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4 distance learning activities to engage students

Laura MayDecember 15, 2020

Child smiling while using tablet [Julia M Cameron, Pexels]

Keeping students interested in learning can be hard enough when you’re in a classroom, but when you’re teaching them remotely it’s even more difficult. We’ve put together four engaging ways to teach students in your online classroom that can help keep them focused and enthusiastic. 

1. Give practical assignments 

Remote learning doesn’t have to mean that students are sat down in front of a screen all day, every day. Try to break up the formal teaching moments with practical assignments that allow them to put into practice what they’re learning or discover something for themselves. 

This could be as simple as completing worksheets or drawing something that students can take a photo of to share with you and the rest of the class over zoom or google meet. You could also try assigning something more challenging, like writing a play about a topic they’ve learned, or creating a video that’s related to their subject of choice. 

You could also challenge them to complete a craft project. For example, if you’re learning about space, you could have them make their own solar system using recycled materials found around the house. Share an example like this with them so they have something to work toward. This is a great way to encourage their creativity!

Offline, practical assignments aren’t just engaging, they can also provide a break from screen time. Those breaks help students stay more focused for the rest of the day. Don’t forget to make sure your assignment requires them to show what they did in the next lesson either by taking a picture or video — they need to be motivated to actually complete the task. 

2. Put together activity boxes 

Another way to make your remote lessons more interactive is to organize activity boxes for the students. Not everyone is going to have the same resources at home. By putting together a box or kit with simple items students will need to create something related to a lesson, they can all participate. 

Not sure what to include? A great way to get inspired is to look at subscription boxes for students, and there are so many out there! You could build a STEAM box like this or a science kit like this. If you’re working with younger children, take inspiration from interactive creative educational boxes like these. The possibilities are endless! 

Your DIY learning kit should provide everything needed for an interactive and educational activity. If each of your kits covers an exciting new theme, students will look forward to opening it every time it arrives.

Think about what kinds of projects you might ask your students to complete, whether it’s making a simple poster or creating a model, and then put together your own kit to send to students along with other helpful l resources they’d find in the classroom. 

When you teach the corresponding lesson, you can talk them through the activity box and clearly explain what they need to do. This is a great way to help keep students interested in what they’re learning about. 

3. Turn lessons into games 

Incorporating game elements into your remote lessons can motivate students to participate and help them to focus on what they’re learning. You can use a number of different elements from games such as:

  • point scoring
  • friendly class competitions 
  • scoreboards

Here are some ways you can outline opportunities for students to score points throughout classes:

  • answering a question,
  • contributing an opinion or extra information
  • completing certain tasks 

It’s no surprise that we’re big fans of using games to support learning at Classcraft.  It’s what motivated us to create features like Boss Battles to assess learning and Random Events to start class in a fun and exciting way. Game elements and storytelling were blended together in our Quests feature which turns your entire lesson into a choose-your-own-adventure for students. Even our in-class gratitude feature Kudos, which cultivates a positive class climate by giving students a way to share meaningful notes, has been designed to be playful and include rewards.

Another idea is to try using educational video games to help enhance your usual lessons. Research has shown that game-based learning teaches a whole range of important skills that students might struggle to achieve through other learning methods. They can help students develop valuable 21st-century skills. Games also help with their understanding of certain concepts and can help reinforce the information they’re learning. 

4. Get students to take the lead 

Another good way to get students to engage with remote learning is to let them take the lead during some of the lessons. Instead of teaching a subject in a traditional way,  give one or two students the task of presenting a lesson each week. Peer learning is a useful tool and it can be just as effective when teaching remotely. 

Give them a topic to research, or provide the resources they will need for that lesson. Then assign them the task of putting together a lesson for the rest of the class. This is a fun way to help them gain a really good understanding of the topic, and sharing the lesson with others will help reinforce what they’ve learned. 

Chances are your students will likely present the lesson in a different way, and that will help keep the lesson engaging for others in your class. Inspire your students by sharing some presentation tips like these. Then set goals for the lessons, for example, other students must be able to answer certain questions at the end, and let them present the lesson in whatever format they’d like.  

Students learning remotely are going to be lacking some of the usual social interactions. Getting them to present a lesson to the rest of the class is also a good way to build their confidence amongst their classmates and improve their speaking skills. 

Be creative to build connections

Remote learning may come with its own set of challenges but it also comes with so much potential! We’ve listed just some of the helpful ways in which you can make teaching more engaging. Get creative and embrace the opportunities for students to engage meaningfully with you, the material, and each other. The important thing is to be open to trying something new and exploring different ways you can make learning more interactive and fun.

Photo: Julia M Cameron, Pexels

Distance Learning