8 Ways to Engage Students in Distance Learning

“Every student can learn, just not on the same day, or the same way.” By George Evans

With districts going back to school with distance learning or virtual learning in place, educators are wondering what they need to do to keep students engaged. Many of the same strategies educators engage students in a “regular” classroom should still be in place in a virtual classroom. Below are ways you can engage students in distance learning.

  1. Mini-Lessons: Lessons should be engaging and also short, no more than 10 mins. Teachers need to think about teaching in shorter chunks and only one skill/standard at a time. For example, in Math if you are teaching subtraction, teach only one strategy at a time; allowing students to master it before going on.
  2. Choice Boards, Playlists and/or Pathways: Having an instructional design is important for the students as it helps them understand expectations and procedures. The first few weeks should be spent on helping students understanding what the expectations are so they can take ownership of their learning. Having an instructional design will also help educators identify what standard they are needing support on from pre-assessments. Check out these resources if you want to incorporate these instructional designs into your classroom. How to create a Choice Board and Playlist Versus Pathway.
  3. Discussions: Having students participating in academic discourses is a great way to engage learners. You can have whole group conversations but you get more engagement in small groups. In Zoom, creating small groups is easy to do as breakouts is an awesome feature when you are the host. If you are using Google Meets this becomes more difficult but still doable; you have to set up several meetings and provide links to each of the groups of students. In other learning management systems you can do discussions asynchronous thought discussion boards.
  4. Brain Boosts: Also known as brain breaks, helps learners reduce stress and frustration and increase attention and productivity. I suggest after a mini-lesson having students do a brain boost like the ones on Go Noodle or make up your own as a way to transition into guided or independent practice; just like you would do in “regular” face to face classroom environment.
  5. Goal Setting and Reflection: Goal setting is a great way to intrinsically motivate learners. Every Monday have students set learning goals in a goal journal for each subject so it becomes a weekly habit. You can easily make a goal journal using either a Google Doc template or create your own and then have students copy the template. Educators will need to model how to set goals for the students. Then at the end of the week, have the students reflect on their learning goals.
  6. Choose Your Own Adventure Books: They are fun to read but even more fun when the students are creating their own and reading each others. You can easily create choose your own adventure books by using Google Slides and hyperlink the different slides. Having the students start with a story board to draft their ideas and thoughts before beginning helps the students be more productive. Check out this site for more information and examples of Choose Your Own Adventure.
  7. HyperDocs: A HyperDoc is a digital document where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one document. You can create interactive Hyperdocs on different topics or have students create their own to show what they know! Checkout this Facebook Hyperdoc group that shares a lot of ideas and resources.
  8. Publish: When students know their work is going to be shared and viewed by others they become more engaged in the outcome. Have students share their screens or have them create their own Google site to be to create a portfolio of their finished projects etc.

Here are more resources about student engagement you might be interested in:

Tech Tools for Engagement by Thomas Murray

5 Digital Tools to Promote Collaboration

25 Strategies to Engage Students on Your Next Zoom Meeting

8 Ideas Designed to Engage Students In Active Learning Online

I would love to hear more ways you are engaging students in a distance learning setting, share in the comments below.

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