80 back to school activities for the remote learning classroom

Remote Learning

Remote Learning | Wednesday, January 6, 2021

80 back to school activities for the remote learning classroom

80 back to school activities(1)

It's back to school time again and this year looks NOTHING like we have ever seen before. As summer comes to a close teachers are preparing for that big first day of school. Only this year, for many of us, it's going to be in a virtual classroom.

If you are going back to school in-person chances are you will still be doing some sort of remote learning in the future. Or perhaps your instruction is a hybrid of in-person teaching and distance learning.

But one thing we know is true, no matter where you or your students are learning from, those first few weeks of school are crucial for community and relationship building. Lucky for us, many of the beginning of the year activities you know and love can be done in a virtual classroom!

Below we have curated over 80 back to school activities for the remote learning classroom. Scroll down for tons of ready-to-use lessons along with tutorials, templates, and examples to make planning this year a little easier.

What are your back to school ideas? Please share them in a comment at the bottom of the post!

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80 back to school activities for the remote learning classroom

Click on any picture below to jump directly to that section.

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Preparing your online classroom

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Remote learning first week of school activities

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Remote learning community building lessons

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Social Emotional Learning

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Connecting with families remotely

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35+ beginning of the year activities

Scroll down or click here to see our newest ideas for welcoming students back from break or starting a new semester.

Preparing your online classroom

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Take a FREE course on launching and leading an equitable online classroom. 

Dr. Sheldon Eakins and Marcus Borders will walk you step-by-step through the entire process of launching and facilitating an online course! And it's TOTALLY FREE!

Click here to enroll in "Teaching Online A Step-By-Step Course to Launch and Lead An Equitable Online Classroom."

Bitmoji Classroom Templates

Create a Bitmoji or virtual classroom.

Bitmoji classrooms are all the rage on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Creating your own virtual classroom can help you feel a little bit more "at home" with distance learning. The resources below  (including 200+ ready-to-use templates) will help you create your own.

Tutorials  and templates for making your own Bitmoji classroom:

Phone App · SlidesMania (1)

Create an interactive digital syllabus or handbook in Slides or PowerPoint.

Before beginning the year you can set up your syllabus or classroom handbook to be interactive in Google Slides or PowerPoint (also check out how to create an infographic style syllabus using Piktochart). You can see an example digital syllabus created by Kevin Feramisco here.

SlidesMania has TONS of amazing free templates you can use to get started.This "Phone App" template from Slides Mania could be a fun way to pull all your class information together for students and parent.

Class is lava

Gamify your syllabus!

Create instant day one engagement. John Meehan's Class is Lava gamfied syllabus is great for physical school OR distance learning. Hit the ground running with student centered autonomy, agency and purpose.

Check out Class is Lava! by John Meehan for directions and the FREE template!

eLearning Choice Boards_ A step-by-step guide to creating resources you can use tomorrow!

Create a back-up plan with choice boards!

What happens if the power goes out? Or the internet is extremely slow? Or maybe you need to take a sick day and need quick sub-plans? 

Make it easy and fun with choice boards! You can make them as open ended or specific as you want. Review what is expected of the students before you need to use them and be sure to include offline activtities.

eLearning Choice Boards: A step-by-step guide to creating resources you can use tomorrow! by Karly Moura

Choice Board Bingo by John Meehan

Choice board collection of examples and templates

Use our simple "drag and drop" back to school planning doc!

drag and drop back to school planning doc

Sometimes too many ideas can be overwhelming, especially when you're reading through a post with over 50 activities to go through! A simple planning template can be helpful when sifting through resources. Just drag and drop the activities to a time slot on the planner. Make a copy of an activity you want to do more than once or if you want to give students multiple days to work on it.

This planning template was created using the Google Slides sticky note brainstorming template and has a link to 16 of the activities listed in this post. There are 8 more blank notes to add your own activities or add more of the activiites you find in here. Of course once you make a copy of the presentation you can edit any of the activities to swap out or change the ones that don't work for you or your class.

Note: The links to the activities take you back to this blog post so that you can grab the resources you need to assign to your class.

Do More with Google Classroom

Do MORE with Google Classroom

Teach better. Save time. Make a difference.

The short how-to tutorials on Google Classroom are EVERYWHERE. But how do we teach well with it? In this book, you'll find practical ideas to do great teaching with Google Classroom and thrive.

