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Distanced Learning and Student Motivation

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Alexandria Monahan Alexandria Monahan 370 Points

Hello everyone!


I am a pre-service teacher at Wartburg College and I am starting my student teaching in January. With the pandemic closing down schools and making everything virtual, what have you done in order to keep your students motivated and excited for school? Have any of you created themed days for your students or any other kinds of activities? I would like to hear what you all came up with!

Hey there!

In my SpEd classroom I created "Fun Fridays" and included alot of fun virtual activities that felt more like games to keep my students interested. Nerpod is a great resource for fun and interactive lessions you can create and borrow from other educators.

MacKenzie Walker MacKenzie Walker 710 Points

Hi Alexandria,

Since it's February, you've been at student teaching for two months.  I hope it has been going well!  I'm a hybrid teacher at my school.   Most of my second graders are on Zoom but some are also in the room with me.  Our school loves dress up days, so we have plenty of those.  For my own class's motivation, though, we have ClassDojo goals and Virtual Field Trip goals.

ClassDojo is a free website that I have used for years.  I love it because it lets me communicate with parents without giving my personal phone number out, and it is great class management for the kids.  It's a point system.  There can be positive and negative points, but this year with a virtual class, I've only used the positive points.  The positive points I give out this year are different than in past years.  For example, I mainly give out points for Participation, Working Hard, and being On-Task.  These are the three areas that virtual kids struggle with the most since they are not in the same room as me.  During ELA or Math lessons, if I notice that some of the same kids are repeatedly raising their hands to participate and answer, they earn points.

Now, my class does not worry about individual points for our goal.  We look at the class's total points for our goal.  They've earned several things this year.  For example - 50 class points and we have a hat day; 100 class points and we bring a stuffed animal or toy to class; 150 points and everyone can change their name on Zoom for a day; 200 points and we have a GoNoodle dance party.  After they earn a goal, I reset the points and we start over.

Part of our math curriculum includes student accounts where they receive individualized lessons in areas that they are struggling in.  Our goal is to earn 45 minutes on lessons a week, and then they can play on the learning games.  We've been using this as our way to earn virtual field trips.  If they pass a lesson at 100%, they earn a sticker.  When the class has 150 stickers for 100% passed lessons, the class goes on a virtual field trip.  This has been really motivating to my students.  So far we have gone to Yellowstone National Park, Washington DC, the San Diego Zoo, and we are about to go to Antarctica.

I hope this gives you some ideas!  Keeping virtual kids motivated and focused is certainly difficult.

Molly Gore Molly Gore 645 Points

Hi Alexandria, 

Are you going to be completely distanced-learning or in a hybrid situation? 

My recommendation for both is to make sure the students have an opportunity to interact with each other like they might in a classroom. My school uses Teams, and I am able to create hidden channels for students to work as a group on projects -- whether they are in person or virtual. My students at home are able to stay more engaged when they can interact with their peers in a way that is familiar, even if it is still not what they think of as normal. 

I do LOVE the idea of themed days, too. There are going to be some students who take that and run with it. 

Amy Huezo Amy Huezo 465 Points

Hi Alexandria, 

I hope your student teaching is going well, I will be delving into my own student teaching in the fall so I know how you must be feeling! Based on some discussions I have had with my peers who have undergone their student teaching, they have mentioned that student motivation has greatly deteriorated in the face of hybrid/remote learning, and I can see that too based on my own experiences with students through virtual field experience. I think it is important to focus on the little things and details, holidays, praises, and using resources/topics that are interesting to students. I think that the idea of themed days can be very intriguing for students because it gives them something to look forward to and gives them a way to express themselves during some difficult times. Distanced learning seems and is challenging, but it is not impossible, I think like any classroom, it is essential to be prepared and organized, and accommodating to technical difficulties. Students feed off of you and your energy, so try to appear as interested and excited as you want them to feel!

Nalia Roba Nalia Roba 825 Points

I'm not teaching yet, but I love the idea someone put in this discussion forum about "Fun Fridays." I think that's a great idea because it's something they can look forward to in the week. One of my old middle school teachers used to do something similar to this idea of "Fun Fridays" where he'd play a silly/funny video for us. We all loved it and looked forward to it all week.

