75 back to school activities for the remote learning classroom

It’s back to school time again and this year looks NOTHING like we have ever seen before. As summer comes to a close teachers are preparing for that big first day of school. Only this year, for many of us, it’s going to be in a virtual classroom.

If you are going back to school in-person chances are you will still be doing some sort of remote learning in the future. Or perhaps your instruction is a hybrid of in-person teaching and distance learning.

But one thing we know is true, no matter where you or your students are learning from, those first few weeks of school are crucial for community and relationship building. Lucky for us, many of the beginning of the year activities you know and love can be done in a virtual classroom!

Below we have curated over 75 back to school activities for the remote learning classroom. Scroll down for tons of ready-to-use lessons along with tutorials, templates, and examples to make planning this year a little easier.

What are your back to school ideas? Please share them in a comment at the bottom of the post!

FREE Remote Learning 101 online course

If you’re looking to dive deeper into remote learning or just aren’t sure where to start, this course can help you feel more comfortable with taking your class online.

75 back to school activities for the remote learning classroom

Click on any picture below to jump directly to that section.

Preparing your online classroom

Create a Bitmoji or virtual classroom.

Bitmoji classrooms are all the rage on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Creating your own virtual classroom can help you feel a little bit more “at home” with distance learning. The resources below  (including 200+ ready-to-use templates) will help you create your own.

Tutorials  and templates for making your own Bitmoji classroom:

Gamify your syllabus!

Create instant day one engagement. John Meehan’s Class is Lava gamfied syllabus is great for physical school OR distance learning. Hit the ground running with student centered autonomy, agency and purpose.

Check out Class is Lava! by John Meehan for directions and the FREE template!

eLearning Choice Boards_ A step-by-step guide to creating resources you can use tomorrow!

Use our simple “drag and drop” back to school planning doc!

Sometimes too many ideas can be overwhelming, especially when you’re reading through a post with over 50 activities to go through! A simple planning template can be helpful when sifting through resources. Just drag and drop the activities to a time slot on the planner. Make a copy of an activity you want to do more than once or if you want to give students multiple days to work on it.

This planning template was created using the Google Slides sticky note brainstorming template and has a link to 16 of the activities listed in this post. There are 8 more blank notes to add your own activities or add more of the activiites you find in here. Of course once you make a copy of the presentation you can edit any of the activities to swap out or change the ones that don’t work for you or your class.

Note: The links to the activities take you back to this blog post so that you can grab the resources you need to assign to your class.

Remote learning community building lessons

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Solve in Time

Find out “What makes you unique?”

This lesson uses the book “Chrysanthemum” to encourage students to share about their unique qualities and what makes them special.  

What make you unique? Flipgrid Disco Library topic

Share your Hopes and Dreams for the year.

Start the year off by having students share their hopes and dreams. This HyperDoc is a great one to share at the beginning of the year then go back at the end of the year and read what you wrote!

Hopes and Dreams HyperDoc created by Rachel Marker and Karly Moura

guess who

Create a collaborative Slides or PowerPoint “This is us” presentation.

Use this HyperDoc to build community in your classroom! It creates a space for each student to share about themselves asynchronously.

This is us HyperDoc created by Nicole Beardsley

Pitch (and code) your passion.

Get to know what your students really care about AND integrate computer science into your classroom. In this CS first lesson students will build a project about an idea, activity, item, or cause they feel strongly about. You can have students share a link to their project and describe it on Flipgrid.

Pitch Your Passion CS First Lesson

Try a team building digital escape room.

Digital escape rooms are super fun and kids love a good challenge! This escape room’s theme is teamwork and students can and should work together to figure out the clues. Utilize the “breakout rooms” feature in video calls to put kids into teams to work together and escape!

Exit: A teambuilding experiment digital escape room  created by Lisa Guardino

Want to use digital escape rooms to spark your students’ imagination? Check out our Getting Started with Digital Escape Rooms mini course. Enroll today and your students will be using digital escape rooms tomorrow! Click here to learn more.

Social Emotional (remote) Learning 

New Flipgrid logo

Try weekly check-ins with Flipgrid.

Weekly check-ins are a powerful way to keep in contact with your students. It give all of your students a chance to touch base with you and hear your voice and see your face as you respond to them. You can make this more manageble by giving each student a specific day of the week that they know you will be responding back to them. Or leave it open and let students drop a video to you whenever they feel the need.

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Try Good, OK, Bad with Jamboard.

Using this template will help you to know about where your students are at and allow you the opportunity to follow up with any issues. Now more than ever, it is important to be mindful of our students social emotional health! This template works best if you complete their activity as a class.