Remote learning first week of school activities

Classroom Bitmoji

Take students on a tour of their virtual classroom.

You spent all that time making your Bitmoji virtual classroom right? See idea and tutorial links in the section above. Take some time to give your students a tour. Show them where everything is and why the items you chose to include are important. You could even take it fun step further and create a virtual classroom scavenger hunt.

Art Frames for Your Virtual Classroom

Let kids decorate their virtual classroom!

We want our students to be a part of our classrooms even when our classrooms are virtual. A fun first day of school project is to have students create a digital art project to "hang up" in your virtual Bitmoji classroom. It can be a decorative name tag or a digital picture.

Click here to get some pre-made art "frames" (Need these in PowerPoint? Just click "file" then "download" and choose Microsoft ppt.)

Virtual Background

Have students create their own virtual background.

Why should teachers have all the fun creating their own classrooms? Take it a step further and let students create their own virtual learning space. Show them how to download and use their own virtual background in Zoom, Teams or Google Meet!

Check out Creating Educational and Fun Backgrounds for Microsoft Teams and Zoom by Holly Clark for a tutorial video, templates, and ideas.

diverse students

Get to know each other AND Flipgrid with an "All about me!" topic.

Use this Topic as anan introduction activity, a get-to-know-you icebreaker plus it's an opportunity to have students explore all the Features within Flipgrid!

Flipgrid "All About Me!" disco library topic

Also check out Flipgrid for ALL! 50+ ways to use Flipgrid in your class


Google Drawing Logo

Design a poster all about you!

This ready-to-use lesson from Google Applied Digital Skills walks students step-by-step through introducing themselves to their classmates by creating a poster you can print (or "hang up" digitally) with Google Drawings.

Get the "Design a Poster About You" lesson from Google Applied Digital Skills

Back to School BINGO

Play back to school BINGO.

Give your students a challenge between your video calls with a BINGO style choice board. Encourage students to try as many activities as they can.

Back to School BINGO board created by Lisa Guardino

Connect Four Warm Up created by Rachel Marker

Google Classroom logo

Create a Google Classroom banner quilt.

Give each student a square blank Google Drawing and have them decorate it. Download each square and put them together to make a "quilt" or collage Google Classroom banner. Alternatively you can have each student add their name to a collaborative Google Drawing Classroom banner by making the file "anyone with link can edit" and asking students to add their name using word art. Don't forget to revisit this activity when any new students join your class.

Slides logo

Introduce Google Slides with an "About Me" presentation.

In this applied digital skills lesson students pick a topic and share information about it by creating an interactive presentation. The example presentation walks them through sharing about themselves and things they care about. This is the perfect way to introduce creating their own Google Slides presentation. Later they can use the same lesson but present on a topic they have learned about in class.

About a Topic Google Applied Digital Skills lesson

Kahoot logo

Play a teacher quiz Kahoot!

Create a quiz about yourself and let students guess the answer with a fun Kahoot all about the teacher. You can also use your own "All About Me!" Flipgrid video to introduce yourself and give students the answers before the quiz.

How to create a Kahoot! tutorial video

Using Kahoot! for distance learning with Google Classroom

shapegrams

Introduce Google Drawings with Shapegrams.

Learn and practice Google Drawings skills with interactive tutorials from Tony Vincent. The first 4 shapegrams are FREE to download and use with your students. Thirty-five dollars gets you 365 days of membership privileges, which includes access to all Shapegrams and a license to distribute them to students. Two new Shapegrams are added per month (August through May).

Learn more about Shapegrams

Get Shapegrams

Animate a name in CS First

Code your name and animate it! 

Don't wait until December to introduce your students to coding. In this FREE interactive Google CS first lesson students add their name and bring the letters to life through animation, sound, and music through programming.

CS First Animate A Name project

How to create your first Google CS First class:

Check out Google CS First: Free, interactive coding lessons for your class for more lessons and ideas.

seesaw-script-icon-combo

Let Seesaw plan your first week for you!

Seesaw has created a map of ready-to-go Seesaw activities for home learning organized by grade and subject. 

This remote learning activities map includes directions to each activity along with a direct link to the FREE activity in the Seesaw library! Follow the activities as they are laid out or switch them with acitivites from a different grade level. Teaching grades 6+? You can easily edit the activities to fit your content area and grade level.

