Fun ideas for learning and connecting

We're all social creatures, relying on the connections to others for learning, development, and personal wellbeing, particularly in times of stress. By using digital tools, teachers and administrators can create new opportunities for togetherness and connection while also adding a fun element to learning. We've taken some of our own engagement programs at IBM and placed them in the context of students in a remote learning environment. Below are ideas to make learning in this unusual environment fun and socially-connected.


Recognition can provide supplemental extrinsic motivation to students in a positive and fun way. There are also free online tools that you can use to make personalized certificates. Teachers can send simple image files to students and announce via group chats or message boards who's received the certificates. Students can print their certificates at home and collect them, or take a photo of the certificates they're collecting.

Certificates can be used to:

Reward behaviors to encourage connectedness and progress

  • Collaboration
  • Participation
  • Helping Others
  • Wellness
  • Kindness

Reward accomplishments to keep students motivated over time

  • By day or week
  • By topic area
  • For a job well done
  • When the entire class completes something
  • Mastering levels in online learning games

To help you get started, we have created some fun customizable certificates in the hope of delighting your younger students.

Social connectedness

Principal’s weekly message

Principals can send a brief video message to students and parents to recognize the community’s efforts in coming together, to address concerns and questions, and to motivate students for the week ahead.

Wellness challenges

Encourage students to get 60 minutes of physical activity every day and have them track their activity as an online assignment. Consider making it a challenge and giving rewards for achievements like trying something new, being the most consistent, etc. There are free online resources for meditation, yoga and physical education for children.

Virtual lunch table

Randomly assign small groups of students to get together via video at lunchtime once per week. Give them conversation starters to make it fun.

Guest speaker

Invite a guest speaker to deliver a motivational, educational or a fun message over streaming or recorded video to the classroom or school.

Creative sharing

Have students journal, blog or create art to help them express themselves. Encourage them to share, if they're comfortable.

100 minutes of making

Students choose one creative project, such as drawing cartoons, building with LEGO bricks, origami, and do it for 20 minutes per day to share with the class each week.

Students interview others

For a history or social studies topic, have students virtually interview a grandparent, parent or neighbor and report on what they discovered. This encourages research and social connectedness across the community. Students can create reports via presentation slides, podcasts, video.

Study buddies

Some students will naturally have a friend who they pair up with to study, but others might not. Consider randomizing your students and matching them up into pairs or triads to encourage them to connect via phone or video at times that work for them. This doubles as a helpful learning tool and another opportunity for social connection.


School "paper"

Through collaboration and teamwork, a group of students can develop a blog or content in a format of their choice that keeps the school connected and informed. This can be a great place to include recognition and rewards.


In many places the weather is getting nicer. Encourage your music students to practice on their front porch, front stoop, in the driveway or on a balcony—at a safe social distance—to brighten the days of others, soak in some sunshine and fresh air and get their practice time in.


  • Shared monologues: Have students write their own monologues, get feedback from the class, and then record themselves acting out the monologues. Share the videos in your digital classroom environment.
  • Live play reading: Assign roles from a play to individuals and get everyone on video at the same time to do a live reading together.


  • Art show: Assign art projects that students can do with materials in their homes or yards. Have students snap a photo of their project and host an art show in your online classroom, inviting guardians to join at a specific time and add comments.
  • Mosaic: Have each child create a piece of art at a specific size using simple materials. The mosaic can be assembled digitally while everyone is still learning at a distance. When the entire school comes back together, the art pieces will be put together to create a mosaic in a public space to demonstrate the strength and collaboration of the community.

Argument and debate

Select a topic and assign positions to groups. Have the groups collaborate together to write the argument and submit to the digital classroom environment, where other classmates can vote on the winning submission.

Volunteer tutoring

Consider whether there are high school students in your district who can remote-tutor younger students, particularly when their parents or guardians are trying to work from home themselves.

For K-5

Themed weeks

These can be class or school-wide and can include many of the themes schools normally celebrate, such as school spirit, kindness, Dr. Seuss, science, wellness, etc. Students can post fun photos of themselves to a digital classroom space.

Scavenger hunts

  • Physical: Choose a theme and have students take photos of objects in their homes that fit the theme. Post in your online classroom.
  • Digital: Relate a scavenger hunt to a research project, having students do safe online searches and collecting facts and images.

Games over video

  • Two truths and a lie: One student lists three "facts" about themselves. One of the "facts" should be false. Another player tries to guess which of the facts is false. This can be done one-on-one over video or via group chat.
  • Last letter: The first player names a word on a given topic, the second player names a word which the first letter matches the last letter of the word named by the first player, and so on. Anyone who cannot come up with a word with the right letter for 30 seconds loses. This can be done over video or group chat.
  • 20 questions: The teacher thinks of a thing (it can be related to topic the class is learning about) and each student gets a turn to ask one yes or no question to figure out what it is—unless a student figures out what it is, and then they can guess it. If they guess wrong, they lose. If they guess correctly, they win. This can be done via live video or chat.

Show and tell

Have students start a project at the beginning of the week and plan to share it with the class via live or recorded videos by Friday.

For 6-12

Book clubs

Small groups of students can connect via video sessions to discuss books they're reading.

Students are the teachers

Every student has something they are uniquely passionate about or good at. Whether it's baking banana bread, building with LEGO bricks, drawing, sports, have students create short videos on their topic of expertise. Post the videos for the class to see.

Morning announcements

Post a video of morning announcements, including upcoming events (spirit week, a guest speaker, an art show). Students can rotate posting the announcements. Videos can be recorded with laptops or phones.

Podcast clubs

A small group of students listens to the same podcast one day (on their own time) and connects the next day via video to talk about it and answer specific questions together. There's a wealth of free podcasts for younger students, tweens, and teens available.


Open optional video sessions where students can connect about current events, challenges, or anything else on their minds.