My Middle School Distance Learning Successes – Ideas for Online Teaching for Back to School

These are stressful times, and the fact of the matter is, we are all scrambling to find ideas that will help our students learn and thrive as we get familiar with online teaching. These are unprecedented times. So, today I’m going to outline for you some of my successes with online teaching. Did everything I did with my grade 6’s work? No of course not. I had activities that bombed, students that didn’t show up and those who did the bare minimum too, just like everyone else. 

But if we all took the time to share what DID work well in our “classes,” then those teachers who are suddenly working from home again, would have a bank of ideas to choose from. So here are mine. I hope that these ideas are helpful for you. 

1. online teaching with Book Club

My favourite weekly routine was our book club activities. I began with a google form book tasting, which included a description and image of the books, so that students could make a personal book choice. I then used the form, to group the students into 6 book club groups.

Each week, students were to read a section of the book, complete one of the 8 choice board activities and develop 3 questions (with support from a Q-Chart to promote deep thinking questions). Each engaging activity choice allowed students to show their understanding and creativity.

Every Friday, I would meet with each group to discuss the section they read, the questions they came up with and their activities. These meetings took place on Google Meet, Jamboard or Padlet, based on group choice. The deep conversations and authentic sharing time was absolutely the best part of our week.

2. Algebra digital lessons, activities & escape room

To ensure that students continued to build on their math skills while away from school, I sent them my math lessons with transitions using Google Slides. Adding transitions to a Google Slide promotes step by step learning, by revealing one concept at a time. I also sent this lesson with a screencast video of myself explaining the concepts. This allowed students to be able to access the information, in a way that made the most sense to them. 

Students were then able to practice independently and self monitor, by using the 5 levels of task cards with answers (In class, this section is used for conversation and group work). For those who needed/ wanted further assistance, guided math groups were held using Google Meet and Jamboard.

Now the fun part! Once they felt ready, students were asked to “escape the classroom” through a digital interactive classroom, algebra escape room. I received a great deal of positive feedback from this activity. My students enjoyed the more “hands on” approach of showing their understanding, as well as the integration of riddles to get them thinking. This activity is self checking, since students were not able to “escape” without the correct answer. Students liked that they did not have to wait to see how they did and I liked that it was a fast, effective and fun way to teach and practice the skill.

3. Using Makerspace Space Aliens for online teaching

For this activity, students choose a planet to research, then planned their ideas for an alien that would be able to survive on the environment of this planet. 

Then, students actually created! This wasn’t just a worksheet activity where students thought of ideas for an alien, they actually took ideas and materials from around their house and created it. This hands-on activity took them away from having to sit at the computer, while continuing their learning. These types of hands on activities are an important part of in class learning, so why wouldn’t at home learning be the same? 

Student then created a passport with a photograph of their alien, information about the planet and adaptations that the alien has to help survive on that planet. 

4. Community Circle Prompts

If you know anything about me or have read some of my other blog posts, you will have noticed that I am in LOVE with community circles. So far everything blog that I have written has mentioned them in some capacity (e.g., why they will be happening with my students, no matter what happens this yearSeesaw). That is because they are one of the best ways to build community, communication, collaboration AND curriculum in the classroom. 

 During distance learning, we continued our routine of meeting each morning to discuss a prompt. These prompts were a variety of social and academic conversation starters such as quotes to analyze, number talks to solve and discuss, read alouds to infer, global issues to discuss, etc. Each student would share their ideas, while using accountable talk to show that they had read each other’s opinions. 

5. Global Issues Brochure

Another activity that went over well, was our global issues brochure assignment. The lesson portion of this activity started off with teaching students about global goals. Did you know that in 2015 our world leaders collaborated on 17 global goals for our world, to be completed by 2030 (FYI …this is only 10 years away…yikes)?

Students enjoyed the real world learning about programs and organizations that support these causes. 

After the learning portion, students created a brochure (either digitally or on paper), to explain and generate support for 1 of the global goals. The other option could be to have them create a community circle slide to generate conversation with the class. Such deep thinking! 

P.S. The organizations that have been linked to this assignment are Canadian, though could easily be modified. 

6. Seesaw

I will not go on and on about this, but I just had to get it in here somewhere. Seesaw was hands down the best tool while teaching virtually. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to use Seesaw in my classroom anymore, as our board has banned it. I know, I am furious too! If you are still allowed to use this AMAZING learning tool, check it out. It is so versatile and so engaging for all elementary aged students. 

7. Pixton Class Photo

Last but not least (if you are still with me), I just had to share this simple, but oh so fun activity that will engage your students, but also help you to create lasting memories. Pixton comics is a great FREE website, that allows you to create a digital class photo. Students go in and create avatars of themselves and they will automatically save into the class photograph. Since you won’t be getting together for a class shot this year, I would highly recommend this. This program can also be used for other activities, such as the create a comic section of the digital book clubs once they have already signed up.

There you have it. When asked, these my kiddos (and mine as well) favourite activities from Spring distance learning. I truly hope that this list can help you, in whatever teaching situation you are in right now

Looking for more distance learning ideas? Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store! – More digital math interactive lessons for fractions, decimals, percents, order of operations (with escape rooms), prime and composite numbers and of course, algebra. – More hands on Science ideas (choice boards, paper airplanes, properties of air)- More cross curricular Language activities (writing graphic organizers, procedural writing class book, dialogue journal, heritage project)and SO much MORE!

Like what you read? Please sign up for my email list. When you sign up, I will send you my Passion Maker Inquiry project absolutely free! This is another great distance learning activity that is ready to send to your students today.