Students can participate in these fun online teaching activities which can make their new virtual classroom a little less intimidating.

With schools utilizing virtual classroom meetings, webchats, and other distance learning tools, it can be difficult to get students to engage or participate in class. Students are often distracted or struggling to figure out what is going on in the meeting and they do not focus on the instructor or speaker.

While there are no magic words or online teaching games that will make them focus, a new or fun game can help capture their attention at least for a bit. We will look at games and activities that take preparation ahead of time and others that can be done spur of the moment. 

No Preparation

These online teaching activities will take no preparation ahead of time. Students can participate whether they are on a mobile device or a computer and can make the new classroom a little less intimidating


1. What’s Left? 

Ask each person to hold up the nearest thing to the left of them that they can. Obviously, they cannot hold up a TV or couch, but students can hold up a remote, bag of chips, drink, or sock.

To make it even more fun, you can give a scenario such as a zombie apocalypse where students are going to fight the walking dead using only the object to their left!

For students without a camera, ask them to describe the item to their left. 

2. Eye Spy

Play a game of eye spy with the people in the class to figure out whose background you are looking at. This might get fun for classes that have a mixture of virtual backgrounds and home backgrounds. 

3. Storytime

Students will build a story one sentence at a time. The teacher begins by giving the opening line. Each student adds another line to the story. The rules are that the next line has to make sense. It can be silly or outrageous but should make sense. For example, you would not say, “We all went swimming. My truck was making a weird noise.” However, it would be fine if one person said, “We all went swimming.” Then the next student said, “since my truck was making a weird noise, so I didn’t want to drive.” When the class is finished creating the story, you could introduce topics such as the author’s purpose, word choice, setting, and other writing or language arts related topics. 

4. Two Truths and a Lie

This game is a popular ice breaker for many groups. Children old enough to understand the truth and lies can play. Adults even enjoy this game sometimes. Each person tells two true things and one that is a lie. Each thing either needs to be reasonably believable or all sound unbelievable. This game is easy to adapt to your classroom as well. You could make it two lies and a truth or three truths and two lies. Adapt this game to meet your time and classroom needs. The person with the most incorrect guesses is the winner. You might offer them extra points or a virtual high five for winning. 

Some Preparation

5. Where in the world? 

Have all of the students change their background to a location. Each student gets to write down their guesses as to where each place is. Some might be obvious like the Eiffel Tower, Great Wall, or San Francisco Bay Bridge, but others might be more difficult. They might be grandma’s backyard, the Pacific Ocean, Australian Outback, or many other places. This is one of the online teaching activities that can be the introduction into a geography, context clues, social studies, or even art lesson if you choose. 

6. Pet Day!

Have students bring their pets to the meeting. Any student without a pet can find a photo or bring a stuffed animal of a pet they think would be cool. Students should introduce their pets, tell a little about what they do all day, and what their diet is like. This way, you can sneak a little science into the lesson too!


7. Whose is this? 

Have students take a picture of the oldest thing they still own and email it to you. Use your presentation to put a few of them up on the screen. The first person who virtually raises his or her hand guesses to whom the item belongs. For example, if Shannon wanted to guess, he would raise his hand and wait for you to unmute him, then. he would guess who owns the first object. If he gets it right, the next item would be shown. If he gets it wrong, someone else can guess. You could do a few each meeting if you were concerned about time. 

8. Music Video Scavenger Hunt

On YouTube, find a music video where you can find 5 or more things related to the theme of your unit or lesson. The song lyrics is also a good place to find unit-related vocabulary. Before the class starts, watch the music video with the students and ask them to find series of items within the video or series of words in the lyrics!

9. Help Me!

Tell students the topic of the meeting/class. Have them email you one question that they have about the topic. Read a few at the beginning of the meeting, especially if there are several of the same kinds of questions. Ask if anyone already knows the answer or wants to take a guess. At the end of the session ask again. See if the students can now answer the question. Students will often want to listen for their questions and listen for the answer if they think they can be the one to talk after. 

10. Teach us

Once a week or so, have an “extra credit” session where students can take turns teaching something. This can be a recipe, craft, or artistic task. It cannot just be a showcase of talent. Students who teach the lesson get extra credit. All students must attend. If a student attends and follows the instructions or lesson and emails you proof (a photo of the finished product), he or she may also get extra credit. Students will sign up for a week and can “work together” but should remain in their own spaces.

For example, one student might demonstrate from their home the first part of the dish, and the partner, having completed that part ahead of time can complete the second part. This works best with recipes that take longer cooking times. Materials lists can be sent ahead of time for what students need to have on hand to complete the recipe or activity. If the students need extra time to do the activity (a recipe that requires baking time) this should be noted in the materials list, so that students do not expect to do it in real-time. While this activity is better for older students, even young children can complete age-appropriate recipes and tasks. 

11. Gamify Reviews

Take advantage of the many quiz apps and formative assessment tools already available online! Turn your review lessons into a fun online game! Luckily, most of these apps are playable remotely. You can also use quizzes made by other educators that are available on the platform. Why not try Kahoot, Gimkit, or Quizalize perhaps?

Closing thoughts

All of these online teaching activities can be adapted to meet your class’s needs and abilities. Think outside the classroom walls to come up with fun activities. Plan virtual playtimes too. Students need to be able to decompress and destress too. The learning is sometimes secondary to the mental health improvement that comes from having a community of peers that understands their struggles, goals, and achievements. Anything, we as teachers, can do, to foster a love of the classroom, is a good thing. 

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