Pia Scotto Pia Scotto 2230 Points

Hi Alexandria!

i noticed no one has posted on this discussion yet, and so, I would love to be the first one to try! It is so exciting that you are beginning your student teaching in January! Good luck! You got this!! I just completed my first semester of virtual zoom-student teaching this past semester (starting in Spetember up until Thanksgiving break) in a sixth grade middle school classroom, then in January I will be given an elemntary school placement. It was very interesting being able to teach virtually during my first semester of student teaching because while I feel like I didn't get as much classroom management strategies - I definatley worked on things you are describing such as motivation and trying to keep their excitement levels up. Through my semester students would tell me about their worries and struggles and oftentimes how much they didn't like online learning and would want to go back to school, even asking when schools would reopen. It is hard being a middle school student right now and focusing in such unmotivating classes all day on the computer, then staying on the computer to do assignments - it can be extreamly draining for them (just like it can be when we are students!) That, I think, is something that helped me a lot during the planning - if it was something that not even I would want to do, or wasn't something that would be engaging to me (as a college student) I would try to modfy the engagement before proposing the idea to my Clinical Educator. In addition to making it something I would find engaging, relating content to students' lives is huge! With their videos on, I could visually see the feedback. and excitment in thier faces when I related something that as relevant in students lives or cool at the time - like the game 'among us' or tiktoks! Use these things to your advantage. I found a tik tok of someone singing the song that goes 'no body wanna see us together, but it don't matter nooo 'cause I got you' and the caption was 'Invaders and the cell wall' which the students thought was hilarious when learning about the cell wall and helped them remember! There are also so many participation websites (such as which helps act as 'participation popsicle sticks' and gets students to participate by calling on them - also a great way to see if they are there if they don't have their cameras on! I like your idea of themed days that could be really fun - anything engaging will make a difference! You should also check out nearpod, jamboard, peardeck, and quiz.zz (similar to kahoot) - all of these resources are EXCELLENT for student engament online and are honestly fun!! Hope this helps! You will do great things! Good luck (:


Elaine Lucas-Evans Elaine Lucas-Evans 295 Points

Hi Alexandria,

So I have been teaching for 30 years, and let me just say, I was struggling to think about how to build community in my middle school classroom with all of us so far away from one another. I wanted out efforts to be consistent, and I wanted my students to look forward to our time together. Being at a middle school, some of my students already know each other, but others are "new" so they don't know everyone...maybe just a handful of kids. So, I created daily warm-up activities that are predictable, yet varied, so that the students know what do expect when we come to class and begin our studies on any given day, but they also will be required to participate in a way that helps us to get to know them. For example, we have Mindfulness Monday, Toss-It-Around Tuesdays, Web Search Wednesdays, Think-It-Through Thursdays, and Non-Fiction Fridays. I can honestly tell you that my students look forward to each day of the week, because they know how we are going to start off our day. Toss-It-Around Tuesday and Web Search Wednesday are their favorites, but Non-Fiction Fridays have a video piece from the How Its Made video series and they enjoy these too. I have some of the responsibility for the work, but they have some responsibilities as well - and this has helped me to get to know my students even though we are so far away from each other. 

I hope this helps, and if I can clarify on any of the things that I suggest here, just let me know.


-----Dr. Ellie



I teach 7th grade science. This is my first year in middle school and am loving it. I start each class off with a topic of conversation just to get the students talking and laughing. They come into the zoom or classroom asking what is the topic today? It can be anything from what is your favorite cereal to who inspires you the most. I allow students to suggest topics that we can choose from as well. It is something simple and it does not take much time. This also allows me to get to know my students and for them to get to know me and each other.  You are starting out in incredible times that will allow you to grow quickly and considerably as a teacher. I am amazed at the things that I am accomplishing today that I could only dream about at this time last year. Good luck in your teaching. 

Fahad Khan Fahad Khan 50 Points

Till the last term, I was super behind, turned around, and got back on track. I have returned to school and I have no incentive. I have the opposite of all, it appears

Nicole Adams Nicole Adams 390 Points

Hi Alexandria! I have one year of college left before I become an elementary teacher. I have been subbing and observing in schools and I feel that I am getting all kinds of great ideas for increasing motivation virtually and in-class. The main things I have noticed that work is goal-setting (with rewards of course), allowing choice in the classroom, and teacher attitude. One teacher created teams based on Hogwarts houses for students to compete with a team rather than individually. This can be used for any subject or goal. The important thing is that there are peers who are supporting each other and keeping each other in check with making progress. For choice, I have also seen "fun fridays" or "free-time fridays" where students play educational games for a 25 minute period in the upper elementary classes. For teacher attitude, it is important to making learning seem inviting and fun. Let students read with flashlights, add lights and background noise to your lesson, there are so many options. The key is to find balance where students reach engagement without being too distracted by all the extras that make it more fun. 

Dale Dale Koryn Dale 50 Points

Hi! I am still in college and I am getting ready to start student teaching. One thing that we have disscussed in a bunch of my classes, is making them interactive and fun. Doing this allows for the students to want to come to class because they know that they will be learning something that is fun for them. Another thing that we have talked about is making the lessons meaningful to the students. Having lessons that they can relate to, makes the students be more interested in the work that they are learning. 

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