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5 Tips for Bringing Fun into Virtual Learning

After months of remote learning, have you and your students become Zoom-bies? Or does it feel like time might be standing still? Avoiding “Groundhog Day” syndrome is key for virtual classroom engagement.

At NTC, we help schools create Optimal Learning Environments. This is hard in-person, but creating them remotely adds another layer of complexity. Being developmentally appropriate is critical to creating a space that supports student learning. This means knowing what’s a good fit for the individual child, culturally important, and the developmental progression of skills.

Our classrooms must not only be developmentally appropriate; we want them to be fun because, as Alfred Mercier said, “what we learn with pleasure we never forget.” Through playful learning, we build a sense of community, integral for creating an open, trusting, and engaging space. Prioritizing fun gives kids opportunities to make choices, and it creates pathways for self-expression. Teachers learn more about their students, enabling stronger relationships and more personal learning moments.

The best learning is fun, and while it can be tricky to bring joy into virtual school, here are some tips to help:

1. Play games
Playing games together not only builds bonds but is a fun way to review academic and social skills. Try out a round of the following to start or close your day:

  • Just Like Me: Everyone turns off their cameras. Someone (teacher or student) makes a statement. If it applies to you, turn on your camera. If it really applies to you, be extra enthusiastic (silly dance moves encouraged)!
  • Virtual Charades: A student chooses (or is given) something to act out. Spotlight and mute the actor. Have students guess what’s happening. If working with nonreaders, reverse the game. Have one person be the guesser and turn around so they can’t see the screen. Show a picture of what everyone else should act out. Then have the guesser try to puzzle out the answer.

2. Invite special guests
Change things up with a special guest. Have the principal do a read-aloud, or family members can join small groups for math. Another idea is to invite community members to share their job experiences. Embrace the beauty of virtual learning and invite guests (grandparents!) from far-off places.

3. Create theme days
Let imagination run free and create wild, out-of-the-box theme days: Wacky Wednesday (tie-in with Dr. Seuss), Penguin Appreciation Day, or have an old-fashioned Pajama Dance Party! Incorporate the theme into mini-moments (one minute) or stretch breaks to reinforce learning.

4. Take virtual field trips
Visit national parks, a coral reef, or the International Space Station. Discover how to make chocolate chip cookies or tour a fire station. Wide Open School offers many free and fun destinations to explore from home.

5. Be creative with virtual platform features
What if students buddy-read in breakout rooms? Or annotate a slide to indicate if they prefer cats or dogs? Or practice reading compound words in a Bingo grid and annotate their answers to earn Bingo? Could students design their backgrounds to match their interests or the setting of a book? How can you use the tools in Zoom (or your online platform) in an unusual way? Check out a list of ideas from teachers who joined our January webinar.

Haim Ginott said teachers’ “personal approach…creates the climate; it is [our] daily mood that makes the weather.” In virtual learning, we have the power to change the weather. Discover more ways to bring joy to you and your students in learning.

For more strategies and inspiration, check out our webinar recording and a teacher-generated list of classroom strategies.

This blog post is part of NTC’s series on remote learning engagement. See our first installment about online platforms here. NTC appreciates second-grade teacher Lisa Rudin for sharing her practice with our community.

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