50 back to school activities for the remote learning classroom


eLearning | Tuesday, July 21, 2020

50 back to school activities for the remote learning classroom

50+ back to school activities
50+ back to school activities

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 50 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!

FREE Remote Learning 101 online course

If you're looking to dive deeper into remote learning or just aren't sure where to start, this course can help you feel more comfortable with taking your class online.

remote learning 101 online course promo image
  • 14 modules
  • 2.5+ hours of video
  • Downloadable planning guides
  • Lifetime access
  • Forum for sharing ideas

50 back to school activities for the remote learning classroom

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

Preparing your online classroom

Remote learning first week of school activities

Remote learning community building lessons

Remote learning check-ins

Connecting with families remotely

25+ beginning of the year activities

Preparing your online classroom

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."

Create a Bitmoji 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. Check out the links above for tons of examples along with the tutorial on how to make your own below.

Tutorials on how to make your own Bitmoji classroom:

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.

Use our simple "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.

Get the tools, the practical ideas, and the inspiration to transform the way you use technology in the classroom!

  • Lesson ideas and downloadable templates
  • A companion webpage full of FREE resources  (click here to access NOW)
  • Brand new PIRATE engagement hooks
  • Encouragement and motivation to start
tech like a pirate 3d cover

Remote learning first week of school activities

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.

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.)

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

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

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:

Remote learning community building lessons

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

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

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)

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

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

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

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!

Remote learning check-ins 

New Flipgrid logo

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

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

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.

Connecting with families remotely

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. 

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

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

25+ beginning of the year activities from the #Ditchbook community

In this post you will find 25 beginning of the year activities that you can use right away shared by the #Ditchbook community.

25 beginning of the year activities you can use right away

Ideas include:

  • A GSuite tools refresher HyperDoc
  • 3 minute tech skills challenge
  • Vision board 
  • a Play-doh challenge (you can use aluminum foil too!)
  • EduProtocols (with templates!)
  • And MORE!

Also be sure to visit our back to school Pinterest page filled with even MORE ideas.

Note: A few of these ideas are mentioned above but most are new, additional ideas you can use with your class during those first few weeks of school.

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

Related posts:

Explore The DTT Blog

For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links:

Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!

Is Matt presenting near you soon? Check out his upcoming live events!

Ready to take your tech skills -- and student learning -- to another level?
Sign up for Tech to Learn online course! Just $49
Love this? Don’t forget to share
  • Terry Phillips says:

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

  • Maria says:


  • 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!

  • >