Check out this template plus 9 others in 10 Jamboard templates for distance learning by Kris Szajner

Google Forms logo

Do a daily check-in with forms.

A Google (or Microsoft) form makes it simple and easy to get started connecting with all of your students. Ask your students to fill out the form as they are logging in for the day. You can review their answers while they complete a digital warm-up or between video calls.

Check out Daily Check-in With Google Forms by Mari Venturino for a template and examples.


Do a quick check-in or check-out with Mentimeter.

Mentimeter allows you to create interactive presentations that can poll your audience in real time. Try using the ranking option to see how students feel at the beginning of the day or lesson. Or utilize the word cloud feature as an exit ticket to see how students feel at the end of a lesson.

25+ SEL activities shared by educators

Mr. Gupton posted this tweet in mid-August asking educators to share their first week SEL activities and the response was amazing. We have curated many of the responses into a Wakelet collection and have embedded it below. Be sure to check out the original tweet for recent additions and give Mr. Gupton a follow on Twitter!

Connecting with families remotely

Open box

Send home a “welcome box” or “welcome bag” to your students and families.

If your school has some sort of registration day or walk through before school begins you can put together a welcome box or bag for the famlies to pick up.

Ideas for items to add:

  • A letter or postcard from you to the family.
  • A list of usernames and passwords students will need and where to go on the first day.
  • Offline learning games students can play at home (try to find games that use items students may already have like cards or dice).
  • A list of supplies they might need for the year. Or if you are fortunate enough to have those available for students you can send them home in the box too.
  • Materials for a project that gets the whole family involved.
  • Resources for parents to help their child be successful. A link to your class website, your contact information, list of helpful websites for parents. In this digital world families still appreciate something they can stick on the fridge.
video conferencing icon

Host one-on-one family video calls before school begins or during the first week.

During the week before school or over the course of the first month try giving your students each 15-20 minute time slots to meet with you along with their family members. 

Website icon

Make a hub of resources for parents and students.

Keep a consistent place (website or even a published Google Slide) for students to access assignments for parent to find resources and announcements. You can add a welcome video and tutorials for help.


Use the Talking Points app to communicate with ALL families.

Talking points allows you to communicate with your families. You write your message in your home language, families respond in theirs and it is translated automatically. Teachers can use the web-browser or mobile app, families can use text messages or a mobile app.

See the full list of languages that Talking Points supports

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Flipgrid logo

Create a Flipgrid topic to host “office hours” for families. 

You can create a separate Flipgrid topic for each family (in elementary) or each class (in secondary) to offer asynchronous office hours. Families can use their topic to get in touch with you and ask any questions they need. Remember to keep the videos moderated if more than one family is accessing the same topic.

Check out Connecting School + Home for a guide to setting up your grid

30 beginning of the year activities from the #Ditchbook community

Below you will find 30 beginning of the year activities that you can use right away.  Also, be sure to visit our back to school Pinterest page filled with ideas from the #Ditchbook community.

1. Complete a G Suite tools refresher HyperDoc (click here for even more).

2. Learn to be a Chromebook Lifeguard then have kids create their own meme!

3. Gauge tech skills with a 3-minute challenge.

4. Become Digital Citizenship Superheros.

5. Teach students proper email etiquette.

6. Go on a Google Docs Scavenger hunt!

7.  Review or teach Chromebook policies (and play a fun Kahoot!)

8. Create an “All About Me” poster with Adobe Spark.

9. Complete the TLAP Play-Doh challenge HyperDoc.

10. Create identity silhouettes.


11. Try visual learning selfies.

12. Create an icon board.

13. Have fun with a beginning of the year QR Break-In!

14. Create Vision Boards (blog post by Kasey Bell).

15. Practice following directions in Google Drawings.

16. Get to know your students with a 360 spreadsheet.

17. Start the year off with One Word.

18. Play “Two Truths and a Lie” on Flipgrid.

19. Get to know your classmates with the “thin slides” Eduprotocol.

20. Frayer a friend (Google Drawings template).

21. Try a “Who Am I?” activity on Google Slides.

22. Get to know your students with a Google Form Survey

23. Have students create their own island.

24. Introduce the design process with a watercraft challenge.

25. Get to know each other with a “mystery person” activity.

31. Challenge your students to a GIF battle!

32. Begin each day with community circles.

33. Get back to school with G Suite from Shake Up Learning.

34. Start the year off with a back to school HyperDoc.

35. BONUS! Check out an entire FOLDER of back to school resources!

BONUS 2! Check out an entire PADLET of back to school resources from Krista Harmsworth!

What are your back to school ideas for remote learning? Please share them in a comment below!

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