5 Ways to Engage Students in Distance Learning

5 in the trenches useful tips to use with students during distance learning
Keeping kids motivated during this distance learning venture has been quite a challenge. I want them to be engaged with me and our class, whether it be via live instruction on Zoom, by submitting work on Google Classroom, emailing with me, or through their written work in printed form. But all of those channels have become very old, very fast.  So I have tried hard to do things that will keep the kids coming back day after day.

💡Idea 1:  Take Students on "Field Trips" with the Green Screen

Distance Learning field tripNow this is something that I NEVER EVER EVER thought I would do.  I am NOT in any way, shape, or form a "classroom transformation" teacher.  But I am a thematic teacher.  I love a good theme.  So with the technology of Distance Learning, adding a green screen to my wall and using Zoom to take my kids places is EASY!    I have done a few field trips so far, and all of them have been a huge success.  I took my kids to Disney California Adventure, rode Soarin' Over California, and began a social studies research project through a Disney lens with the kids. (you can read in greater detail about it here)  I took my students on a week-long trip around Los Angeles, visiting important and iconic sites, while practicing our fluency, math skills, science, and reading.  We went on a roller coaster tour, actually "riding" roller coasters (via youtube) and did a science project on friction and gravity.  

Engaging third graders in Zoom by taking them on a virtual trip around the city for social studies

These are things I would never be able to do in my room.  Utilizing the green screen keeps the kids engaged and interested.  They love seeing where I will "be" each day.  Sometimes, I just use it to show a picture of our classroom, but usually, I use it to create a sense of fun and excitement through virtual "field trips".

💡Idea 2:  Send E-cards

Every once in a while, as a little reward for participation on Google Classroom, I send the students an E-card from American Greetings to brighten their day.  I happen to have an account with American Greetings, but there are SO many companies that have free E-cards you can send.  These are just fun and they brighten the day of the kids.  They keep asking when I am going to send another one!

💡Idea 3:  Weekly Reports and Email to Kids and Parents

Distance learning weekly reportSending home reports to each student has really been a game changer for my class.  At times, the reason the kids aren't as tuned in as they could be is because the PARENTS aren't as tuned in. I don't blame them. This is a hard time for all of us.  So sending home a one page report to the parents, with all of the key information they need to know in one place really has made a huge difference in how we all interact and communicate.  It is keeping everyone engaged and focused during our online learning adventure.  If you would like to get a copy of these reports that I am using, you can click here.

I am also sending weekly check-in emails to the students on their school email.  This is a place where I am simply talking to the kids.  I ask them questions about things going on and they write back to me.  We are having a little "journaling" conversation, which has been a great way to keep the kids engaged with me on a more personal level.

💡Idea 4:  Enlisting "Guest Speakers"

Kids get tired of seeing me all the time.  I know that is hard to believe, but it is true 😜  So one thing I did was ask for guest speakers to come into our classroom and help out.  I had author Adam T. Newman, who wrote How to Catch a Cold and other books talk to my class about what it takes to be an author.  I also have had guest readers read picture books to my students.   Adding in a new face really engages the kids in a way that I simply can't.

💡Idea 5:  Add Emojis to the Google Classroom Feed

This is silly, but adding just a bit of color to that drab and boring assignment feed really helps all the kids engage with the work that is being assigned.  They look forward to seeing what emoji I will add for each assignment.  It is just a small way to keep things fresh.  To add emojis, you can go to emojicopy.com (or if you are on a Mac, press control + command + space bar and they will pop up), find the emoji you want to add, copy and paste it into your Assignment and type like normal.  It is easy as pie and adds so much color to your drab feed!

So there you have it.  Five ways that I have tried to spice up Distance Learning so that the kids continue to be engaged.  What have you done to get your students more involved in your online classroom?


  1. Stephanie, these are great ideas! Thanks for sharing, Love your blog.

  2. Thank you!! Great ideas. I am kinda new in using technology these are ideas that give me hope to get beeter presenter:)

  3. I would love to hear more about your "field trips" around L.A. That sounds like a fantastic idea!


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