Engaging ELLs in Virtual Learning

Engaging ELLs in Virtual Learning

Virtual learning is both highly engaging (think TV shows) and highly unengaging (staring at a screen for hours on end). Here are some tips for engaging your students during distance learning.

Build Relationships

Building relationships with students is important any year. If you are teaching virtually it is even more important…and for many students much more challenging.

  • Share your own interests. If you are teaching from your house show students your pet, a favorite mug, or other anything that is special to you.
  • Give students time to share about themselves. Try starting out each class with a question.
  • Give students time for social conversations. Academic conversations are important, but during virtual learning, you need to set aside time and a structure for even social language. Try leaving the virtual classroom open during breaks for students to talk. Use breakout rooms for more small groups to answer fun questions.
  • Read about more tips from educators for building teacher student relationships during virtual learning.

talking on the computer

Would You Rather Questions

Would you rather questions are a quick way to get students talking. As a warm-up you can post a question.

Depending on what platform you are teaching on and the age of your students there are a few different ways that they can respond. You can have all the students type their answers into a chatbox. You can also have students do an action to show their answers. For example, touch your ears if you would rather read a book or touch your nose if you would rather write a story.

If you want to extend this activity you can then call on a few students to tell why they chose their answer. You can also use break out rooms to allow students to share with a partner or in a smaller group. Students can also type their responses.

Get a set of premade digital Would You Rather Questions.

digital would you rather


Give out paper copies of a game board for students to use at home. With a small group, try putting up a game board in Google slides. Then just as you would in person, have students answer a question before it is their turn to move.

  • Dice– choose 1, 2, or 3 dice to roll
  • Dice– this is one large dice. There are adds on the page. You only need to click on the dice to roll.
  • Color Spiner– this spiner also comes with a table to keep track of how often each color comes up.
  • Kahoot is on an online platform to set up digital games.

Brain Breaks

Brain breaks are important during in-person learning. They are even more important during distance learning. Without breaks students at best might be staring at their screen for a long lesson but they likely are not retaining much of the information. Short song and dance videos are a great way to get students up and moving during their brain breaks. The songs can be educational, silly, or a combination of both.


Read more tips for Distance Learning with ELLs. Engaging ELLs in Virtual Learning

Leave a Reply