10 online learning activities that keep students motivated and engaged
To say that the 2020-2021 school year is shaping up to be unusual is the understatement of the century. Some of the nation’s largest school systems, including the Los Angeles and San Diego school districts, have already confirmed that all classes will stay online for the fall. Other school districts, like New York, will be adopting a hybrid model, which includes a blend of remote learning and in-person learning. No matter what your school district decides, America’s teachers need to continue planning and refining their online learning plans. That includes developing fun and engaging online activities that will keep home-bound students excited to learn. Here are ten great online learning activities to consider:
1. Real-world case studies
Teaching often requires examples to show certain principles in action. Instead of relying on a generic, bland case study, unleash your students to find real-life case studies or examples online. This can work for nearly any type of class. Encourage your students to find examples of geometry used in real life or a film scene that depicts a psychological principle or a legal case that affected history. With the internet at their fingertips, students can present unique examples that will help them absorb the lesson.
2. Online debates
Choose a topic related to your subject and pair students together. Assign one student to argue for the “Pro” side of the argument and the other student to argue the “Con.” Using your preferred video meeting software, allow your students to debate the topic. Debates force students to dig deeply into a topic and to understand both points of view of the topic. It can increase empathy and improve research skills.
3. Whiteboard teaching
The best way to learn a topic is to teach it to others. When starting a new chapter, assign each of your students (or in small groups) to learn one specific lesson and to teach it to the class. Here’s the twist. Introduce a whiteboard teaching tool so your students can get extra creative as they design their own lesson.
Resource recommendation: Explain Everything Whiteboard is a great app that allows teachers and students to create dynamic whiteboard presentations.
4. Classroom newspaper
Use a blogging platform to create a classroom newspaper. As the editor of the newspaper, you can hand out story assignments to your students or encourage them to pitch you stories. A classroom newspaper works for all types of lessons. Science teachers can encourage students to create write-ups on the latest science news. History students can recreate a historical newspaper, reporting on important historical events as if in real-time. To make the experience even more exciting, print out the newspaper and send it to your students with their bylines.
Resource recommendation: Edublogs allows teachers to create customizable classroom blogs.
5. Trivia competitions
There’s nothing like a little competition to get your students excited and to test their knowledge. Encourage your students to think fast by posting multiple choice questions and having them answer as fast as possible. Trivia competitions can be played in teams to lower the pressure and to encourage bonding even when students aren’t in the same classroom. It is also an excellent way to help students practice for upcoming tests and quizzes.
Resource recommendation: Poll Everywhere Competitions allows students to answer questions in real-time from their phones or computers and includes a constantly updating leaderboard.
6. Comic strip
Add a little humor to your classroom by assigning your students to create comic strips and then post them to your classroom discussion channel. This is a great option for art students, foreign language classes, English classes, history classes, and more. Step back and watch the creativity flow. Some students may want to draw their comics on paper and scan them. Others may create their own memes, while others put together animated comic strips. You’ll be amazed at what they come up with.
Resource recommendation: Synfig is a free, open-source 2D animation software that is ideal for beginners and a good choice for anyone who wants to animate their comic strip.
7. Video newscast
Similar to the class newspaper, you are now the director of a news program. Send your “reporters” out to record news stories that are relevant to your current lesson. Drama students can record reviews of popular movies while biology students can explain groundbreaking new research. Encourage your students to research their topics, write their stories, then record them as a news report. Older students may also want to use video software to add graphics or video clips to enhance their stories.
Resource recommendation: PlayPosit makes it easy for students to create interactive videos.
8. Google Earth scavenger hunt
Travel may be limited for your students, but that doesn’t mean they can’t explore the world. Google Earth is an absolutely fantastic tool that can allow your students to see the natural wonders of the world. Create a historic location scavenger hunt, a geological scavenger hunt, or a nature-based scavenger hunt for your students. Ask them to find examples of certain locations through Google Earth and then to take screenshots of their phone or computer screens.
9. Interview a family member or friend
Now, more than ever, your students need to stay connected to their family members, friends, and members of the community. Create an assignment where your students have to perform an online interview with someone in their circle. This is a great assignment for U.S. history students who can interview grandparents or aunts and uncles about their experiences during historical moments. Business students can request interviews with local business owners. Ask your students to record and post their interviews.
10. Write and perform a song or poem
Another great way to get creative is to assign your students to write and perform a song or poem on a specific topic. This is an ideal assignment for music students, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Your English students can write slam poetry from the point of view of a famous literary character. Your history students can write a World War II fight song. Your science students can write and perform a rap about the solar system. The options are limitless, and the results will be incredibly fun.
Resource recommendation: Soundcloud offers a wide range of free background music to help give your students a beat.
11. Bonus recommendation – classroom website
Since you’re planning to give your students lots of fun and creative online assignments, make sure you showcase them for the whole class. Build a classroom website, where you can post student articles, interviews, recorded debates, poem performances, comic strips, and more. Many students will love to see what their fellow classmates have come up with, and parents will also enjoy the opportunity to see how creative their kiddos can be.
Resource recommendation: Google Sites makes it easy to create a responsive classroom website that allows for collaboration.
Start working on your lesson plans now
Though online learning does create some restrictions, it can also give you the opportunity to encourage creativity and adaptation in your students. Teachers must also be creative and continue to adapt to today’s uncertain environment. These 11 online learning suggestions can help you create an engaging and fun online classroom no matter what the rest of 2020 throws at you. As you develop your lesson plan for 2020, take a look at this ultimate guide to online learning tools or our official guide to distance learning.