets to know me a little better as a person.

Post this, I ask the children some informal questions such as:
  • what are their hobbies (and what draws them to these hobbies? 😀)
  • do they have siblings (if yes, do they have playful fights? 😂)
  • what subjects do they like and dislike at school (and why?)
  • what do they want to learn from our classes together (and why?)
By this stage, the ice is well and truly broken and I am ready to transition to the next part.

~ o ~ x ~ o ~

The core class.

This is the first taste that children get of my teaching style. I err on the side of caution here and start slowly to get a feel of how the child is responding - is the material of an appropriate level; do I need to modify any aspect on the fly; is there a prerequisite concept that appears shaky etc. Since I have already gathered a decent amount of information during our first interaction, the class tends to go smoothly and deviations from the agenda are minimal.

In the trial session, I ensure a mix of theory/concepts (coded in blue) and time for practice and solving questions (coded in orange). Thus, children get an idea of both how I teach a concept and how we work through questions together based on those concepts.

~ o ~ x ~ o ~

Third, sharing feedback. This is a vital part of all my trial sessions. I ask the children questions such as:
  • how did they find the way that I taught the concept? What went well and what could I do better?
  • how was the pace of the class? Was it too fast, too slow or appropriate in their view?
  • how did they find the questions that I had chosen for practice? Were they easy, difficult or at their level?
I also give them feedback on their knowledge/skills in the topic that we just covered. I highlight the concepts that I think they are strong at and also the concepts that they need to work on.

Making feedback an explicit agenda item conveys that I value their opinions and sets the tone for open communication in the future (in the event that they sign up for classes).

I conclude by thanking them for actively participating during the session and request them to discuss with their parents about whether they would like to start sessions on a regular basis or not.

~ o ~ x ~ o ~

Tailpiece: To date, I have taken 23 trial sessions - 19 of those resulted in the student and parent wanting to continue with regular sessions. My planning and execution of the trial session has evolved over the last 4+ years and the sample shown here is from the most recent one that I conducted.


  1. Hello bhaiya! Hope you are doing well and thank you for sharing the post with me. I have always loved being a part of your class and I wish I could have attend it more. You always has a flow of class with you and this is the very strong aspect of your teaching that I like. Looking forward for more post!

    1. Thanks for the sweet comment, Adnan! I too wish that I could have taught you and our 8th standard English class more!

      I am happy that the flow of my class was something that you liked. :-)

  2. Thank you so much for detailing out the process you follow in your trial sessions. The structure you have implemented, the activities and questions you ask are bound to keep your students hooked. I would love to attend one such session in the future! :)

    1. Maybe I can arrange for you to be a fly on the wall for one of my future trial sessions! :-)

  3. You have been open about the no of trial classes and the number who continued which actually was not needed in this post, but a very appreciable tailpiece.
    Another thing that you mentioned that you log in 5 min before is very good. When the teacher is well prepared before hand, the session is beneficial to both.
    I liked that you take feedback from the elder kids too as this would be keeping their motivation levels and interaction better

    1. Hi Arpan,

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, I wanted to share those figures to connect the contents of the post with the outcomes of the trial sessions that I have actually taken.

      Regarding feedback - it is something that I did with my 4th and 5th graders too. The language and medium changes depending on the grade but I have found my students' feedback to be pretty insightful and useful. After all, they spend the maximum time experiencing my lesson and can give me feedback that no adult observer can. :-) Besides improving motivation levels and the quality of interaction, it shows them that their opinions count.

  4. What about in cases where higher grade kids try to act smart on the feedback aspect? Or are a little indifferent... How do you tackle that?

    1. In all honesty, I haven't faced this situation (yet). This could be because:

      (i) the students (and parents) who I have interacted with are invested in learning and proactively reached out to start these sessions in the first place;
      (ii) of the first interaction over the phone in which I try to set the tone for our association;
      (iii) I explain why I am taking feedback when I discuss the agenda at the start of the class and re-emphasise the point before that segment of the class as well.

      However, I'll try taking a stab at how I would tackle the situation that you have mentioned in your comment.

      First, I would definitely reiterate, in a different way since the first approach did not work, the 'why' behind the feedback. I would share an example or two of how student feedback has helped me improve my teaching in the past.

      Second, I would explain how both of us stand to benefit from direct communication. I would also draw their attention to the fact that the 40 minutes of class that just went by was me teaching, they learning and me giving feedback to them on their work. This was an opportunity for them to give me feedback!

  5. Sounds like you've cracked the code on the elements to make a good session! Curious how you might change some of these elements if it's a group session?

    1. Thanks for the question, Ananya - it's a great one and very valid today when school teachers are trying to teach classes of 20-30 (and sometimes more!) students.

      If it is a group of less than 10 students, the I would still spend 3-5 minutes introducing myself followed by going around the table with each student taking 1-2 minutes to introduce himself/herself. I might use a tool like this one ( ) for fairness, to make it more engaging and to build a little suspense! :-)

      If there are over 10 students, I might need to restrict it to simply a brief intro about myself as the entire class would go solely in introductions and children would get bored/fatigued!

      To prepare for the core lesson, I would need to have a sense of where different students stand and then create a lesson plan that caters to what I think is the average level - similar to what teachers do in regular classes. If the platform permits it, I may use break out rooms for differentiated practice/support once the concept part has been covered.

      For feedback, it would not be possible to hear verbally from each student. So, I would need to design a feedback form that they could fill out online in 3-5 minutes. I would discuss the key aspects of the feedback in the next class and how I plan to incorporate their comments/suggestions into lessons going forward.

  6. In comparison to a physical class, what is the biggest challenge/ difference/ advantage you find in online classes?

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      I do plan to cover this in a later post in the series in more detail. So... stay tuned! :-)

  7. Hey man,

    Really liking a few things here:
    1. I like how in your whole process there is pride in your craft. And importantly, this pride and passion that you have for teaching is something that you communicate with your students. Isn't it assuring when your doc tells you about what all she or he has studied and what she or he has done. I think it's also comforting and assuring when you have a teacher who is sharing that experience and purpose with the student.

    2. Love the emphasis on your initial segment of getting to know the student. Let's have more teacher training dedicated to simply talking to a child of any particular age. How we engage with a child outside of content imparting is so vital.

    Great to read.

    1. This is truly one of the nicest and most genuine comments that I have received to date. :-)

      I am really glad that my feelings/thoughts about teaching are coming out clearly in these posts (I wrote about the layers of teaching some years back here -

      Yes, teacher training in many systems leaves a lot to be desired and I hope that this aspect (of getting to KNOW our children) is one that is given sufficient importance. Otherwise, we are basically reducing children to empty vessels into which we are expected to pour our knowledge and wisdom.

  8. What i liked about this post was you applying agenda theory in this post too.I mean you have chronolized your post. I have noticed that, you have not picturized the part where you build students' interest or how you talk to students while they are solving sums and take a walk through all the desks. Thanks for this post!!

    1. That's a great observation, Abhay! :-)

      Since these posts are about online classes, I don't walk around while he/she is solving questions. I sit in front of the computer and use the audio and whiteboard to communicate with them. :-)

      However, I am glad that you remember those good old geometry classes we had! :-D


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