Smart Start 2020 Week 1 (1)

Smart Start the year with EduProtocols.

Check out the NEW all ONLINE version of Smart Start! Includes even MORE EduProtocols for your remote learning classroom. The virtual Smart Start includes links to directions for each EduProtocol plus TONS of FREE templates

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tech like a pirate 3d cover

Remote learning community building lessons

album cover

Design an album cover.

This project, created and shared by Yaritza Villalbaasks students to think of their strengths and helps build on social emotional aspects of student lives during COVID-19.

Design an Album cover Flipgrid Discovery topic.

Find MANY more incredible culturally responsive remote learning resources at  Yveducationalresources.com/remote-learning-resources.

Solve in Time

Gamify problem-based learning with Solve in Time!

Solve in Time! creates learning opportunities that challenge students solve real-world problems using a design process and critical thinking. 

Check out PROBLEM-SOLVING IS VIRTUALLY POSSIBLE! by Dee Lanier.

Watch this presentation by Solve in Time! creator Dee Lanier from the 2020 Pear Fair on utilizing the equity expansion cards to facilitate students as they use the design thinking process to solve real-world problems related to inequity in their setting.

All are welcome

Complete the All Are Welcome HyperDoc.

All Are Welcome, a book by Alexandra Penfold, follows a group of children through a day in their school. In this school everyone is welcomed and accepted with open arms. Use this All are welcome HyperDoc by Lisa Guardino and Carla Dunavan to create an opportunity for your students to read (or listen), respond, and reflect to the story within your online learning community.  Remember to choose "file" then "make a copy" to edit and replace the links for your own class.

All Are Welcome - Read Aloud Picture Book from Brightly Storytime

chrysanthemum

Find out "What makes you unique?"

This lesson uses the book "Chrysanthemum" to encourage students to share about their unique qualities and what makes them special.  

What make you unique? Flipgrid Disco Library topic

Hopes and Dreams

Share your Hopes and Dreams for the year.

Start the year off by having students share their hopes and dreams. This HyperDoc is a great one to share at the beginning of the year then go back at the end of the year and read what you wrote!

Hopes and Dreams HyperDoc created by Rachel Marker and Karly Moura

guess who

Play "Guess Who" on Flipgrid.

Start your year off right with a fun get to know you game. Guess who is a great game where students can share more about themselves.  Students will use the pixel filter for a "disguise" and share a few things about themselves for to get their classmates to guess.

Guess Who? Flipgrid topic from the Disco Library

Also check out a version of Guess Who on Jamboard (#2 in this post)

This is Us!

Create a collaborative Slides or PowerPoint "This is us" presentation.

Use this HyperDoc to build community in your classroom! It creates a space for each student to share about themselves asynchronously.

This is us HyperDoc created by Nicole Beardsley

PitchYourPassion_BannerImage

Pitch (and code) your passion.

Get to know what your students really care about AND integrate computer science into your classroom. In this CS first lesson students will build a project about an idea, activity, item, or cause they feel strongly about. You can have students share a link to their project and describe it on Flipgrid.

Pitch Your Passion CS First Lesson

Check out Google CS First: Free, interactive coding lessons for your class for more lessons and ideas.

team building

Try a team building digital escape room.

Digital escape rooms are super fun and kids love a good challenge! This escape room's theme is teamwork and students can and should work together to figure out the clues. Utilize the "breakout rooms" feature in video calls to put kids into teams to work together and escape!

Exit: A teambuilding experiment digital escape room  created by Lisa Guardino

Want to use digital escape rooms to spark your students' imagination? 

Check out our mini course at a mini price!

Getting Started with Digital Escape Rooms Online course image

For just $19 you'll get:

  • Video tutorials to guide you in getting started
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Building Classroom Community

Check out more community building lesson ideas.

Marilyn McAlister has compiled some great classroom community ideas this summer from amazing educators Mari VenturinoSean GaillardMeredith Akers, Isabel AdameStephanie Rothstein and 

Emma Pass.

Check out this Building Classroom Community collection of ideas.

Social Emotional (remote) Learning 

New Flipgrid logo

Try weekly check-ins with Flipgrid.

Weekly check-ins are a powerful way to keep in contact with your students. It give all of your students a chance to touch base with you and hear your voice and see your face as you respond to them. You can make this more manageble by giving each student a specific day of the week that they know you will be responding back to them. Or leave it open and let students drop a video to you whenever they feel the need.

