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Easy Distance Learning Activities For When You Just Can’t Think

Teachers, you work so hard to make amazing virtual lesson plans for your students. And for that, we applaud you all — you are awesome! But we know, the burnout is real. 

If that time comes, when that time comes, and your brain just feels too full, use one of these three activities with your students. Keep it light and simple, and have fun.

Activity #1: Takin’ It Easy Props

The improv game “Props” is a perennial favourite in the drama classroom. It’s easy and fun. Grab a random item from the classroom, and each student will interact with the object to make it into something it’s not. The item will then be passed from student to student, each one using the object as a new, different object. For example, a broom might become a baseball bat, then a tightrope, then a limbo pole, and then a canoe paddle. 

It’s a little more challenging when students are doing distance learning in separate places, but not impossible! The trick is to choose items from home that are more common and accessible to as many students as possible. Here’s a list of suggestions for items that could work for most households: 

  • A pen or pencil, a shirt, a shoe, a backpack, shopping bag, or purse, a cord for a device (such as a cell phone charger cord), a roll of toilet paper, a blanket or towel, a pillow, a kitchen utensil, or a book

You can have students all use the same item (similar to how you’d play in the classroom, passing the item from person to person), or have students select their own item and use it in a few different ways before the next student takes their turn.

Activity #2: Make ‘Em Laugh

This is a fun activity for students to loosen up and be silly. We can all use a bit of that sometimes! This activity can be done with just microphones on, just cameras on, or both on. You will need a timer or stopwatch.

Choose one student to be “It.” Their job is to make the rest of the class laugh within one minute, while the goal of the rest of the class is to keep a straight face. Students must keep their humour clean — no swearing, lewdness, or other offensive material — but other than that, it all comes down to creativity and quick thinking. As this is an improvised challenge, students may not take time to prepare, but may employ techniques and strategies including physical humour, mime, or (safe!) slapstick, wordplay, puns, impressions, singing and dancing, or even props or costumes if they’re handy. Students who have both their mic and camera on will have the easiest time, but having just mics or just video on is definitely possible — it gives students a bit more of a challenge. You might choose to have students select one or the other, and afterwards discuss what students found easier.

The student who is “It” gains a point for each student they are able to make laugh within the one-minute time limit. Tally up the points at the end and identify the winner!

Activity #3: Word at a Time Story

Another fun game that gets students working together and thinking quickly, the Word at a Time Story, is told — you guessed it — one word at a time. The teacher chooses a title, such as “Trouble at the Playground” or “A Great Day at the Beach.” In a live classroom, students would sit in a circle and pass the story. When working virtually, the teacher will have to assign a running order for students in advance — perhaps alphabetically. Students must work together to make sure sentences make sense — they’re not just throwing a random word in to make their friends laugh. The nice thing about this exercise is that it works even if students don’t have mics or video screens on — they can use the chat box.

As an alternative challenge, you can assign a word pattern. The first student will use one word, the second student will use two words, and the third student will use three words. Then the pattern repeats, with the fourth student using one word, and so on. This forces students to pay attention even more closely — how many words do they have to use? You can mix up the numbers of words your students may use (perhaps a 1-3-5 pattern, or something random like 4-2-7), or make it a competition by striking students out if they use the wrong number of words.

Don’t forget that Theatrefolk has a whole page devoted to distance learning activities and exercises. Activities like Virtual Mirrors, Puppet Dance Party, and the Framing Exercise are great go-tos when you just can’t think. You can also go back to basics with A Simple Breath Control Exercise for Actors & Singers — time spent reviewing the basics is never wasted.

Have students reflect on their experiences playing these games by answering an exit slip question: “How can you apply this exercise to the real world?”

Click here for a free bonus exercise: Everyday Made Epic!
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