12 Creative Ways to Connect with Students Online

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

Four weeks ago on a Friday afternoon, I left my 7th grade ELA classroom not knowing that I was saying goodbye. That weekend, I found out that my school would be closed until May. Like many other teachers, I went through a brief period of mourning. I was mourning the loss of my physical classroom and I was missing my students terribly, but there was something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on--something that staring at a computer screen and posting assignments on Google Classroom could not replace.

What was missing was the magic. I was missing the magic of face-to-face interactions with my kids, the magic of inside jokes, the magic of close proximity when a student struggled to pay attention to a lesson, the magic of eye contact and showing a student with a simple look that we would get through this together.

It’s important that, as teachers, we allow ourselves to feel that mourning for our classrooms and our time with students, but once we work through those feelings, maybe we’ll be ready to redefine the magic we felt in the classroom. I refuse to give up hope that we can still bring magic to our classrooms, even from a distance.

Together, I worked with 12 other Secondary English educators to gather the best ideas for keeping the magic alive in our online classrooms. We hope that these ideas will refresh your online teaching and help to bring joy to you and your students. Along with each idea, we provide ways to differentiate for students with limited access to resources.

With the pressure of high-stakes testing taken off your plate, now is the perfect time to add creative learning selections to your virtual menu! Ashley Bible atBuilding Book Love created thisFREE and editable Creativity Choice Board for distance learning. The creative digital learning projects provide the perfect opportunity for students and teachers to connect by showing off their creations together through digital platforms.

She also suggests shared listening experiences through podcasts because not only are podcasts free and easily accessible during distance learning, but they also provide fantastic online discussion opportunities!

Differentiation idea: Send home a paper copy or email a copy for families to print. Students can complete many of the projects with little or no Internet (crafting a piece of art with pieces from nature, writing a story book version of a novel, and more!). If sending work back to you is not an option, students or parents can take a picture of the work and email it back. All ideas are editable, so you can recreate some of the digital choices with similar paper activities.

Shana Ramin from Hello, Teacher Lady is currently using Google Meet to hold weekly “office hours.” Students can pop in to ask questions about the week’s assignments or just to say hi and share what’s going on in their lives.

If your district supports the use of Google Meet and you’re thinking about giving it a try, Shana suggests downloading a few Chrome extensions first. If you aren’t familiar with Chrome extensions, they’re basically little programs that enhance the functionality of Google Chrome. You can learn more and read about Shana’s favorite Chrome extensions for teachers and students here, here, and here.

Because so much of our face-to-face communication is nonverbal, not being able to see students’ faces or reactions online c