Recently, you may have unexpectedly been asked to make the
switch to online learning due to COVID-19. This can feel overwhelming,
especially if you have never been a virtual teacher. But, take a deep breath! I
have worked in online education for several years and have LOTS of online
learning resources and activities that you can use as part of your upper
elementary distance learning instruction. These digital resources and
activities will save you time and money, leaving you more time to enjoy at home
with family during your extended break from the classroom.
Online Education Schedule
If you’ve read my previous post about being a successful virtual teacher, you know that one of the biggest tips I have for teachers who are using distance learning for the first time is to be consistent. Most students thrive in an educational setting when they know what to expect. If schedules and assignments become too inconsistent within an online classroom, students will get distracted and will not complete their work. That is why having a consistent online education schedule and activities that flow from day to day are important parts of being successful as a virtual teacher.
To get a better understanding of what an online learning
schedule should look like, check out this video that describes a typical day of
online learning and activities the students might complete.
Online Learning Resources for Social Studies
I am passionate about making history hands-on. One of the biggest misconceptions with teaching history in a classroom setting is that reading from a textbook is one of the only ways for students to learn about the past. This isn’t true in a classroom setting, and it isn’t true in an online setting either. First, you can present content in many different ways outside of a textbook. All of my U.S. history units and Virginia Studies units include digital passages and comprehension questions that students can use to learn new or review old information as well as links to videos that share the information in a fun way.
When it comes to reviewing social studies, there are several
fun ways it can be done. Keep in mind that just because you are teaching
online, everything does not have to take place on the computer. I love having
students create foldables to review and memorize historical information. You
can send students instructions or a short video, detailing how to create a
specific type of foldable. Then, students can recreate that foldable with the
needed information at home.
Finally, project-based learning is one of the best ways to teach social studies when moving to online learning. Rather than searching for articles and videos that teach the content, students research the content themselves. As they research the content, they also complete a large project that shows what they have learned. One of my favorite project-based activities for Virginia Studies involves students researching each region of Virginia and creating a marketing campaign for the state. Students create a brochure and a short video, convincing tourists to visit each of Virginia’s regions. Project-based activities such as this one are great for online education because they keep students engaged and motivated to continue working independently.
Online Learning Resources for Science
Once again, don’t be afraid to have students complete activities without a computer when teaching science online. I like to send home instructions so that students can conduct simple experiments at home. Just remember to use inexpensive, easy to find materials. All of my science units include science experiment instructions, digital worksheets and assessments, and links to YouTube videos. Speaking of YouTube videos, Crash Course for Kids has some of my favorite free online learning resources for upper elementary.
When students are completing science experiments and
activities at home, encourage students to create books where they can record
their data and findings. For example, they might have a book to draw the moon
phases each night or a book to record information about each planet in the
solar system as they conduct their own research. The books students create can
easily be shared, collected, and graded whenever students return to school.
When it comes time for science review, there are a variety of free educational websites that allow teachers to create their own online games and assessments. Online education platforms such as Google Forms, Quizizz, Quizlet, and Kahoot are all free review tools that students love.
Online Learning Resources for Math
I find math to be one of the more challenging subjects to teach using online education because students need more direct instruction and parents don’t always know how to help, especially when it comes to upper elementary math. To enable parents to help their children with math, I created math parent study guides. These study guides show parents the ways I teach different math strategies in class so that they can help their children complete assignments at home.
In my blog post about the best math resources for teachers, I provide a list of free online learning sites for teaching math. Most of these free education websites provide games to help students review math content. Best of all, many of the sites modify the games to the students’ ability levels. If a student is answering a lot of questions correctly, the questions get harder. Whereas, if a student is incorrectly answering many questions, the questions will get easier.
Online Learning Resources for ELA
There are so many ways to keep students reading and writing
with online learning! Consider having students complete a novel study from
home. Google Apps are some of the best online learning resources and can help
you create a digital book club. Students can meet daily on Google Classroom to
discuss what they are reading and share ideas. You can also assess students’
comprehension of the novel through Google Forms and have students create an end
of book project using Google Slides.
If you are concerned about finding a novel that all your students can access from home, consider signing up for Epic! Epic! is one of the best ELA online learning sites and, best of all, it is free for educators. The educational site provides teachers access to tens of thousands of books. You can easily find a book that matches the interests and reading levels of your students and assign the book to your class to read digitally.
Another idea for teaching ELA using distance learning is to send your students a subscription-based magazine such as Time for Kids. Have your students read the articles in the magazine. Then, have them select one of the articles to research more. As students research the topic in more detail, they can write a five-paragraph essay with their findings and thoughts on the topic.
If you want even more online learning resources for ELA, make sure to check out my blog post about ELA resources for teachers. The post provides a list of the best free educational websites for teaching ELA. Many of the sites listed have hundreds of digital passages and comprehension questions.
Spiral Review for Distance Learning
When I started using spiral review activities in my classroom several years ago, my students’ test scores soared. For that reason, I am a huge believer in the importance of using daily spiral review activities. I also believe that spiral review should not stop because of distance learning. My morning work resources include several math and ELA review problems for students to complete each day as a spiral review. They are offered in both PDF and digital formats, so they can be sent home as a packet or assigned to students digitally. Students can complete one page per day so that they do not forget the math and ELA skills they have already learned, even though they will be out of school for several weeks.
An important part of spiral review is taking time to review
students’ answers and making sure they understand what they are doing. This can
still be done through an online classroom. You can send students the answer key
so that they can check their work independently. Or, you can record a short
video where you review each problem. This does not have to be complicated. It
can quickly be recorded using a cell phone camera and uploaded to the computer.
Other Free Online Learning Sites
With the mass school closures happening now, many online
learning platforms are offering free memberships to help teachers impacted by
COVID-19. You can find great online learning activities and videos through the
- Boom Cards– If you are unfamiliar, Boom Cards are digital task cards. The online learning site is currently offering free subscriptions through June 30 for schools closed due to COVID-19.
- Brainpop– Brainpop has a variety of teaching videos, games, and assessments. They are currently offering free, unlimited use to schools that are closed due to COVID-19.
- Buncee– Buncee is an online learning site that allows teachers to create interactive content. The site says it is offering free memberships to schools closed due to COVID-19, but you must contact them directly.
- Scholastic– Scholastic has increased the number of free resources available to teachers during the COVID-19 outbreak. They even have daily lesson plans that make planning easy.
In my previous post about being a successful virtual teacher, I encouraged teachers not to reinvent the wheel. It can be easy to panic, thinking that we suddenly need to create all kinds of digital content and videos for our students. Luckily, there are already tons of free online learning resources and activities available that can cut down on planning time and save money. Also, remember that online learning does not have to take place online 100% of the time. You can introduce content online and, then, have students complete a hands-on activity at home.
I hope this list of educational websites and resources helps
as you prepare distance learning lessons and activities. If you know of any
other free online learning sites or additional ideas, please share them in the
If your school has made the move to online learning, check out these other blog posts for even more resources and ideas!