Pear deck logo

Pear Deck check-ins before each lesson.

Use the Pear Deck add-on for Google Slides or add-in PowerPoint to check-in on your students before, during, and after any presentation. Pear Deck even has a classroom climate feature that allows you to gather feedback on how your students are feeling.

Click here to get a "Check in with Students" lesson that you can copy and add to your Google Drive

Good OK Bad

Try Good, OK, Bad with Jamboard.

Using this template will help you to know about where your students are at and allow you the opportunity to follow up with any issues. Now more than ever, it is important to be mindful of our students social emotional health! This template works best if you complete their activity as a class.

Check out this template plus 9 others in 10 Jamboard templates for distance learning by Kris Szajner

Google Forms logo

Do a daily check-in with forms.

A Google (or Microsoft) form makes it simple and easy to get started connecting with all of your students. Ask your students to fill out the form as they are logging in for the day. You can review their answers while they complete a digital warm-up or between video calls.

Check out Daily Check-in With Google Forms by Mari Venturino for a template and examples.

mentimeter

Do a quick check-in or check-out with Mentimeter.

Mentimeter allows you to create interactive presentations that can poll your audience in real time. Try using the ranking option to see how students feel at the beginning of the day or lesson. Or utilize the word cloud feature as an exit ticket to see how students feel at the end of a lesson.

25+ SEL activities shared by educators

Mr. Gupton posted this tweet in mid-August asking educators to share their first week SEL activities and the response was amazing. We have curated many of the responses into a Wakelet collection and have embedded it below. Be sure to check out the original tweet for recent additions and give Mr. Gupton a follow on Twitter!

Connecting with families remotely

Open box

Send home a "welcome box" or "welcome bag" to your students and families.

If your school has some sort of registration day or walk through before school begins you can put together a welcome box or bag for the famlies to pick up.

Ideas for items to add:

  • A letter or postcard from you to the family.
  • A list of usernames and passwords students will need and where to go on the first day.
  • Offline learning games students can play at home (try to find games that use items students may already have like cards or dice).
  • A list of supplies they might need for the year. Or if you are fortunate enough to have those available for students you can send them home in the box too.
  • Materials for a project that gets the whole family involved.
  • Resources for parents to help their child be successful. A link to your class website, your contact information, list of helpful websites for parents. In this digital world families still appreciate something they can stick on the fridge.
video conferencing icon

Host one-on-one family video calls before school begins or during the first week.

During the week before school or over the course of the first month try giving your students each 15-20 minute time slots to meet with you along with their family members. 

Website icon

Make a hub of resources for parents and students.

Keep a consistent place (website or even a published Google Slide) for students to access assignments for parent to find resources and announcements. You can add a welcome video and tutorials for help.

Examples:

talking points-chat bubbles

Use the Talking Points app to communicate with ALL families.

Talking points allows you to communicate with your families. You write your message in your home language, families respond in theirs and it is translated automatically. Teachers can use the web-browser or mobile app, families can use text messages or a mobile app.

See the full list of languages that Talking Points supports

seesaw logo

Create a digital portfolio in Seesaw.

Seesaw is NOT just for the K-2 crowd (although it is an incredible tool for our younger students!). Seesaw can be used in any grade level and provides students and teachers an easy way to connect the classroom to home. 

Visit Remote Learning with Seesaw: A GUIDE FOR TEACHERS and 20 Seesaw ideas with Chromebooks for K-12 classes

Flipgrid logo

Create a Flipgrid topic to host "office hours" for families. 

You can create a separate Flipgrid topic for each family (in elementary) or each class (in secondary) to offer asynchronous office hours. Families can use their topic to get in touch with you and ask any questions they need. Remember to keep the videos moderated if more than one family is accessing the same topic.

Check out Connecting School + Home for a guide to setting up your grid

Child sitting in a chair with a laptop

Looking for more remote learning resources?

Our eLearning page has TONS of resources for bringing learning directly to your students no matter where they are!

  • 70 remote learning activities templates and tutorials
  • Distance learning lesson planning guides and templates
  • FREE ebooks for getting started or taking your remote teaching futher
  • More resources added all of the time!

