March 11, 2021

5 Engaging Activities for Virtual Classrooms

In Drive, Daniel Pink outlines that true motivation comes from having opportunities for autonomy, mastery, and purpose. By taking ordinary tasks and transforming them into competitions or captivating stories, we dramatically escalate our students’ interest and sense of determination.

To keep our students engaged in remote and hybrid learning models, we can invite students to participate in intriguing challenges to drastically heighten their motivation and excitement.

Five ways to build challenges into your virtual classroom:

Virtual Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts can be a great tool for building a strong sense of community in virtual classrooms. They provide the students opportunities to get up and get moving, while giving a sense of adventure to the learning process. These are incredible for building academic skills by centering the scavenger hunts around specific content, such as finding certain places on a map or literary devices in a book. These are also fantastic social-emotional activities that provide opportunities to build strong peer relationships and a sense of belonging.

Digital Escape Rooms

To create a compelling digital escape room, start with focusing on a specific skill that you would like your students to master, such as measuring or finding places on a map. Next, develop a list of tasks that would allow the kids to build on that skill. Finally, create a story that lays out a challenge for the students, such as finding a treasure, rescuing someone in need, or defeating an enemy. By including a story behind the task, the students feel a sense of purpose that increases their drive and motivation.

Class Competitions

Kids love a good competition! We can tap into their motivation through incorporating action-packed games using programs like Quizlet, Kahoot, or Quizizz. Through these types of competitions, teachers are able to teach new concepts or assess student knowledge in a thrilling way. Have them create estimation jars and guess amounts on each other’s posts or create a story for students to make inferences about the setting of the story.

Kindness Challenge

During the first week of school, one of my colleagues introduced a “Random Acts of Kindness” challenge. Students submitted positive quotes and messages through a virtual form, which the teacher copied onto post-it notes and displayed throughout the school hallways. During these times of physical distancing and fewer students in our schools, it was a great opportunity for the students to connect with their peers and to feel that they could make a difference in their school community.

Genius Hour Challenge

Genius Hour is a phenomenal opportunity for students to tap into their passions and to build authentic projects centered around a topic of their choice. The project promotes inquiry and research and provides student autonomy. A. J. Juliani, designer of the Genius Hour Blueprint, outlines six phases to a strong passion project:

(1) Choose Topic

(2) Pitch Your Idea

(3) Research and Learn

(4) Share it All

(5) Make and Design

(6) Present and Reflect

Ultimately, our goal is to engage our students in the learning process, to enhance their skill set, and to inspire them to reach their highest potential. As we attempt to capture our students’ attention and to reach our students in a virtual model, let’s incorporate challenges that allow them to feel a deep sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose in the work that they do!


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