Welcome students back from break or start a new semester

Year in pictures

Jamboard community building & goal setting activity

Check out this idea from Esther Park:

1. 2020 in pictures (whole-class)
2. Hopes for 2021 in pictures (whole-class)
3. Assign each frame to individuals for an easy goal setting/new year's resolution

Copy of @MSBDuncan_Welcome 2021Activity

Welcome the new year!

Brigide Duncan has created a whole slide deck full of activities to welcome your students back to school and start the new year including:

  • Frayer a friend
  • Mood meter
  • Vision boards
  • and more!
Among Us

Be relevant and build relationships with an Among Us game in the classroom

Among us, an online sci-fi murder mystery game, is all the rage right now with students young and old. What better way to welcome students back to the classroom or to build community with a fun and relevant game. 

But you don't need to play the online version in your classroom! Check out these "made for EDU" Among Us games.

How to make a Top 10 video on Flipgrid

Make a top 10 video of the past year

The Top 10 list is a video genre that can be transferred to the classroom! It's a great academic task. A Top 10 video is a fun way for students to show what they know in a way that's fun to watch! Check out How to make a Top 10 video on Flipgrid step-by-step instructions with tips and tricks.

Virtual Snowball Toss Community Building

Snowball toss community building

Another awesome idea from Esther Park:

Teams will have 1 min to fill in as many snowballs with their team color. Team w/ the most snowball wins! 

30 beginning of the year activities from the #Ditchbook community

Below you will find 30 beginning of the year activities that you can use right away.  Also, be sure to visit our back to school Pinterest page filled with ideas from the #Ditchbook community.

1. Complete a G Suite tools refresher HyperDoc (click here for even more).

2. Learn to be a Chromebook Lifeguard then have kids create their own meme!

3. Gauge tech skills with a 3-minute challenge.

4. Become Digital Citizenship Superheros.

5. Teach students proper email etiquette.

6. Go on a Google Docs Scavenger hunt!

7.  Review or teach Chromebook policies (and play a fun Kahoot!)

8. Create an “All About Me” poster with Adobe Spark.

9. Complete the TLAP Play-Doh challenge HyperDoc.

10. Create identity silhouettes.

11. Try visual learning selfies.

12. Create an icon board.

13. Have fun with a beginning of the year QR Break-In!

14. Create Vision Boards (blog post by Kasey Bell).

15. Practice following directions in Google Drawings.

16. Get to know your students with a 360 spreadsheet.

17. Start the year off with One Word.

18. Play “Two Truths and a Lie” on Flipgrid.

19. Get to know your classmates with the “thin slides” Eduprotocol.

20. Frayer a friend (Google Drawings template).

21. Try a “Who Am I?” activity on Google Slides.

22. Get to know your students with a Google Form Survey

23. Have students create their own island.

24. Introduce the design process with a watercraft challenge.

25. Get to know each other with a “mystery person” activity.

31. Challenge your students to a GIF battle!

32. Begin each day with community circles.

33. Get back to school with G Suite from Shake Up Learning.

34. Start the year off with a back to school HyperDoc.

35. BONUS! Check out an entire FOLDER of back to school resources!

BONUS 2! Check out an entire PADLET of back to school resources from Krista Harmsworth!

What are your back to school ideas for remote learning? Please share them in a comment below!

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Do MORE with Google Classroom

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  • Terry Phillips says:

    Thank you for sharing..This awesome and well needed!

  • Maria says:

    THANK YOU SO KINDLY FOR CURATING THIS AMAZING LIST TO SHARE!

  • Myra Bernard-Cade says:

    Wow! This will be useful in building my virtual classroom. It’s funny, the first idea on your sight is to set-up a virtual classroom tour and I was thinking about going to my classroom and making a video of it for my students with that purpose in mind. Thank you for all the resources. I am sure we will all need them.

  • Shanda says:

    I needed this in my life!!!

  • Oscar Lopez says:

    I am astonished with so many information¡ I want use all at once¡ I know, I am crazy but thanks a lot for this gift.

  • […] 50 back to school activities for the remote learning classroom – Ditch That Textbook […]

  • Josephine Rose says:

    This is amazing! Thank you so much.

  • […] That Textbook: They have curated and created over 50 back to school activities for the distance […]

  • KQD says:

    Thank you very much!

  • Jack Milgram says:

    Okay, now I feel super awkward with my online lessons 😀
    But better late than never, I guess. That thing with making virtual classrooms and then conducting tours is now my favorite one, especially with new students.

  • >